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31 Poetic Devices You Must Know | Example & Definition

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“If you can look into the seeds of time, and say which grain would grow and which will not speak then to me” – William Shakespeare

Spectacular and mind-blowing, right? But do you know what made this sentence ‘excellent’?  The strategic yet simple use of metaphor. You may have wondered how your favourite authors and poets always leave you spellbound.  You might believe it is impossible for you to accomplish, but it isn’t with the right poetic devices and techniques.

All poetic devices like alliteration and metaphors form the building blocks of literature.  They are what make poems and literature magical.  Poetic devices are employed by writers to evoke emotions, heighten the narrative and convey their message remarkably.  Rather than merely stating things for what they are, poetic devices bring writing to life, create a lasting impact on readers, and make literature sparks like subway tracks or clouds.

Forget everything that school and college have taught you till now, and consider this comprehensive post your special poetic devices crash course.  Whether you aim to enhance your creative writing by notches or ace your literature course, this post is crammed with poetic devices meaning, inspiring examples of poetic devices, and analysis that will surely put you miles ahead.

Fasten your seatbelts.  Let’s take off!

What are Poetic Devices? A Quick Overview

Before delving deep to explore the list of different types of poetic devices, it is crucial to get the hang of what are poetic devices.  Here’s what you need to comprehend –

  • Poetic devices can simply be considered a form of literary device usually used while writing poems.
  • They denote an intentional use of words, phrases, sounds, and even shapes to express meaning.
  • These devices are remarkable tools used by renowned authors and poets to develop rhythm, improve the meaning of a poem, or reinforce a mood or feeling represented in the poem.
  • Certain remarkable examples of poetic devices are ‘Carrie, close your closet that’s cluttered’, ‘Ten thousand I saw at a glance’, ‘The tick-tock of a clock’, etc.

Clear till now?  Alright, then!  Let’s go to the next section to figure out the significance of using literary devices for poems!

Why Use Poetic Devices? Understand the Significance

Though the usage of any poetic device is not obligatory, it is considered to be incredibly essential.  This is mainly as literary devices in poetry are mainly used to intensify the emotion the author attempts to bring about in the poem.  They also help add a fantastic rhythm to the poem, adding more meaning to it.

 Apart from these, take a look at other crucial reasons behind using various types of poetic devices in any writing –

  • They help in boosting ideas and imagery presented in the paper.  This includes the usage of similes, metaphors, and other natural imagery techniques of expressing, among others.
  • Whether it is anaphora or assonance poetic device, they help strengthen or enhance all feelings and emotions the writer aims to express through the poem.
  • When used exceptionally, they infuse a visible sense of beauty into the works.  They also effectively bring out the emotions hidden in a poem in remarkable ways, which tends to often leave the reader mesmerized.
  • They also tend to make any poem or literature work more intimidating and dramatic.
  • Lastly, different poetic devices also act as an effective guideline for infusing structural patterns into the poetry writing style.  They help in deriving any work (a sonnet or ballad) in the form of a poem.

Poetic Devices: What are the Types?

Have you ever got confused and frantically typed on online search engines – Which poetic device refers to the rhythm of the poem?’  Or Which poetic device refers to the organization of a poem?’ Our safe bet is a couple of times.  Know depending on the different kinds of words used; poetic devices can be of different types.  Each is used for countless purposes, but they bring out only the best in a literary work.

The three types of poetic devices are as follows –

  • Poetic Devices on the Basis of Word Meanings – These types of devices entirely depend on the meanings of words being used by a poet or an author in their works.  Certain examples are allusion, irony, metaphor, and allegory.
  • Poetic Devices on the Basis of Word Sounds  – These devices completely rely on the sounds of words used.  Certain examples are assonance, consonance, alliteration, cacophony, and the like.
  • Poetic Devices on the Basis of Word Arrangements – These types of devices depend more on the structure of a literary work rather than its tone and style.  Certain examples are rhyme schemes and verses.

Getting the hang of it?  We are sure by now you have developed a comprehensive understanding of poetic devices.  Let’s now explore the most intriguing and commonly used poetic devices in English literature and try to comprehend them through remarkable examples –

Mastering Poetic Devices: Examples Included

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Examples of Different Types of Poetic Devices: An Extensive List

Anaphora

The anaphora poetic device refers to a poem that repeats a phrase at the beginning of every line.   Usually, it is the core element in the construction of a poem.  Sometimes, it is used in one or two paragraphs.  But, it is never used throughout the poem.

Example –

In the poem ‘The Delight Song of Tsoai-talee’ by the author N. Scott Momaday, the easy anaphora ‘I am’ is used repetitively to draw the attention of the readers towards the growing need of the poet to explain himself.

Alliteration

Alliteration refers to a phonetic structure and persistent usage of a letter or sound used in the first syllable of a word.  It is perhaps the oldest poetic device usually used for three o more words in the poem.  Often, alliteration fits remarkably in tongue twisters.

Example – She sells seashells by the sea-shore

Or, Peter Piper picked a peck of pickled peppers.

Assonance

The assonance poetic device implies when two or more words that are close to each other in the landscape of literature repeat similar vowel sounds.  But, these words tend to begin with various consonant sounds.

Examples – ‘Goodnight, sleep tight, don’t let the bedbugs bite’ or ‘The crumbling thunder of seas’ (Robert Louis Stevenson), or ‘I was in a dark room, loud tunes, looking to make a vow soon’(Kendrick Lamar).

Consonance

The consonance indicates the iteration of consonant sounds in certain sentences.  The repetition is either determined at the beginning or middle of these sentences.  Let’s try to comprehend it through the example mentioned below –

Example –

Now when you go through the poem ‘The Tyger’ by William Blake above, ensure to check the consonant sound of ‘r’ in every line.

Euphony

Euphony indicates the constant use of melodic and mellow notes that are enjoyable to listen to or read.  Vibrating consonants like s, sh, and th, as well as soft consonants like m, w, n, r, and f, are used to create this poetic device.

Example –

(Shakespeare) 

Cacophony

 Cacophony denotes the poetic device used to strengthen the mood in a poem.  It requires the usage of harsh, unpleasant, or nasty sounds (generally consonants).  Thus, the aim of this poetic device is to provide you with a chaos, dread, and disorder impression as you go through a poem.

Example –

Lewis Carroll 

Onomatopoeia

Onomatopoeia is perhaps one of the most commonly used poetic devices in children’s rhymes to provide a rhythmic and easy-to-remember structure akin to a jingle.  Simply put, this poetic device implies the making of a word explaining its sound.

Example –

The Pied Piper of Hamelin, Robert Browning

Repetition

Poets tend to use this remarkable poetic device to put excessive emphasis on their style of writing.  Repetition refers to repeating words or phrases in a sentence.  They are used in prose as well as poetry.

Example –

Snowy Evening, Robert Frost

Rhythm

The rhythm poetic device implies the remarkable pattern of short, long, stressed and unstressed syllables in a literary work.  These syllables tend to establish a specific rhythm and outline specific elements of a poem.

Example

Macbeth, William Shakespeare

Imagery

The imagery denotes a poetic device that infuses depth into a statement or a sentence.  It is required to use it in such a way that appeals to at least one of the five essential senses of the readers.  Using the right phrases and words, images are established in a way that is not restricted to visual representations.  Hence, they can be hugely descriptive.

Examples – Her lips tasted as sweet as a sugar’, ‘The light under the door felt warm as sunshine’, ‘The fur of the pup is milky’, etc. 

Metaphor

This remarkable poetic device tends to compare two or more similar concepts, objects, or individuals.  Hence, it is a poetic device of meaning that offers another perspective to a sentence.  This one is considered to be a heavy hitter among all poetic devices.

Example –

Here, in his famous poem To His Coy Mistress’, the author Andrew Marvell makes use of metaphor to explain his fear of pending death.  He is able to convey the strength and horror of imagining his demise by comparing death to a ‘winged chariot’.

Hyperbole

Hyperbole is a unique poetic device that comprises an exaggeration.  It denotes the usage of exaggerated words to emphasise or heighten the effect of a statement or words.

Example –

Go and Catch a Falling Star (John Donne) 

Similes

Similes are known as indirect comparisons.  They are similar in constructions like a metaphor but indicate a different meanings.  It is a type of metaphor in which an idea, object, character, action, and the likes are compared to another thing using the words ‘as’ or ‘like’.

Example –

Daffodils, William Wordsworth

Euphemism

Often in literature, for the taste of humour, authors aim to describe a specific graphic or offensive event by using milder phrasing or imagery.  When a poet desires to do this, he/she is employing euphemism.

Example –The term ‘kick the bucket’ is a euphemism that primarily refers to the death of a person.  Again, when you’re saying ‘He is under the weather’, you mean to say ‘He is sick’. 

Caesura

Can you speak without a pause?  If we don’t think so, then how can you pen down a work of literature without giving a pause?  Hence, the caesura is a poetic device that indicates a pause in the rhythm of the poems.

Example –

The Star-Spangled Banner

Personification

Of all the famous poetic devices, this one tends to add depth to the overall theme of the poem.  Personification is used when an inanimate object, animal, or theory requires being provided with human characteristics.  

Example

Mirror (Sylvia Plath)

Oxymoron

This remarkable poetic device denotes the usage of two contradictory ideas that are placed together, one beside the other, as a crucial part of a sentence to develop an intriguing impact.  These kinds of poetic devices make the writing more engaging and exciting.

Examples “All the classmates agreed to disagree”, “My study desk is an organised mess”, “This is just the bittersweet truth”, etc.

Allegory

Allegory is a remarkable poetic device that effectively represents the abstract ideas a poet desires to put forward in the form of certain events, figures, and characters.  The usage of this device is not limited to poetry but can also be used in different parts of prose.  However, in the case of poetry, it helps in explaining an idea on which the whole plot is based.

Example Fables are classical examples of allegories.  However, there are many excellent examples like ‘Animal Farm’ by George Orwell or the ‘Goblin Market’ by Christina Rossetti. 

Apostrophe

An apostrophe implies a poetic device where a poet or an author addresses an individual or an object that isn’t present with the exclamation.

Example –

-‘To A Stranger Born In Some Distant Country Hundreds of Years From Now’, Billy Collins 

Pun

These poetic devices are perhaps the most commonly used in everyday conversations.  It denotes a play on words, using countless or the same kinds of sounds to make a joke.  These can be used as excellent mediums to start conversations as they make you seem clever and even humorous occasionally.

Example

“Apocalypse soon

Coming our way

Ground zero at noon

Halve a nice day”.  (Edmund Conti)

Cliche

Cliché denotes a term or a situation which, when overused to a certain extent, is considered to be unoriginal.  Any crucial element of a literary story, incorporating a certain phrase, genre, scene or character, can be considered a cliché.

Examples – The grass is always greener on the other side’, ‘You can’t judge a book by its cover’, ‘Play your cards right’, etc.

Paradox

Akin to ironies, this remarkable poetic device lays emphasise on something or a certain issue by discussing its exact opposite.  However, it differs from irony in a way that it doesn’t make the contrast so evident.

Example – “To be natural is such a very difficult pose to keep up.”  (Oscar Wilde) or “People who can’t trust, can’t be trusted”.

Irony

As a spectacular poetic device, irony indicates a considerable distance between what is said and what is meant.  On the basis of the context, a reader can see the meaning that is implied despite the contradiction.

Example – If it is a rainy, cold, and grey day, you can say, ‘What a pleasant day!’  Or, if you were suffering from a terrible bout of fever and severe cold, you can say, ‘Wow, I feel amazing today.’

Symbolism

Eminent authors use this unique poetic device to convey underlying ideas and concepts.  There are multiple levels of meaning associated with symbols, with the inclusion of places, actions, and objects.  The literal essence of the poem gets strengthened with the usage of symbolism.

Example – Shoot all the bluejays you want, if you can hit ‘em, but remember it’s a sign to kill a mockingbird”.  (To Kill a Mockingbird, Harper Lee)

Rhetorical Question

A rhetorical question denotes a question in literature and poetry that is not searching for an answer.  Instead, it is being asked to make a certain point.

Example –

Ode to the West Wind, Percy Bysshe Shelly 

Enjambment

This poetic device comes from a Middle French word which implies ‘to step over’.  It denotes the carrying of a thought or an idea over from one line to another without taking a pause.

Example –  

Waste Land, T.S. Eliot

Motif

A motif denotes a remarkable theory or a symbol that appears constantly to back up what the poet is aiming to communicate.  Motifs in poetry are usually aspects with which we already have formed a cultural relationship, like water bodies that imply purity, the sunrise that denotes new beginnings, or storm clouds that denotes substantial changes.

Examples – Scar (the power of love and destiny), purebloods vs. muggle-borns (racism and tolerance)[Harry Potter]”, “Death (mortality), ducks (the essential changes)[Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger].”

Blank Verse

Blank verse denotes poetry crafted without using any rhyme.  This is especially used if that poetry is crafted in iambic pentameter.

Example –

Hamlet, William Shakespeare

Chiasmus

Chiasmus denotes a stylistic literary device which plays with the reversal of ideas or words.  Akin to anaphora, they tend to draw the attention of readers to an idea that’s contrasting and makes a long-lasting impression on readers.

Example –

Paradise Lost, John Milton

Don Juan, Lord Byron 

Epistrophe

Different from anaphora, this remarkable poetic device is used in places where effective sentences or sentence fragments are seen to end with the same phrase.

Example – The speech of Abraham Lincoln ‘A government of the people, by the people, for the people’.  All of us come across the grouping of words ‘the people’ three times consecutively.  You can use a similar kind of technique to inculcate a remarkable mood in your poem with the usage of evocative words like ‘gone’, ‘dark’, or ‘again’. 

Juxtaposition

This spectacular poetic device is used to imply contrast.  It compares villains with heroes, light to dark and cruelty to beauty.

Example –

This is a popular example of juxtaposition where two normal yet conflicting theories are placed side by side to help us reconsider the relationship between them.

Zeugma

This poetic device was used significantly in the poetry of old Greek times but isn’t quite seen to be used as much these days.  This is mainly because it is challenging to use these in the current times.  This poetic device denotes when a poet or an author uses a word in a sentence to imply two distinct things or objects, where one is often a literal one and another figurative.

Example – ‘He lost his wallet and his temper’  or ‘She lost her heart and her favourite t-shirt in Los Angeles’ are two situations where the usage of the verb has occurred in a both figurative and literal manner.

Final Note

Lastly, we would strongly advice you not to get overwhelmed by the sheer number of poetic devices and be pressurized to use all of them in your academic papers.  While there exists no limitation rule, what’s significant is to maintain a healthy balance and use this unique tool sparingly.  Furthermore, you must use poetic devices in the perfect places to truly add value, improve the description, and engage the readers effectively.  Happy writing, mates!

Frequently Asked Questions

What are literary devices in a poem?

Poetic devices imply a remarkable form of literary devices used in poetry.  It denotes anything used by a poet – with the inclusion of sounds, rhythms, shapes, and words – to improve the literal meaning of their poetry.

What is a poetic device in a poem?  

A poetic device refers to a kind of literary device used in poetry.  Poems are basically made of impeccable poetic devices composite of grammatical, structural, metric, rhythmic, verbal and visual elements.  They are crucial tools that a poet utilizes to develop rhythm, improve the poem’s meaning, or strengthen a feeling or mood.

What are examples of poetic devices? 

  • Personification
  • Simile
  • Alliteration
  • Onomatopoeia
  • Metaphor
  • Consonance

What are 6 poetic devices?

  • Personification
  • Alliteration
  • Simile
  •  Onomatopoeia
  • Consonance
  • Metaphor

What are the ten main poetic devices?

  • Repetition
  • Rhyme
  • Alliteration
  • Metaphor
  • Assonance
  • Onomatopoeia
  • Hyperbole
  • Personification
  • Simile
  • Imagery

How many main poetic devices are there?

There are 20 main poetic devices that you must be well-versed with.  Some of them are –

  • Allegory
  • Alliteration
  • Blank verse
  • Consonance
  • Irony
  • Metaphor
  • Meter
  • Ode
  • Rhetorical question
  • Rhyme

What is the first poetic device?

Among all the devices in literature history, perhaps alliteration is the oldest.  It implies a phonetic structure and frequent sound or letter usage in the first syllable of a word.

What is a simile poetic device?

The poetic device simile refers to a direct comparison between two unlike objects or things, generally with the words ‘as’ or ‘like’.  Examples – ‘John and Anna fought like cats and dogs’  or ‘The home of my cousin is as clean as a whistle’.

Is irony a poetic device?  

The irony is a literary device where contradictory situations or statements unveil a reality which is incredibly different from what appears to be true.  Example – ‘The fire hydrant is on fire’  or ‘Water, water, everywhere, not any drop to drink’.

What is an oxymoron poetic device?

An oxymoron implies a literary device that merges oppositional words to form a unique word or phrase.  It can seem incredibly absurd, yet it makes perfect sense at the same time.  Examples – ‘Deafening silence’, ‘Old news’, ‘Small crowd’, ‘Only choice’, etc.

Hi, I am Mark, a Literature writer by profession. Fueled by a lifelong passion for Literature, story, and creative expression, I went on to get a PhD in creative writing. Over all these years, my passion has helped me manage a publication of my write ups in prominent websites and e-magazines. I have also been working part-time as a writing expert for myassignmenthelp.com for 5+ years now. It’s fun to guide students on academic write ups and bag those top grades like a pro. Apart from my professional life, I am a big-time foodie and travel enthusiast in my personal life. So, when I am not working, I am probably travelling places to try regional delicacies and sharing my experiences with people through my blog. 

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