The Subtle Art of Poetry

I was introduced to poems in school textbooks just like you were, I reckon but not everyone pays heed to it, intentionally. At least, not when you are a student because you are made to anyway, for the scores. The brighter side of me being bright was, perhaps, that I took interest in poetry. I was pretty good at grasping the connotations, the rhyme schemes, the imagery and all that the artist implies through his poem. Certainly, I was not on point always, however my incapability to perceive through the poet’s eyes could not dishearten me.

Poetry is a form of literary expression and the beautiful art of conveying experiences. It is uniquely distinguished from colloquial language as a fact that poetry is far more focused at expressing rather than communicating to the readers. Therefore, the comprehension of the lines, stanzas and the poem as a whole depends on the perception of the reader. A poem is a concise and precise way of writing which makes it different from prose, as well. So, in a way, a poet opens up a secret in a secret manner. That’s right!

The essence of poetry

What sentences are? A string of words. What poetry is? A string of words composed in a figurative style maintaining a rhythm throughout. The beauty and essence of a poem lie in prosody. Prosody is a collective term for rhythm, intonation, emphasis and other elements of speech. Let’s understand it this way. A baby is ignorant of any language or words. He only produces sound and plays around with it but in an unorderly fashion trying to convey something. The similar is prosody but sounds are arranged in a mature fashion such that the cumulative result is soothing to the ears. I’ll try to elaborate on the attributes of prosody in my upcoming blogs. For now, I want you to learn a bit about the figures of speech that are as significant as prosody is.

A short introduction to the figures of speech

A figure of speech is a deviation from the ordinary use of words which means it implies a meaning different from its dictionary definition. Words are used in a non-literal sense to develop an interest in readers. Here are a few commonly known figures of speech.

Simile: It is the most common figure of speech used in poems. The words used for the purpose of comparison between the two objects or events are- like, such as, as, as–so.

For example-

“Errors, like straws, upon the surface flow;
He that would search for pearls must dive below.”– Dryden

“Then felt I like some watcher of the skies
When a new planet swims into his ken;” – John Keats

Metaphor: This is an implied Simile which means, ‘like’, ‘such as’, are not used to draw attention to the likeness.

“And now in the grass behold they are laid,
And the tree is my seat that once lent me a shade.”– William Cooper

Here, the tree is compared to a seat. Some more examples are,

“He is the vulture of the province.”
“Our eldest son is the star of our family.”

Personification: This figure of speech is used to ascribe human qualities to inanimate things.

“The poplars are fell’d, farewell to the shade
And the whispering sound of the cool colonnade,
The winds play no longer, and sing in the leaves,
Nor Ouse on his bosom their image receives.” – William Cooper

In the poem, the Poplar’s Field, William Cooper has personified the winds and ascribed the quality of playing and singing.

Alliteration: This comprises of the repetition of the same letter at the initial position of two or more words.

“Glittering through the gloomy glades.” Pope

“Cross her hands humbly
As if praying dumbly,
Over her breast!” – Thomas Hood

The letter ‘g’ and ‘h’ are being repeated in the former and the latter references, respectively.

Onomatopoeia: Words are used to express or suggest a sound.

“It is now she begins to sing– at first quite low
Then loud, and at last with a jazzy madness–
The song of her whistle screaming at curves,
Of deafening tunnels, brakes, innumerable bolts.” – Stephen Spender

Here, the words, ‘low’, ’loud’, ’jazzy’, ’whistle’ and ‘screaming’, suggests a sound.

There are more than 200 figures of speech collated by rhetoricians out of which many are outdated and are barely used in poetry.

Can anyone compose poems?

When I was fourteen or fifteen years of age, I tried writing a poem for my school magazine. Well, I only coalesced words that sounded more like prose on reading. I had no mentor and I was the only critic. I just knew one thing that I have found a way to express myself and so I carried on. I continued poetry as a hobby. Today, I have published my debut book of poems– Rhythm of Life, that comprises more than 20 poems. To bridge the communication gap between the author and the reader, I have summarized a few difficult to understand poems at the end of the book. I hope you enjoy reciting them! So, yes, anyone can compose and master this subtle art of poetry.

Thank you for going through my blog!


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Priyanka Parmar

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