Guide to Literary Terms

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What is poetry?

Poetry is a literary genre that uses highly patterned language, emphasizing meter and rhyme, imagery, and metaphor.

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Last Updated May 26, 2023.

Poetry refers to literature in which language is not restricted to its ordinary grammatical form. A particular focus is placed on language, with words selected to elicit specific associations or to create certain sounds. Poetry often uses meter, rhyme, and vivid imagery; unlike prose, line breaks can also structure a poetic work. 

Writers use poetry to communicate complex and elevated ideas abstractly and artistically and to prompt contemplation or intense emotions in readers or listeners. Poetry often evokes a heightened sense of beauty and allows for a deeper exploration of themes and experiences. Here's a quote that exemplifies the power and beauty of poetry:

"Two roads diverged in a wood, and I— 

I took the one less traveled by, 

And that has made all the difference." 

- Robert Frost, "The Road Not Taken"

The concise and lyrical nature of the poem captures the essence of poetry, as it expresses a profound truth and invites reflection in just a few lines. In these lines from Frost's poem, he uses vivid imagery and metaphors to convey the idea of making choices in life. The use of figurative language and rhythm enhances the emotional impact of the words and resonates with readers, showcasing the unique power of poetry to evoke thoughts and emotions succinctly and impactfully.

see: prose

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