Sunday, 25 May 2014

Poetic and prose devices, by no means exhaustive but guaranteed to be useful

This week we will be rounding off this poetry session and I hope it has inspired and instructed you all well enough to create your own masterpieces, unlike the villanelle I shared with you all a few weeks back, which even after all this time needs deconstructing and fixing. I thought this week I could give you all a quick intro to poetic devices and concepts, for more advanced poets out there, looking for a challenge. So I will give a quick mention to anaphora, epiphora, assonance, caesura, metre, enjambment, heroic couplets, imagery, juxtaposition, internal rhyme and generally the rhyme.

            Most of these are fairly basic poetical devices that you would use all the time without knowing what you were doing, but no doubt some out there will ask, why should we know about these and are they really going to help? Well I will point out now, that after you have read this, any poem that you have written to date will no doubt contain one or two of these features; those who can use not only one but several, and integrate them well into a poem is a poet well on their way to being worth their salt.
So, starting on what feels like will be, but certainly is not even a fraction of what I know, my non-exhaustive list of poetic devices and their use or function in poetry.

1.      Anaphora, the repletion of words at the start of a line/sentence/clause, this is a good pace setter and good to draw emphasis to or away from a topic, you can see this in villanelles to a certain extent, but this is not anaphora.
2.      Epiphora, this is repetition at the end of your line/sentence/clause. This is better at slowing your pace, at least in my eyes, or at least regulating it. Poetry with plenty of end rhymes could contain this.
3.      Assonance, the repetition of vowel sounds in words which are in close proximity, too much assonance is annoying to read, if you’re going to do this, keep it classy and purposeful.
4.      Caesura, a pause in the middle of a line, this could range from a comma to a full stop. It is an effective device to stop your metre suddenly, change topic or direction, this is a powerful and difficulty device to manage well so do your reading before usage!
5.      Metre, possibly your most important device, this is the pace of your poem, you must remember to keep your pace pretty regular, unless there is purpose for breaking it. A regular pace usually works in iambs but will contain other devices such as dactyls, spondees, apapest and trochees, all of which you can look up and master in your own time, when out of practice I have to practice these. With metre remember, keep it regular, or be purposeful.
6.      Enjambment, this device is where you run your sentence on to the next line, it is good for repairing your metre and is used a lot in sound poetry, very often you can get away with it in sonnets, as I have done more than once.
7.      Heroic couplets, one of Shakespeare’s favourite devices, putting two lines that rhyme side by side, even if the poem has no regular rhyme scheme these two lines will stand out for this feature.
8.      Imagery, this is more advanced than it sounds, an image requires that you construct it, and in which way you portray it, then you need to consider if you will develop the image you have painstakingly pieced together or if you will tear it down or compare it against another. Remember, no one will pull a punch if your imagery is poor.
9.      Juxtaposition, the device of putting two contradicting words side-by-side, such as ‘a raucous silence’, perhaps a more advanced device to add to a beginner’s arsenal.
10.  Internal rhyme, where you make rhymes within a line, rather than only at the end. This creates an unusual rhythm that defines a lot of poems with a special metre.
11.  The general rhyme, which can have many branches again. This is a device that many poets prefer to omit because it is seen as ‘the standard’ of a poem. Many starting poets believe that all poetry must rhyme, whereas in fact countless poems do not rhyme at all. I personally love poems to rhyme as it gives me a sense of the poem’s direction, but I’m not averse to writing without them.

So this ends the whirlwind tour of devices, hopefully I’ve imparted some good advice to you all from my own experiences, and I look forward to reading you all later.
Until next time, read, write, live.

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