Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Sound in Poetry (Poetry-Writing Series Part 3 of 6)

The use of sound devices in poetry is a profound tool.  Not only can sounds elaborate upon meanings and imagery that a poet is trying to convey, but they may also have a degree of entertainment value.  They may rhyme, they may allow you a more in-depth look into the motion that unfolds inside a poem, or they may merely turn the words of a poem into a piece more meaningfully digested were it spoken aloud.

Below are seven primary uses of sound in poetry.  There are many more, but these are eight that I feel are most commonly seen in modern, contemporary poetry and should be easily utilized in your own poetry-writing exercises.

You will notice I did not cover meter, as my expertise with poetic forms does not exceed free verse and because meter has become nearly nonexistent in modern free verse poetry.


1.  Alliteration- occurs when more than one word (usually a series of words) in a row (or close to a row) have the same consonant sound.  The words used will typically sound almost the same and allow for a quick reading.

"She sells seashells by the seashore."'

2.  Rhyme- refers to similar-sounding words that typically occur at the end of each line.

The summers day was fair and bright,
The unexpected rain a hateful contrite.  

3.  Rhythm- the beat that occurs in poetry by the stressing one of more syllables so that the poem reads a certain way.  This differs from meter because it usually is not measured.  Words are constructed as a pattern of beats (not unlike song lyrics or hymns).

Oh SAY can you SEE.

4.  Onomatopoeia-  words that are used to imitate sounds in poetry.  Oftentimes the word (when spoken) is the actual sound being conveyed.  This allows for easy transformation from imagery and reading to a relation to sense.

Swish, whiz, tinkle, ring.

5.  Internal Rhyme-  A rhyme that occurs in the middle of a line, rather than at the end.

She walked around, to the stifling sound of this lonely road.

6.  Phonetic Symbolism- words used in poetry that convey certain similar sounds, yet also may share a common meaning as well.

glitter, glint, glare

7.  Resonance- refers to the quality and variation (richness and varying) sound in poetry.

Or that his hallow'd reliques should be hid
Under a Star-ypointing Pyramid?
Dear son of memory, great heir of Fame,
What need'st thou such weak witnes of thy name?


Try utilizing these elements of sound as you practice poetry writing.  As you learn to use these variations on sound, you may realize that some work for you with ease, while others are more difficult.  Don't  complicate your writing (and lose precious ideas) by focusing too hard on technicalities, so focus more on the elements that come to you with ease.  As you practice, you'll find that things like alliteration and rhyme will find their way into your poetry with little, to no, effort.


Next week I'll be focusing on free verse and prose poetry.  I think you'll really enjoy it, so make sure to check in!

No comments:

Post a Comment