Poetry (from the Greek “ποίησις”, poiesis, a “making” or “creating”) is a form of literary art in which language is used for its aesthetic and evocative qualities in addition to, or in lieu of, its ostensible meaning. Poetry may be written independently, as discrete poems, or may occur in conjunction with other arts, as in poetic drama, hymns or lyrics.

Poetry, and discussions of it, have a long history. Early attempts to define poetry, such as Aristotle’s Poetics, focused on the uses of speech in rhetoric, drama, song and comedy. Later attempts concentrated on features such as repetition and rhyme, and emphasised the aesthetics which distinguish poetry from prose. From the mid-20th century, poetry has sometimes been more loosely defined as a fundamental creative act using language.

Poetry often uses particular forms and conventions to expand the literal meaning of the words, or to evoke emotional or sensual responses. Devices such as assonance, alliteration, onomatopoeia and rhythm are sometimes used to achieve musical or incantatory effects. Poetry’s use of ambiguity, symbolism, irony and other stylistic elements of poetic diction often leaves a poem open to multiple interpretations. Similarly, metaphor and simile create a resonance between otherwise disparate images—a layering of meanings, forming connections previously not perceived. Kindred forms of resonance may exist, between individual verses, in their patterns of rhyme or rhythm.

Some forms of poetry are specific to particular cultures and genres, responding to the characteristics of the language in which the poet writes. While readers accustomed to identifying poetry with Dante, Goethe, Mickiewicz and Rumi may think of it as being written in rhyming lines and regular meter, there are traditions, such as those of Du Fu and Beowulf, that use other approaches to achieve rhythm and euphony. In today’s globalized world, poets often borrow styles, techniques and forms from diverse cultures and languages.

There are several elements which make up a good poem. In brief, they are described below.

  1. Figurative language
  2. Imagery
  3. Rhythm
  4. Rhyme and alliteration
  5. Tone

Some important elements of poetry are:


Figurative language is wording that makes explicit comparisons between unlike things using figures of speech such as metaphors and similes.

5.1.1 SIMILE

Simile: direct comparison between two unlike things usually delivered with the word “like,” “as,” or “so.”.   A simile so common as to be a cliché indicates great haste with the expression “like a bat out of hell”: When Marcia’s parents came home early, Bill went flying out the back door like a bat out of hell.

The words indicating simile are: like, as, so, appear, seem and  more than.

O my love,  is like a red, red rose,

That’s newly sprung in June.

O my love is like the melody

That’s sweetly played in tune.

(Robert Burns)

Emily Dickinson’s There is no frigate like a book

There is no frigate like a book

To take us lands away,

Nor any coursers like a page

Of prancing poetry:

Note: frigate=kapal perang gerak cepat, courses=kuda-kuda yang  lari cepat, rancing=berjingkrak-jingkrak.


Metaphor: a figurative analogy or comparison between two things where the comparison is indicated directly, without the “like” or “as” customary in similes. Metaphors suggest literally that one thing is something else which it clearly is not in reality.

In the sentence, “He is like a tiger,” the expression “like a tiger” is a metaphorical expression meaning “having a bravery or courage like a tiger”  or in the sentence, “Mr. Johnson yelled out the back door, ‘Bill, I’m going to kick your butt from here clear into the next county!'” the expression “kick your butt” is a metaphor: Mr. Johnson means that he will cause physical harm to Bill, but not necessarily by applying his foot to Bill’s backside.

Robert Herrick’s A Meditation For His Mistress (kekasih) .

You are a tulip seen today

But, dearest, of so short a stay (tak berumur panjang)

That were you grow scarce man can say

You are a lovely July-Flower,

Yet one rude wind or ruffling shower (hujan gerimis yang mengganggu)

Will force you hence, and in an hour.


Hyperbole: an extreme exaggeration, such as in the expression “from here clear into the next county” in the previous example, or the expression “after hell freezes over” in the sentence, “Bill, you’ll be welcome in my house again about ten minutes after hell freezes over!”

  1. . Why, man, if the River were dry, I am able to fill it with tears.
  2. For a falling in love couple the attack of tsunami is just like a splash of water.
  3. All the perfumes of Arabia will not sweeten the smell of bloods in this little hand.





Personification: a figurative comparison endowing inanimate things with human qualities.

Example: The stars above wept and the pale moon sighed as Bill trudged across the Andersons’ yard with the cries of Marcia’s father echoing through the night. Stars are personified as weeping here, and the moon is said to sigh, things humans can do but not inanimate bodies in the heavens.

Personification is the attribution of personal nature or character to inanimate objects or abstract entities.

  • The old train crept along the narrow path
  • Flames ate the house
  • That leaves look pale, dreading (takut oleh)the winter’s near (Shakespeare)


figure of speech in which some absent or nonexistent person or thing is addressed  in a dialogue or conversation as if present and capable of understanding.

John Donne’s Holy Sonnet

Death, be not proud, though some have called thee (you)

Mighty and dreadful, for you art(are) not so.


 5.1.6   PARADOX

An apparent contradiction that is nevertheless somehow true (Perrine :1974:649)

  • and death shall be no more: death thou shall die
  • The world’s laziest workaholic.
  • Silent scream

5.1.7     SYNECDOCHE

Is a part is used to designate the whole.

He has many mouth to feed ”ia ember makan banyak mulut”

A hundred wings(birds) flashed by.

5.1.8   SYMBOL

Something that means more than what it is (Perrine: 1974:628)

Stopping By Woods on a Snowy Evening

Whose woods these are I think I know.
His house is in the village though;
He will not see me stopping here
To watch his woods fill up with snow.

My little horse must think it queer
To stop without a farmhouse near
Between the woods and frozen lake
The darkest evening of the year.

He gives his harness bells a shake
To ask if there is some mistake.
The only other sound’s the sweep
Of easy wind and downy flake.

The woods are lovely, dark and deep.
But I have promises to keep,
And miles to go before I sleep,
And miles to go before I sleep.


*harness=pakaian kuda



As applied to poetry, imagery is the use of words to convey vivid, concrete sensory experiences. The word “image” suggests most obviously a visual image, a picture, but imagery also includes vivid sensory experiences of smell, sound, touch, and taste as well. Imagery goes beyond mere description to communicate an experience or feeling so vividly that it encourages the creation of images in the mind of the reader and readers experiences for themselves the specific sensations that the poet intends.


Visual imagery: visual descriptions so vivid they seem to come to life in the reader’s mind’s when they are read, as in the description of a very old fish in Elizabeth Bishop’s poem titled “The Fish”:

Here and there

His brown skin hung in strips

Like ancient wall-paper,

And its pattern of darker brown

Was like wall-paper:

Shapes like full-blown roses

Strained and lost through age.

He was speckled with barnacles,

Fine rosettes of lime,

And infested

With tiny white sea-lice,

And underneath two or three

Rags of green weed hung down. (9-21).



Auditory imagery: descriptions of sound so vivid the reader seems almost to hear them while reading the poem. For example, Alexander Pope contrasts the gentle sounds of a whispering wind and a soft-running stream with the harsher sound of waves crashing on the shore in “Sound and Sense”:

The sound must seem an echo to the sense:

Soft is the strain when Zephyr gently bows,

And the smooth stream in smoother numbers flow;

But when the loud surges lash the sounding shore,

The hoarse, rough verse should like the torrent roar. (365-69)

For another example see “What the Motorcycle Said,” on pp. 970-71 in our Norton text. This poem opens, “Br-r-r-am-m-m, rackety-am-m, OM, Am: / All-r-r-room, r-r-ram, ala-bas-ter” (1-2).



Images of smell (olfactory imagery): descriptions of smells so vivid they seem almost to stimulate the reader’s own sense of smell while reading, as in the poem, “Root Cellar,” by Theodore Roethke:

And what a congress of stinks!—

Roots ripe as old bait,

Pulpy stems, rank, silo-rich,

Leaf-mold, manure, lime, piled against slippery planks.

Nothing would give up life:

Even the dirt kept breathing a small breath. (5-11).


Tactile or “physical” imagery: descriptions conveying a strong, vivid sense of touch or physical sensation that the reader can almost feel himself or herself while reading, as in Robert Frost’s description of standing on a ladder in “After Apple Picking”: “My instep arch not only keeps the ache, / It keeps the pressure of a ladder-round. / I feel the ladder sway as the boughs bend” (21-23). Or in the sensation of touch (and possibly taste) in the fourth stanza of Helen Chasin’s poem, “The Word Plum”:

The word plum is delicious

pout and push, luxury of

self-love, and savoring murmur

full in the mouth and falling

like fruit

taut skin

pierced, bitten, provoked into

juice, and tart flesh. (1-8).



The term rhythm refers to any wave like recurrence of motion or sound. Meter is the kind of rhythm we can tap our foot to. Metrical language is called verse; non metrical language is prose.

Trochee trips from long to short;
From long to long in solemn sort
Slow Spondee stalks; strong foot yet ill able
Ever to come up with Dactylic trisyllable.
Iambics march from short to long –
With a leap and a bound the swift Anapests throng.

– Samuel Taylor Coleridge

The foot is the metrical unit by which a line of poetry is measured; it usually consists of one stressed or accented ( ‘ ) and one or two unstressed or unaccented syllables ( – ).

Name of Foot Name of Meter Measure
Iamb Iambic – ‘
Trochee Trochaic ‘ –
Anapest Anapestic – – ‘
Dactyl Dactylic ‘ – –
Spondee Spondaic ‘ ‘
Pyrrhus Pyrrhic – –

The secondary unit of measurement, the line, is measured by naming the number of feet in it. A line that ends with a stressed syllable is said to have a masculine ending and a line that ends with an extra syllable is said to have a feminine ending. A pause within a line is called a caesura and is identified by a double vertical line (||). A line with a pause at its end is called end-stopped line, whereas a line that continues without a pause is called run-on line or enjambment. The following metrical names are used to identify the lengths of lines:

Length Name
one foot Monometer
two feet Dimeter
three feet Trimeter
four feet Tetrameter
five feet Pentameter
six feet Hexameter
seven feet Heptameter
eight feet Octameter

The third unit, the stanza, consists of a group of lines whose metrical pattern is repeated throughout the poem.

The process of measuring verse is referred to as scansion. To scan a poem we do these three things: 1. we identify the prevailing meter, 2. we give a metrical name to the number of feet in a line, and 3. we describe the stanza pattern or rhyme-scheme.

Basic elements of Rhythm

  1. Syllable (suku kata)
  2. Foot  (pola syllable)
  3. Verse  (verse)
  4. Stanza  (bait)


One syllable: I, go

Two syllables: sym-bol, slen-der

Three syllables: yes-ter-day, re-vol-ver

Elements of syllable recitation:

Loudness (keras-lembut suara)

Duration (panjang-pendek suara)

e.g: I will neeeeeeeever do it again.

It soooooo  awesome!

It read it whoooooooooole night



new book A handbook of English Literature

cover buku introd to lit kecil
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table of contents handboook of english lit

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