What literary tools are used in poetry?

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carol-davis eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Writing poetry has become such an individualized style of writing.  Historically, poetry was much more stylized with specific types of  poems.  The sonnet, the lyric, blank verse, ode, elegy, dramatic monologue--these were the types of poems written in the previous centuries.  Each of these types of poems had specific rules that the poet followed.  The readers of poetry expected this kind of conventional writing.

Today, as in many things, anything goes.  Occasionally, the reader will find a poet who uses one of the types to illustrate a specific point or to satirize a famous poem.  Most of the poetry is written in free verse without rhyming and the poet can write however he wants to have the  poem find meaning for the reader.

Numerous literary devices are available to the writer.  The most commonly used ones create special effects to illustrate some aspect of the poem.

Alliteration-repetition of consonant sounds For example, Paul McCann  uses alliteration in most of his poetry:

Don't delay dawns disarming display .
Dusk demands daylight .

Anaphora- a type of parallelism created when successive phrases or lines begin with the same words.  The repetition can be as simple as a single word or as long as an entire phrase.  Henry Wadsworth Longfellow used this device often:

When the Summer fields are mown,
When the birds are fledged and flown...

Simile-A comparison  of two things, using the words "like," "as," or "than. Robert Burns famous poem about his love uses this memorable simile:

“O my Luve's like a red, red rose
That's newly sprung in June;

Metaphor- an implied comparison is made between two unlike things that actually have something important in common.  John Anderson, a song writer, used this metaphor to illustrate soldiers who have died in battle:

Stars and Stripes march to their grave,
A line of heroes with guns steady.

Personification-  an inanimate object or abstraction is endowed with human qualities or abilities. Emily Dickinson wrote about a train with human qualities:

I like to see it lap up the miles

And lick the valleys up

There are many other figures of speech that a poet can utilize in his writing.  These are probably the most commonly used even by today's writers.

grush249 | Student

thanks carol-davis... really helpful.. :)

missyanyan | Student

basically, poetic techniques.