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Poetry is another kind of imaginative writing. A poem consists of many elements, but all good poems come from writers who choose their words and arrange them carefully. Poems convey sounds that are pleasing to the ear and images that encourage the reader to perceive with all of the senses. In the sections that follow you will learn more about sound effects and images in poetry.
Sound effects add much to your enjoyment of movies. If you are watching a space adventure, you want to hear the strange voices of the aliens and the loud boom when a spaceship exceeds the speed of sound. In poetry, sound effects are also important. The sounds of words alone and the sounds of words put together in patterns create a pleasing effect when poetry is read aloud. These sound effects also help to make poetry different from forms of writing such as stories and plays.
Rhyme, alliteration, and meter are important sound effects in poetry.
Words that rhyme have the same ending sounds.
rhyme – time middle – iiddle
As you read the poem “Pete at the Zoo” by Gwendolyn Brooks, notice which words rhyme.
Pete at the Zoo
I wonder if the elephant
Is lonely in his stall
When all the boys and girls are gone
And there’s no shout at all,
And there’s no one to stamp before,
No one to note his might.
Does he hunch up, as I do,
Against the dark of night?
— Gwendolyn Brooks
“‘Pete at the Zoo” from Vie World of Gwendolyn Brooks by Gwendolyn Brooks. Copyright © 1960 by-Gwendolyn Brooks. Reprinted by permission of Harper & Row, Publishers, Inc.
A second sound effect in poetry is alliteration, words that begin with the same sounds, as in these examples:
Little-lady orange-organ quick-quit
In lines of poetry alliteration adds to the musical quality of the words, as in this anonymous poem:
Three gray geese in a green field grazing, Gray were the geese and green was the grazing.
Alliteration may also help to tie two or more lines together by repeating the beginning sound:
Then there came a king in the company of knighthood. The might of the Commune made him a ruler. Common Wit came after and created advisers, As a council for the king and for the common safety.
— from “The Vision of Piers Plowman”
When you pronounce words with more than one syllable, one syllable is spoken more loudly than the other syllables. This louder syllable, called a stressed syllable, is shown with a special stress mark: (‘).
A mer’ i ca beau’ ti ful Poets often put words together so that stressed and unstressed syllables form a regular pattern or meter, a third sound effect in poetry. Poems with meter often have alliteration and rhyme as well.
There are several different patterns of meter, and each has a different effect on the poem. One pattern, for example, is used in a humorous poem of five lines called a limerick. Read the following verse aloud until you can hear and repeat its meter.
There was a young lady named Hannah, Who slipped on a peel of banana.
More stars she espied
As she lay on her side Than are found in the Star Spangled Banner.
A limerick’s regular meter gives the verse a singsong effect, which, with its rhymes, helps to make it humorous.
Imagery in Poetry
The poet William Wordsworth once defined poets as people who are unusually aware of the world around them. They see, hear, feel, taste, and smell more things in their world than other people. When poets describe these experiences so that readers can share them, they create images in their poetry.
A short poem that presents a vivid image ia called a
structure poem. The poem may describe a person, place, animal, object, or event, and it often has similes or metaphors that help create the image.
Poems to Express Feelings
Think about a time you enjoyed listening to a special record because the words and music expressed how you felt. You may have felt especially happy or perhaps lonely or sad, and the music reflected these feelings for you. It may even have seemed that the person writing the song must have had you in mind. Poets, like songwriters, often write to express feelings as well as to create images.