Group: The Quality of Poetry on Scribeslice

INDEX OF 'Quality in poetry'

The discussion 'Quality in Poetry' was started by Harry Wells, the founder of this group. As the discussion progresses, a lot of poetical terms are being added in the post. The following is an 'impromptu' index of the terms for a quick reference. I am copying/pasting Harry's words and some samples of the words posted by others in the discussion, in here:

IAMBIC PENTAMETER: An Iambic is the most used form of meter in poetry. An Iambic stands for a beat, just like you would have in music. One iamb is two syllables - an unstressed syllable followed by a stressed one. The best way to think of it is like a heartbeat - da DUM. The word 'nowhere' is one iamb. 'no' is the unstressed syllable and 'where' is the stressed syllable. The iamb can consist of two one syllable words or the last syllable of one word and the first syllable of a following word. The prefix 'pent' means 5, so a pentameter means that you will have 5 iambs in a line. This will mean that you always have 10 syllables in each line. Look at one of Shakespeare's most famous lines from Hamlet

"Now is the winter of our discontent."

That is a line of Iambic Pentameter. Another example of its breakdown for understanding purposes alone is:

She sits/ by the/ window/ for the/ best light,

METER: The meter isn't just an end in itself done for the sake of form. It is all about enabling smoother recitation aloud which is the best form of rendering poetry even if you recite it to yourself aloud. Read the line out loud and put a tiny bit more emphasis on each second syllable.

ENJAMBMENT: Enjambment is where a sentence continues over from one line to the next without breaking meter.


Tick tock, the clock is not my friend nor time
a welcome guest inside my mind or heart

EXTENDED METAPHOR: Verse 1 of the example below starts to compare spring to the army. It then continues this comparison into every verse as an extended metaphor. This is different to single metaphors where, in the same poem, you might use different objects of comparison in every line.

Forerunners peek first over the parapet
Scouts for an army hidden in the trenches,
Pathfinders, first footers, feeling out the terrain,
To confirm conditions before signalling the advance.

Spear tips appear, white pennants of the advancing host,
The initial task force, the vanguard visiting every nook
For a foothold, a foxhole of security between the trees,
For snowdrops fearful of frost the deadly foe.

THE PENULTIMATE LINE: The last but one, meaning, the second last line of the poem.

Asma Ahsan

14th May 2013

AN APHORISM: A short pithy saying expressing a general truth. The aphorism is a well-respected form of verse both today and was so in the ancient classical world.

Example: Here's one from John Donne:

No spring nor summer beauty
Hath such grace
As I have seen in one
Autumnal face

HAIKU: The simplest haiku in form is 5-7-5. Though simple, the shortness in form makes the expression of a thought more difficult.
The longer form is 5-5-7-5-7-5-7-5
Tanka is 5-7-5-7-7
The form is Japanese, the rules now being much amended in the western world. Ideally it should express some profundity with a reference to nature or the seasons. For me the perfect haiku has each of the three lines able to stand up for itself but still contribute to the whole. I keep trying but rarely achieve this. Haiku still leaves scope for metaphor, personification and alliteration. There is no necessity for a title unless you want to give one.
The best I've done is below, written shortly before dawn when the two celestial objects were close in the sky and on the same horizontal level.:

September dawning
Venus and a crescent moon
Hold hands in the sky.

Note: The list goes on as the discussions proceed...

Asma Ahsan

14th May 2013

VIGNETTE: - A small graceful literary piece or sketch.

OXYMORON: - A effect by which contradictory terms are used in conjunction.

Example: Such as describing something awful as a 'living death'. In Black Muddy River she says 'When the hot sun chills me to the bone'. Strictly speaking this doesn't have conjoined terms but it has flavour of an oxymoron.

Asma Ahsan

19th May 2013

ALLITERATION: The repetition of the initial sound of a word in words that follow. As in (Around the rock the ragged rascal ran). Not appropriate in prose. 

TAUTOLOGY: The use of words that repeat a meaning already given such as when people refer to 'a bird aviary', 'a fish aquarium', or 'It's adequate enough' (adequate needs no qualification). Tautologies should be frowned upon.

Asma Ahsan

21st May 2013

FREE VERSE: The textbook definition of free verse is ‘Verse that follows no conventional form or metrical form’. Rhyming can appear but usually not to any rhyming scheme such as ‘line1 and line 3. line 2 and line 4’. The secret for successful free verse is to make your own rules for a particular poem and demonstrate this throughout the poem. The lines may be of irregular length but if you want to avoid an accusation that it’s just prose chopped up then there has to be an apparent reason for the irregularity or line stop. Free verse was used at one time as a vehicle of rebellion against traditional forms. It doesn’t work that way anymore. It’s tired from overuse in that respect.

Free verse leaves optional room for metaphor, simile, alliteration and the right words in the right places. Of course you may write poetry in any way you choose without value judgements being made. You may write poetry for yourself alone;

A golden rule is to choose free verse because it’s the most appropriate to what one wants to say and not as a last resort because one can't think of a better way.

Asma Ahsan

25th May 2013

INDEFINITE AND DEFINITE ARTICLES: Although many languages get on quite well without them English requires the use of definite and indefinite articles. These are as follows:

INDEFINITE ARTICLES - 'a' and 'an'. For example - a cow - not a specific cow but any cow. It's non-specific. Before a noun beginning with a vowel 'a' becomes 'an' as in - an apple.

DEFINITE ARTICLES - The, this, that, those, these. (There are more of them) They give definition. For example 'this cow' is not any cow but a specific one implying nearness. 'That cow' is a particular cow too. I would use 'that' when I might be pointing at it or for emphasis.

EXCLAMATION MARKS - Many people are in the habit of misusing exclamation marks for emphasis. An exclamation is not a sentence in that it doesn't have a subject, verb and object. For example 'Good heavens!' or 'Oh blimey! 'Oh, dear me today!

SENTENCE CONSTRUCTION - Often called syntax;
The boy (subject of sentence) was eating (verb) his dinner (object).

Asma Ahsan

3rd June 2013

Thank you, Harry.

Jim Miller

3rd June 2013

And Asma.

Jim Miller

3rd June 2013

Most welcome Jim. :)

Asma Ahsan

4th June 2013

BLANK VERSE: Blank verse is usually written in unrhymed iambic pentameters but other meters can also be used.

It is written without the use of stanzas and lines usually consist of ten or eleven syllables, meaning that lines within the same poem may vary between ten and eleven syllables.

Although there is no rhyming pattern the occasional rhyme may creep in, and to end with a rhyming couplet gives it a nice flourish.

As distinct from free verse, blank verse is often used for poems of passion and introspection whereas free verse maybe used for poems of more everyday tone. Metaphor and imagery are still appropriate.

Asma Ahsan

9th June 2013

METAPHOR AND SIMILE IN POETRY: To describe metaphor and simile is a difficult task because they both make comparisons.

A SIMILIE: A simile is a figure of speech that expresses the likeness of one thing to another thing of a different category. It is usually introduced by a word such as ‘like’ or ‘as’. For example ‘The boy ran like a hare’. It doesn’t mean that he gets down on all fours and runs as a hare does but the idea of speed is evoked.

More examples:
Her eyes were bright as diamonds
The woman trembled like an aspen leaf
He fell flat as a pancake.

A METAPHOR uses a word or phrase to describe something to which they are not literally applicable but it does not use words such as ‘like’ or ‘as’.

For example:
The office was flooded with mail (was there really any water there?)
Her eyes were bright diamonds
You have oceans of clothes already (advice to teenager, perhaps).

In both metaphor and simile the objects of comparison should be as unrelated as possible to get the most powerful effect. We use metaphor and simile constantly in every day speech and writing.


He ran like the wind. She was hungry as a lion. I was shattered.

All these and many others are tired metaphors. They are worn out by constant use and have no power. In writing your poetry avoid them like the plague. Make your metaphors and similes fresh. Make the ones you use be your own inventions.

KENNING: A kenning is the metaphorical joining together of words to more effectively give expression. This is often seen in Anglo-Saxon epic poetry and alliterative verse. It is used considerably in the poem Beowulf (composed circa 512 AD).

Here again the objects of comparison are widely separated in type.

Wave skimmer – a boat
Widow maker – a sword
Word hoard – vocabulary
Wave way – the sea

Asma Ahsan

13th June 2013

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