A - C
All this tries to do is to give a brief glossary of terms. These are mostly those that have been used elsewhere on this part of the site, but some others have been added.
I have deliberately excluded many that seem to me to be insignificant or pointless and have been arbitrary in my judgements. There is no pretence to be comprehensive.
This page covers A-C alphabetically. Click below for later entries.
Accentual verse: Verse that only counts for metrical puposes the number of stressed syllables in a line.
Acrostic: A poem of which the (usually) initial letters can be read (usually) down the page to give some 'concealed' message.
Afflatus: This is a Latin term for poetic inspiration, not a digestive problem. You can get one if you sit in a chair for too long hoping that your muse will turn up, though.
Alexandrine: This is a verse line of twelve syllables. It was used for the standard French metre in the middle years of the last millennium but is rarely seen in English.
Alliteration: This is also known as 'head rhyme', which should give you some idea of its use. It is normally found as initial consonants (but can also be stressed syllables in a sequence of words. It was a required form of Old English poetry and thus has a longer heritage than end-rhyme in the Germanic languages. This example is a line from one of the best Anglo-Saxon poems, Wulf and Eadwacer: 'Wulf, min Wulf, wena me Þine' ('O Wulf, my Wulf, my desire for your coming). Wulf is thought to be Viking raider, and Eadwacer a Saxon woman.
Alliterative metre: This was the standard verse form of Anglo-Saxon poetry. The standard line comprised two half-lines divided by a caesura. These were linked by alliteration as in the example above.
Anapest: A metrical foot comprising two unstressed syllables followed by a stressed one.
Anaphora: A rhetorical device where a word or phrase is repeated, usually at the beginning of a line.
Antiphon: A poem in which two voices or sets of voices respond alternately to one another.
Assonance: The repetition of similar or identical vowel sounds. Sometimes it's called vowel rhyme.
Aubade: A lyric poem regretting the arrival of dawn for two lovers.
Ballad: This is a narrative verse telling a folk-story in a direct and dramatic way. Originally ballads were in quatrains in alternately four- and three-stressed lines but later a variety of verse forms were used. See Ballad.
Ballade: A French form comprising three stanzas of eight lines rhyming ABABBCBC, and a final envoi rhyming BCBC. The last line of the first stanza is used as the last line refrain of the three subsequent stanzas. See Ballade.
Bathos: A sudden, and normally accidental, slip into the ridiculous by a poet intending more elevated expression.
Beat Poets: An American group of poets in the 1950s who favoured a free form of expression reflecting their rejection of middle-class values. They often recited poetry to a jazz accompaniment. Leading beat poets include Alan Ginsberg, Jack Kerouac, Lawrence Ferlinghetti, Gregory Corso, and Gary Snyder. William S. Burroughs could be included in this list but he is better-known for his prose.
Blank Verse: See the Separate entry on this.
Broken Verse: A device usually associated with light verse. It is the splitting of the last word at a syllable to allow a rhyme on the next line.
Cadence: A rising and falling of the rhythms of speech in a poem. Not necessarily as strict as formal metre.
Caesura: See alliterative metre above.
Canto: The equivalent of a prose chapter in a longer poem.
Chant Royal: A French form. It consists of five stanzas of eleven ten-syllable lines rhyming ababccddede followed by an envoi rhyming ddede. See Chant Royal.
Clerihew: A comic verse form named for its inventor Edmund Clerihew Bentley. See Nonsense Verse.
Coda: Also called a tail-line stanza. A stanza that combines a number of longer lines with two short ones or 'tails'.
Conceit: An on the face of things unusual or stretched metaphor or simile, which however provides an arresting comparison between two very different things.
Concrete poetry: A poem where the type is laid out to present a pictorial representation of the subject of the poem. It is a development of the pattern poetry which dates back to Greek classical times.
Consonance: The use of the same or similar consonant sounds in words with different vowel sounds in proximity or near proximity.
Couplet: A pair of lines that rhyme with each other.
Crossed rhyme: Two words in similar positions in separate (normally adjacent) lines that are made to rhyme with each other.
Cut-up: A form popularised by one of the beats, William S. Burroughs, where an existing text is cut up line by line and shuffled to give a new work.