Poetic Devices with Examples | Literary Devices in Poetry

Poetic Devices with Examples | Literary Devices in Poetry

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Writing poetry is not an easy task. When a poet writes poetry, he does not only rely on his emotions but also deals with the language in which he writes it. English literature along with language has been developed a lot for the last 100 years as many major changes have been witnessed in it. A poet uses many literary devices while writing poetry; instead it is not wrong to say that every writer (a novelist, dramatist or poet) has to rely upon poetic and literary devices to include some examples in his work; therefore, with the development in literature and English language, some improvements were also made in them with the passage of time. As a result, some new poetic devices were introduced, literary devices were improved and writers started using them with examples in their literary works.

Here are some examples of literary poetic devices that are common in every writer’s work:

Alliteration

Alliteration basically is a technique of repeating the initial letter of each word. A poet uses alliteration to add a specific type of rhyming scheme in his poem; however, sometimes, it becomes very difficult for the readers to read such types of words as it causes obstruction in fluency. Some examples of alliteration are:-
Tom takes tea to transform his fat into metabolism.
Bob bought the best constructed buildings before business meetings.
In above said examples, the repetition of initial words (T in first examples whereas B in second example) are examples of one of the major poetic and literary devices called alliterations.

Allusion

Sometimes a poet needs to refer to something but he cannot do it directly; therefore, he does not straightly say it and uses a hint for this purpose, which in literature we call allusion. Mostly, the poet or writer uses it for historical events or figures. For instance, John Milton in Paradise Lost uses a lot of allusions such as:
Jesus Christ, Adam and Eve, Homer, Hercules etc.
Let’s elaborate further. Poets often use a famous phrase “Achelias’ heel” to describe someone’s weakness. It is an allusion. In Greek mythology, Achelias was a brave warrior and no one could kill him; however, he died because an arrow hit his heel, hence, his heel has been considered his weakness; therefore, many poets use it in their work, which is one of the best examples of major poetic and literary devices allusions.

Ambiguity

Ambiguity in actual meanings is not a poetic device. Rarely, a poet creates it deliberately. Mostly, it is caused because of the unclear meaning of a word in a poem or any literary work. Poetry is dependent on words and words are just symbols to present an idea or a thought; therefore, a word has more than one meaning. If a word has more than one meaning then it creates ambiguity in the poems.

Analogy

A poet uses analogy in his poems to create an abstract imagination in his readers’ mind. It is a connection between familiar and unfamiliar things. For instance, Shakespear writes:-
“As cold waters to a thirsty soul,
So is good news from a far country.”
In the above said example, “as cold waters to a thirsty soul” is an analogy that the poet uses to create imagery of familiar and unfamiliar things in the minds of his readers.

Assonance

In order to create rhyming, poets repeat vowel sounds in words. It should be remembered that no constant is used for this purpose. Some examples of literary and poetic devices assonances are:
Do good, have good.
The rain in Spain falls mainly on the plain.

The main difference between assonance and alliteration is that assonance can occur anywhere in the world whereas it is necessary for the alliteration to be used at the start of each word.

Cacophony

Cacophony is one of those literary and poetic devices that creates confusing sounds in a poem examples of which are available from “Gulliver Travels”. Mostly, the poets and writers use one of these poetic and literary devices to create a destructive atmosphere, examples of which are:-

“and being no stranger to the art of war, I gave him a description of cannons, culverins, muskets, carabines, pistols, bullets, powder, swords, bayonets, battles, sieges, retreats, attacks, undermines, countermines, bombardments, sea-fights… from Gulliver Travels The author’s use of words beginning with sharp consonants contribute to the overall tone that war is destructive.”

Gulliver Travels

It is a clean example of the use of cacophony.

Connotation

Every word being a symbol has more than one meaning; therefore, the meaning of a word that is beyond its literal meaning is called connotation. There are two types of connotations: negative and positive. A poet uses connotation to create mood, emotion and feelings in his poetry. Some good examples of connotation are:
He is such a dove does not mean that he actually is a dove. Beyond literary meanings if we talk then it means that he has a pure heart.

Consonance

Consonance is the repetition of consonant alphabets in a poem, hence, it is opposite to assonance. Good examples of literary and poetic devices consonances are available from “Arms and the Boy by Wilfred Owen”:
“Let the boy try along this bayonet blade
How cold steel is, and keen with hunger of blood;
Blue with all malice, like a madman’s flash;
And thinly drawn with famishing for flesh.”

The continuous repetition of “b” sound in the above said stanza is a clear example of consonance.

Contrast

To make a comparison between two different things or to give examples, a poet uses one of the major poetic and literary devices called contrasts. Two or more than two things who are entirely opposite to each other make contrast in a poem or any other literary work. A powerful example of contrast has been drawn from Shakespeare’s sonnet. He writes:

My mistress’ eyes are nothing like the sun;
Coral is far more red than her lips’ red;
If snow be white, why then her breasts are dun;
If hairs be wires, black wires grow on her head.

In the above said stanza, the sun, coral, snow, and wire are good examples of contrast.

Euphony

The poets and writers use euphony to create pleasing sounds in their literary works; therefore, it is entirely contradictory to cacophony. Euphony is pleasing and harmonious whereas on the other hand cacophony is harsh and discordant. He passed away, instead of he died, is the best example of euphony.

Hyperbole

Exaggeration of something, especially feelings and emotions is called hyperbole. William Butler Yeats in his poetry often uses these poetic and literary devices, examples of which are:

The darkness drops again; but now I know
That twenty centuries of stony sleep
Were vexed to nightmare by a rocking cradle,
And what rough beast, its hour come round at last,
Slouches towards Bethlehem to be born?

Some other examples of hyperbole are:
You’re as light as a feather.
I slept like a rock last night.

Imagery

Imagery is the most used poetic device in poems. Use of words that appeal to the imaginative senses is called imagery. Every poet more or less uses imagery in his poems. John Keats is the best romantic poet who uses imagery in his poems, an example of which is:

He knew whose gentle hand was at the latch,
Before the door had given her to his eyes;
And from her chamber-window he would catch
Her beauty farther than the falcon spies;
And constant as her vespers would he watch,
Because her face was turn’d to the same skies;
And with sick longing all the night outwear,
To hear her morning-step upon the stair. (Keats 3.17-24)

Descriptions of natural images in this poem are examples of imagery.

Irony

A poet uses ironies as literary and poetic devices in his literary work to give examples of something opposite to literal meanings. There are certain types of ironies; irony of situation, dramatic irony and verbal irony. For instance, Jane Austen starts her novel “Pride and Prejudice” with the following statement:-

“It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune, must be in want of a wife.”

However, soon we realize that women want husbands and not the vice versa.

Onomatopoeia

Poets use onomatopoeia to enhance the imagination of their readers. They want to show a world that they see exactly to their readers through words; therefore, they use onomatopoeia. For instance:

The cows go moo
the ghost says boo
beez goes buzz
pepsi goes fizz

In above said examples, moo, boo, buzz, fizz create pleasing sounds that exactly readers can imagine, which we call the use of onomatopoeia.

Oxymoron

Usage of contradictory words in a poem is called oxymoron. It is one of the most uses poetic and literary devices, examples of which are taken from Milton’s book “Paradise Lost” where he uses two words “darkness visible”, which are entirely contradictory to each other.

Paradox

Paradox is a combination of words that apparently does not make any sense but in reality it contains sensible meanings. For example:
This is the beginning of the end.
Deep down, you’re really shallow.
I’m a compulsive liar.

Personification

Sometimes a poet gives human attributes to a non living being which we call personification. For example:
Clouds dance in the sky.
Death walked towards me.

In the above said example dancing and walking are human attributes, which are assigned to non human beings, hence, it is called personification.

Pun

When a poet plays with the words and uses words with identical sounds then we call it pun. See the following sentence:-

I saw a saw which could not saw.

In the above said examples “saw” means to watch/to see, it also means the tool “saw” and thirdly it also means to cut.

Rhyme

Rhyme is one of those literary poetic devices that almost every poet uses in his poems not give examples but to provide rhythm to his poem. It is the repetition of syllables at the end of verse. For example in a poison tree,

I was angry with my friend;
I told my wrath, my wrath did end.
I was angry with my foe:
I told it not, my wrath did grow.

Friend, end, foe, grow are rhyming words, which best describe rhyme in poems.

Simile

Comparing an object with the other one is called simile. The poet uses words “like” and “as” for these purposes. For instance, as brave as a lion, clear like crystal etc.

Metaphor

Metaphor somewhat is similar to simile; however in metaphor a poet gives all the attributes of an object to the other one. For example, he is a lion; meaning thereby that is brave like a lion. He is a dove, which means that he is innocent etc.

Symbolism

Words are symbols and use of words to present ideas is called the technique of symbolism. It also suggests something about its literal meanings. For instance, the sea is used as a symbol of vastness, and an ambulance is a symbol of death etc.