poetic devices Mangala strider

Poetry is an incredible way to express your feelings and opinions. It can be used for any occasion, from a wedding to a funeral or even just as the soundtrack of your life. Poetic devices are one of the best ways to make sure that you are getting the most out of your poetry. In this blog post, we’ll discuss 18 types of poetic devices – what they are, how they work and when you should use them!

Table of Contents

What is a Poetic device? 

Poetic devices are words or phrases that are used to make the reader think about something in an unusual way. They are like special effects for language. They are often metaphors, similes and personifications – but there’s more!

Alliteration

Alliteration is the repetition of consonant sounds in a series. The most famous example would be “Peter Piper picked a peck, of pickled peppers” from the well known English-language nursery rhyme! This technique can create an interesting effect when used well with other poetic devices such as rhyme or rhythm to make your poem more memorable.

Anaphora

Anaphora is the repetition of words or phrases at either end, beginning or middle. This technique can create a substantial emotional effect when used well with other poetic devices such as rhythm to make your poem more memorable.

By repeating wording at the beginning of sentences or paragraphs, anaphora can emphasise writing, make meaning clearer, and bring significance to text through repeated references. It is also known as a rhetorical device

"I’m sick and tired of you letting me down.
I’m sick and tired of you making me mad.
And I’m sick and tired of you doing such silly things!"

Metaphor

-A metaphor is a figure of speech that makes an implicit or explicit comparison between two unrelated things. An example would be, “Saxton is a lion in the courtroom.”  The speaker has made this analogy to compare their friend’s fierce personality with how they might behave if put into such circumstances, and it can also imply qualities about lions (such as bravery)

This literary device often has a rhetorical effect on readers because they may not have thought before how these comparisons could be made but now see them clearly with new knowledge from this sentence. I often say that one of the things that makes poetry magical is using a beautiful metaphor.

"All religions, arts, and sciences are branches of the same tree. "

Albert Einstein

Imagery

Imagery uses figures of speech to evoke a sensory experience or create a picture in readers’ minds. An example of imagery is “The sky was a deep blue, with rolling white clouds.” The speaker has used this sentence to create an image for the reader about what it looked like outside.

You can also find Imagery in poetry and other writing types, such as essays, because they often try to evoke emotions from readers by using figurative language that creates pictures on their minds while reading them aloud (or silently).

"The barn was very large. It was very old. It smelled of hay and it smelled of manure. It smelled of the perspiration of tired horses and the wonderful sweet breath of patient cows. It often had a sort of peaceful smell­ as though nothing bad could happen ever again in the world. It smelled of grain and of harness dressing and of axle grease and of rubber boots and of new rope. And whenever the cat was given a fish head to eat, the barn would smell of fish. But mostly it smelled of hay, for there was always hay in the great loft up overhead. And there was always hay being pitched down to the cows and the horses and the sheep."

Charlotte's Web by E.B. White

Onomatopoeia 

When a word imitates the natural sounds of a thing or animal, we call this Onomatopoeia. An example of onomatopoeia is “The cawing ravens flew overhead.” The speaker had used this sentence to imitate the sound that a group or flock would make as they fly in unison, which creates an image for readers about what it sounded like when these birds were flying above them

Refrain

A refrain is a line or sentence repeated at the end of each stanza or verse. W use a refrain to emphasise a point and create unity within an entire poem, such as in A Red Wheelbarrow by William Carlos Williams: “So much depends upon / So little.” This repetition emphasises how small things can have significant impacts depending on what we do with them!

The first line emphasises that so many different aspects are affected when it comes down to just one decision made – which could be anything from choosing where you buy your food for dinner tonight all up until voting during elections time!

Assonance

Assonance is a resemblance in the sounds of two or more words. It is often used in poetry to create a sense of rhythm and rhyme, such as the word “snow” being repeated throughout A Red Wheelbarrow by William Carlos Williams.

The repetition creates an even flow that makes it easier for readers’ ears when reading aloud! It also provides unity within poems through this sound similarity, which predominantly occurs between similar vowels placed close to each other.

Simile

A simile compares two unlike things, often used in poetry to add more detail and imagery. In the example, “Kyrie is as tall and strong as a tree”, the words ‘like’ or ‘as’ are often giveaways to look out for a simile.

Kenning

Kenning is the method of describing something by naming it with a word that is similar in meaning. The term “kenning” comes from the Old Norse language and means ‘description’. It was used extensively by Viking poets to describe people or objects without using their real names (which were often unknown).

For example: if someone wanted to refer specifically to an axe, they might say something like “the weapon of battle” instead because axes are associated closely enough as weapons for this description work well.” Kenning is also notable in metaphors that use one thing’s qualities/attributes when describing another

Apostrophe

Apostrophe is a poetic device where the speaker addresses an absent or imaginary person, place or thing. This device often conveys a powerful emotional connection between the reader (speaker) with what they are addressing.

“Is this a dagger which I see before me,
The handle toward my hand?
Come, let me clutch thee!
I have thee not, and yet I see thee still.”

William Shakespeare in Macbeth

Couplets

A couplet is a pair of lines of verse that rhyme. Writers use this technique to create a sense of balance and symmetry in poems and emphasise an idea or theme within the poem’s content.

Enjambment

Enjambment is the continuation of the sentence from one line to another without a punctuation break. Enjambment is often used in poetry because it can create an effect that makes readers feel as if they are reading continuously, and also creates suspense for what will happen next.” Enjambed sentences have been prominent throughout history; however, some scholars believe the ancient Greeks first used this technique

"We were dancing—it must have
been a foxtrot or a waltz,
something romantic but
requiring restraint, "

Rita Dove- American Smooth

Symbolism

In addition to the concrete and physical (such symbols found at landmarks), we can also define Symbolism abstractly towards ideas rather than things themselves. Such symbolism might not always have any tangible form but exist only within someone’s mind – yet still holds significance because we all share similar thoughts with others even if our minds work differently from each other!

Personification

Personification is the act of giving inanimate objects or animals human qualities or abilities. The use of personification in poetry makes readers feel more connected with the poem and its message.

For example, if a poet wanted their reader’s attention on an issue that they are trying to raise awareness for (such as global warming), then it might be beneficial thematically speaking from both perspectives. Literary or social justice perspective, to have some human type qualities attributed towards this topic so people can better understand how we all contribute by our actions each day!

Blank Verse

Blank Verse is a type of poetry written in unrhymed iambic pentameter. William Shakespeare and John Milton popularised this style, and its use has been widespread throughout history, including the ancient Greeks such as Homer, who wrote The Odyssey, which contains many examples of blank verse poems.

Hyperbole

Hyperbole is an exaggeration for emphasis to make something seem more important than it really may be; this technique can also include the overstatement of facts. Throughout history, hyperboles have been found from ancient Greek poets such as Homer until modern-day writers, including Shakespeare, who uses hyperbolism extensively through his plays. One famous use by William Wordsworth’s poem “The Daffodils”.

"He's such a great comedian, he had the crowd dying of laughter!"

Wordplay

Wordplay is a technique used in poetry to create humour, irony or emphasise an idea. Examples of wordplay include puns, spoonerisms and double entendres.

Rhyme

Rhyme is the repetition of syllables, typically at the end of a verse line. Two lines of verse have similar sounds but do not end with identical syllables or phrases; we call these Internal rhymes.

End rhyming of words is a type that many people think to be the most common form in poetry, and it’s true. This particular device has also become popular in Hip Hip culture as well.

“It was many and many a year ago,
In a kingdom by the sea,
That a maiden there lived whom you may know
By the name of Annabel Lee;
And this maiden she lived with no other thought
Than to love and be loved by me.”

Edgar Allen Poe- Annabel Lee

In conclusion: 

This article aims to help educate you on identifying and analysing poetic devices to enhance your writing skills. You may have never considered what poetic devices are before reading this article – but now you know some examples for your next poem or story!

If you need a jump start, try one of these poetry prompts coupled with a few poetry exercises.

Webster Chagonda

About The Author

Webster Chagonda

Webster is the founder and managing director at Pick Me Up Poetry. His creative journey began at an early age as an aspiring musician, and by 2013, he was the arts & culture facilitator for the University of Johannesburg. He is currently pursuing a Business Management degree with The University of South Africa and aspires to make PMUP a household name by 2025.

About Us

Established in 2013, Pick Me Up Poetry is now a leading platform for spoken word, live music and literature, reshaping the African narrative one story at a time. We believe in Social Learning and Honest Expression. Join our Facebook group, Youtube or Instagram for more engaging poetry conversation.

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