08 Poetry

Poetry and figurative language
Introduction to key terms
I know which way the wind blows.
Key terms
• Poetics: attempts to explain literary effects
through literary conventions & reading
• Rhetoric: studies linguistic means of
expression and persuasion.
– What are the techniques and practices
enabling to construct successful acts of
• Separated poetics form
• P: the art of imitation
and representation,
• R: the art of persuasion.
• Medieval literary tradition: blurs that
• 19th century criticism rejected rhetoric as
• In the 20th century rhetoric was rehabilitated
tropes and figures
• trope – “turning” or changing of meaning
(metaphor, metonymy),
• figure – combination of words (alliteration,
assonance, consonance etc.).
• Modern rhetoric departs from that tradition:
clear distinction between literal and figurative
not possible
• Language itself is figurative
Figurative language
in poetry
• Figurative language achieves a meaning or
effect different from literal statement
• Most figures of speech compare, explicitly or
implicitly, two basically different things that
share a common characteristic
• explicit comparison between two things that
are literally quite different,
• a comparison using a word such as "like" or
sky is like a mirror
Your brother ran like a gazelle. (but not "Your brother
looks like you" -- a comparison, not a simile.)
Her tenderness hovered over him like a flutter of wings.
(Joseph Conrad, Lord Jim)
• compares two things that are literally quite
unlike, without a comparison word
sky is a mirror
For dust thou art, and unto dust shalt thou return.
(Genesis, 3:19)
Exhilaration is the Breeze
That lifts us from the ground
(Emily Dickinson)
Examples of metaphors
• Proverbs are frequently rich in metaphor:
One man's meat is another man's poison.
I know which way the wind blows.
We never know the worth of water till the well is dry.
Hunger is the best sauce.
Nothing but a handful of dust will fill the eye of man.
• use of a closely related image for the idea:
• The White House has announced that... (a building
represents the President or one of his aides)
• The Crown denies that... (ceremonial device worn by
the king or the queen represents that ruler) or
• The use of a significant, relevant part for the whole:
• All hands on deck
• Do you have any wheels tonight?
• the attribution of human characteristics to
non-human (sometimes abstract) things
For example, Keats calls Autumn "Close bosomfriend of the maturing sun," and later says:
Sometimes whoever seeks abroad may find
Thee sitting careless on a granary floor,
Thy hair soft-lifted by the winnowing wind.
types of metaphors
• An extended metaphor is a metaphor
developed consistently and carefully
throughout the paragraph or essay.
• It can be a powerful unifying device.
Roman Jacobson
• metaphor (relationships of
similarity) and metonymy
(relationships of
attachment) – two basic
structures of language
• Theory later extended to
synecdoche and irony.
• synecdoche - parts represents whole (cf.
• irony – contrasts appearances with reality
(what we expect with what we get).
• Hayden White: these are the four basic
rhetoric structures: metaphor, metonymy,
synecdoche, irony
• Thanks to them we are able to understand
• pathetic fallacy
Sound patterning
• From the beginning poetry was strongly
connected to music and singing (religious
purposes and entertainment)
• This relationship is very strong even today
• Singing and changing are the cross-cultural
phenomena (→ popular culture)
sound patterning
• how it is achieved?
• Every language consists of a limited number of
sounds → phonemes.
• phonemes → syllables
– Syllable structure:
• consonant cluster: C,
• vowel: V,
• consonant cluster: C
– → [C-V-C]
• When we speak - sounds repeat (in everyday
speech repetition is accidental)
• It is possible to arrange sounds into certain
• Thus it is possible to create the melody of
language (and manipulate the natural melody
of each language).
The purpose of sound patterning
• Stands out from ordinary speech, draws attention:
slogans, catch phrases.
• Easier to memorize: action pack, stitch in time saves
• Easier to pronounce, sing, chant etc. (usually songs
require patterning structure, NB: rap music).
• Aesthetic effect, may carry certain meaning (although
that is very arbitrary).
• Sound patterning widely used: poetry but also jokes,
advertising slogans, speeches, pop lyrics, rapping,
• initial consonant cluster is repeated
• [C-V-C]
boat – big – bad;
grow – grand – Greek
reading – writing – arithmetic (3R’s)
I saw five fish fly past
She picked purple peppers
• Alliteration is made with sound, not letters: city –
sandwich, not with cauliflower.
• Alliteration occurs within a stressed syllable:
• aggression – ungrateful, song – unseen –
dissociate – dancing.
• Entire initial cluster must be repeated: glad –
glimmer, go – grow.
• Alliteration: major organizing device in OE and
ME poetry → alliterative metre (gradually
replaced by rhyme).
alliteration in everyday use
baby boom
back to basics
Big Ben
green as grass
pay the price
peer to peer
• swim or sink
• super sonic
• it takes two to Tango
• Mickey Mouse
• Donald Duck
• Bilbo Baggins
• repetition of the same vowel sound
• [C-V-C]
light – wide – sign;
Sweet dreams are made of these, who am I to
hit – miss, hate –sale;
The child of mine was lying on her side
• repetition of the final consonant group
• [C-V-C]
bad – good,
treats – floats,
coming – home, urn – shorn, irk – torque
Is it blunt and flat
pararhyme (rich consonance)
• often = consonance,
• initial and final consonant clusters repeated
• [C-V-C]
beat – bite, sit – sight, middle – muddle
hall-/hell; red - rid; pack - pick
reverse rhyme
• Initial consonant cluster and vowel group
• [C-V-C]
stand – stamp, boat – boast, cash and carry
• last vowel and consonant cluster are repeated
in a word
• [C-V-C]
• cloud – shroud, bonding – sending,
Kinds of rhymes
• Rhymes within a line of verse: internal rhymes
(The movie was great; lots of popcorn I ate).
• Rhymes occurring at the end of a line of verse:
end rhymes (My weekend was like any other /
I went to a movie with Mother).
• Rhyme is sometimes used to describe the
repetition which is not at the end of the word
e.g. action pack.
• Rhyme is produced by sound not spelling:
cough – off – plough.
• “Spelling rhyme” is called eye rhyme (or visual
rhyme): dive – give, said – maid, love - prove.
rhymes: kinds
• masculine rhyme – consisting of a single
stressed syllable: round – sound.
• feminine rhyme – involves two syllables:
yellow – fellow.
• rhyme schemes – rhymes at the end of the
line of poetry are usually organized into
patterns (e.g. abba).

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