Poetic and Literary Devices

  • Poetic and Literary Devices


    The repetition of similar sounds, usually a consonant sounds.

     Little old lady got mutilated late last night.



    A reference to a person, place, or event from another piece of literature, or in history, art or music.

     John’s love of candy is his Achilles’ heel



    The repetition of similar vowel sounds, in poetry

     Thou foster child of silence and slow time. John Keats



    A story told in verse, and usually meant to be sung.

    Me and Bobby McGee

    The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald

    Piano Man


    Blank Verse

    Versed written in unrhymed iambic pentameter.

     William Shakespeare

    If  you can look into the seeds of time

    And say which grain will grow and which will not



    The emotion or sense of a word.

     A department store would not be called “Cheap Clothes”, more likely the name would be “Budget Sportswear”.



    Two consecutive lines of poetry that rhyme.

    Hear it not, Duncan; for it is a knell

    That summons thee to heaven or to hell



    Dictionary definition of a word, the literal meaning.

    Movie “star”-a famous actor (denotation-dictionary definition)

    Movie “star”-actor adored by fans that leads a glamorous life.
    (connotation-sense of the word)


    Choosing the perfect word for clarity or effect


    Three blind mice

     See how they run

    They all ran after

    the farmer’s wife,

    Who cut off their tails

     with a carving knife.
    Have you ever seen

    such a sight in your life,

    as three blind mice?


    Three rodents with defective vision

    Observe their rate of motion.

    They all pursued an agriculturist’s spouse.

    Who severed their spinal extremities with a common kitchen utensil.

    Have you ever observed such a phenomenon in the span of your life

     as three rodents with defective vision?




    A poem of mourning and lamentation over the death of a loved one.

    In Memoriam

    By Alfred Lord Tennyson



    A long narrative poem telling a story about the deeds of a hero

    The Iliad

    The Odyssey


     A quote or motto at the beginning of a chapter or story.

    This book is to be neither an accusation not a confession, and least of all an adventure, for death is not an adventure to those who stand face to face with it. It will try simply to tell of a generation of men who, even though they may have escaped shells, were destroyed by war.

    All Quiet on the Western Front by Erich Maria Remarque



    Inscription on a headstone. A poem in memory of someone who has died.

    This is the verse you gave for me:

    Here he lies where he longed to be;

    Home is the sailor, home from the sea,

    And the hunter home from the hill.

    Requiem by Robert Louis Stevenson


    Figurative Language

    Language that is not meant to be interpreted literally usually makes a comparision.




    A scene in a story that disrupts the story to show an earlier event, often a memory of the main character.



    Clues or hints in a story that suggest what will happen next. Builds suspense.

     The battle in the cemetery in

    All Quiet on the Western Front, foreshadows the soldiers deaths.


    Free Verse

    A poem or verse that does not have meter or pattern.


    Psalms in the Bible



    Exaggeration or overstatement

     Will all great Neptune’s ocean ws this blood clean from my hand?

    From Macbeth by William Shakespeare



    Language that appeals to any sense or combination of senses.


    The Pond

    Cold, wet leaves

    Floating on moss-covered water.

    And the croaking of frogs—

    Cracked bell-notes in the twilight.

    Amy Lowell


    Contrast or incongruity between what is expected to happen and what actually happens.


    Poem that expresses the writer’s personal feelings and thoughts.


    A comparison between two unlike things, gives added meaning

     Morning is a new sheet of paper for you to write on.



    Regular pattern or stresses and unstressed syllables in poetry.

    As fair art thou, my bonnie lass

    So deep in love am I;

    And I will love thee still my dear,

    Till a’ the seas gang dry. By Robert Burns



    A figure of speech in which something very closely related stands for or suggests the thing itself.

    Hardhat   construction worker

    The crown   King or Queen

    The White House            the President



    A recurring word, image or phrase

     The River Shannon (Angela’s Ashes)

    Luck (The Rocking Horse Winner)

    Doomed Lovers (Romeo and Juliet)



    A story about the gods helps people understand things they cannot see or control.

     Poseidon and the Seas



    A poem that tells a story.


    The Odyssey

    The Illiad


    One who tells a story

     First Person-character is in the story. Uses “I statements”

    Third Person-Not in the story at all

     Outside point of view


    An 8 line poemAn

    8 line stanza in a poem 


    A poem written to honor a special

    *Person * Event * Season * Occasion

     Ode on a Grecian Urn

    Ode to the West Wind


     The word sound imitates or suggests the meaning

     Hiss        Clang              Rustle    Snap


    Combines opposites or contradictory ideas/terms

     Living death                           Sweet Sorrow

    Wise fool                        Jumbo shrimp



    Reveals a kind of truth, but at first seems untrue 

    Stone walls do not a prison make,

    Nor Iron bars a cage;

    Minds innocent and quiet take

    That for a hermitage…. “To Althea from Prison”



    A figure of speech, where an animal, object, idea or force of nature is given a personality or described as if it were human.

     “Sad storm, whose tears are in vain.” Percy Shelley

     Death or Chance (All Quiet on the Western Front)


    Ideas, Information and arguments that appeal to emotions, tries to change your mind

    “It is sweet and honorable to die for one’s country.”


    Ordinary, straight-forward language, used in speech, newspapers, magazines, essays. 


    Poem or stanza of 4 lines


    A word, phrase or group of lines repeated throughout a poem, usually at the end of a stanza.


    The arrangement of syllables into a pattern. Gives a poem a musical quality.


    Repetition of sounds or words that are close to each other in a poem

    river/shiver        leap/deep

    song/long           skies/eyes


    Writing that ridicules the weaknesses of people, groups or institutions


     A 6 line poem or stanza


     The time and place of a story.


    A comparison between two unlike things, using like, as, than

    Silence will fall like dew

    White as a white cow’s milk

    More beautiful than the breast of a gull

    Sonnet-“little song”

    A 14-line poem

    Rhyme Scheme

    Rhymed Iambic pentameter

    Shakespearean Sonnet

    3 quatrains and a Couplet

    abab  cdcd  efef  gg


    An object, person, place or action that has meaning in itself and stands for something larger than itself.

    Rose-love and beauty




    A figure of speech that substitutes a part for the whole.

    All hands on deck

    A new set of wheels


    The author’s main idea

    Author’s purpose or insight


    The attitude a writer takes toward the subject or characters.

    The choice of words and details.

    Judgmental Tone

    News Article about

    Norman Morrison

    Sympathetic Tone

    Norman Morrison Poem


    Sad or disastrous ending