“I know nothing about poetry?”
Heath Houston

You claim, “Except neither you nor the sources you quote can specify what the required elements are.”

However, you clearly did not read the sources I presented.


Poetry is a form of literature that uses aesthetic and rhythmic[1][2][3] qualities of language—such as phonaesthetics, sound symbolism, and metre—to evoke meanings in addition to, or in place of, the prosaic ostensible meaning.


No poem in the traditional sense of ode, elegy, epic, sonnet, etc. can be judged as similar to prose. These formal forms have the restrictions of meter and rhyme and form.


Poetry is typically reserved for expressing something special in an artistic way.
The language of poetry tends to be more expressive or decorated, with comparisons, rhyme, and rhythm contributing to a different sound and feel.
Ideas are contained in lines that may or may not be sentences. Lines are arranged in stanzas.


Poetry is created with figurative language such as poetic devices.


The best poems, in my view, contain a high number of poetic elements, and rhythm is the most important of them. More than any other quality, rhythm distinguishes poetry from prose. As Judson Jerome pointed out in The Poet’s Handbook, prose has a loose, undefined rhythm in which every 2nd through 10th syllable receives an emphasis.


REPETITION = repeating a word or phrase to emphasise its importance/ create a regular rhythm.

eg. “Romantic Ireland’s dead and gone /It’s with O’Leary in the grave.”

The poet repeats the most important point over and over. The line remains lodged in our brains long after we have finished reading (like the chorus of a song). The repetition of this line at the end of every verse makes the poem resemble a ballad, and creates a strong rhythm. This repetition also emphasises the poets certainty.

PERSONIFICATION = describing an object/idea as though it were alive. Giving it human qualities.

eg. “I am silver and exact. I have no preconceptions / Whatever I see I swallow immediately”

Plath uses personification in the poem “Mirror”. What is the effect? The relationship between the poet and the object comes to life. The sense that one can be devoured by vanity is contained in the word “swallow” and the mirror is likened to a bottomless pit.

CONTRAST = placing 2 very different things side by side

eg. “Like a trapped bird she hid behind her hair / Confident buxom girls crowded the corridors”

The girl’s isolation seems emphasised when it is contrasted with the friendship these crowds of girls enjoy. Her shyness contrasts with their confidence. Thus, the poet uses contrast to emphasise that this girl is an outsider and doesn’t fit in.

eg. “The world is charged with the grandeur of God / ……Generations have trod, have trod, have trod; And all is seared with trade; bleared, smeared with toil…”

Much of Hopkins’ poetry makes use of contrast. The beauty of God’s creation and man’s destructive disregard for nature are placed side by side. The effect of using this technique is that man’s sins seem even more heinous, and nature’s power to renew itself seems even more admirable.

SYMBOLISM = a word becomes a sign of something other than simply itself.

e.g. The heart is an organ that pumps blood around the body but it is also a symbol of love. The scorpion is an insect but it can also be a symbol of poisonous evil. A mirror is an object that reflects peoples appearances but it can also be a symbol of vanity. A lion is a dangerous animal but it can also be a symbol of courage.

e.g. In “September 1913” John O’Leary is a real person who Yeats was friendly with, and who fought for Irish freedom, but he also becomes a symbol of bravery, self-sacrifice and devotion to your country.

SIMILE = where the writer compares 2 things using the words ‘like’ or ‘as’.

eg. Plath says of her bees “It is the noise that appals me most of all, / The unintelligible syllables. / It is like a Roman mob”

Often, the writer will compare two things that on the surface are very different – at first we think that a box full of bees is nothing like a mob of poor people from ancientRome. However, both are dangerous when upset, both find strength in numbers, both can create a buzz of anger and unease, and both feel mistreated by those with power over them.

When discussing a simile, first state which two things are being compared; next explain the link/similarities between them. A good simile helps us to understand something more clearly (eg. the bees) by comparing it to something else (the mob). Writers try to avoid similes that are used in everyday speech, however, as they lack originality and have become clichéd – for example “as black as coal”, “sweet like chocolate”, “run like the wind”, “as strong as an ox”.

METAPHOR = where two things are said to be the same.

eg. Seamus Heaney in “Bogland” declares “The ground itself is kind, black butter”. Obviously, the bog is not made of butter, but by saying that that the ground IS butter, instead of saying the ground is LIKE butter, the comparison becomes more direct, forceful, and certain. In other words, many writers prefer metaphors to similes, because they think they are more powerful!

Other examples which should help you to clarify the difference between metaphors and similes e.g. “a blanket of mist” instead of “mist like a blanket” e.g. “the eyes are the mirror of the soul” instead of “the eyes are like a mirror” e.g. “the yellow smoke…licked it’s tongue into the corners of the evening” instead of “the yellow smoke was like a tongue”.

ALLUSION = where the writer makes reference to ‘well-known’ figures or events from literature, history or mythology.

eg. In “Easter 1916” Yeats makes reference to Padraic Pearse: “This man had kept a school / And rode our winged horse”. In “Spring”Hopkinsrefers to the biblical story of Adam & Eve’s fall from grace, and the subsequent infection of the world with sin: “A strain of the earth’s sweet being in the beginning /In Eden garden…”

HYPERBOLE = the deliberate use of exaggeration.

eg. Wordsworth, in the poem “The Daffodils” says “ten thousand saw I at a glance” in order to emphasise their sheer number and create drama for the reader. Hyperbole can also add humour – “he had an arse like an elephant and a personality to match” or emphasise the strength of a person’s feelings – “football isn’t just a matter of life and death; it’s more important than that”. However, if used too often, it loses its effect.

AMBIGUITY = where words/sentences have more than one meaning/ are open to numerous interpretations.

eg. Kavanagh, in the poem “Inniskeen Rd…” says “A road, a mile of kingdom I am king / Of banks and stones and every blooming thing.”

In this example the word “blooming” creates the ambiguity because the word can mean ‘to grow’ – so he is king of every growing thing in nature OR the word “blooming” can be a curse – so he is king of every bloody thing! This makes it difficult for the reader to decide if he is happy or upset.

Poets often make their poetry ambiguous (open to various interpretations) deliberately. In this example, Kavanagh was happy to be left alone on the road because it inspired him – what ‘bloomed’ or grew from the experience was this poem. Yet he was also sad that he didn’t fit in, that he was always alone – and that is why he curses. Thus, the writer uses ambiguity to explain to us that he felt TWO WAYS about this experience – both happy and sad.

RHETORICAL Q = a Q that doesn’t require a response (a statement disguised as a question).

eg. Yeats asks “Was it for this the wild geese spread… /For this that all that blood was shed?” but the unspoken, implied answer is emphatically NO.

Usually, the tone of rhetorical questions is one of outrage and disbelief “Are we barbaric enough to bring back capital punishment?”

ALLITERATION = the repetition of the same letter at the beginning of a series of words. Eg. “Billy Brennan’s Barn”

ONOMATOPOEIA = words whose sound imitates their meaning. eg. “buzz, tinkle, rattle, stutter, whisper, bang”

ASSONANCE = the repetition of similar vowel sounds.

Poet’s Unlimited:

definition of poetry is a written form that employs or explores structure (like rhythm, repetition and/or rhyme) and where word-choice and word-placement are precise, deeply considered, and economical. Every word is selected and positioned for a reason, and meaning beyond the words — conveyed through imagery, metaphor and/or simile — is evoked.


Perhaps the most common error that novice poets make is in assuming that this art form uses a far more "poetic" language than prose. Typically, they will use inversions (e.g. "the heart broken"), archaic language (e.g. "thee") and nonsensical descriptors (e.g. "the treeless forest") in an effort to "sound poetic". Always bear in mind this overstatement as reflecting a fundamental rule of the art form.

So what is the difference between the language used in poetry and that used in prose? Poetry relies far less on descriptors (i.e. adjectives and, especially, adverbs) than prose. Poets tell their story with nouns and verbs. Poetry can also seem more "clipped": small, rather insignificant words (e.g. conjunctions, repeated pronouns, articles, etc.) may be dropped if the poet can do so without making their absence too conspicuous and without compromising clarity and proper syntax.

Novice poets often write prose, cut it into chunks and assume that what they have written is poetry. Even without addressing the difference in language and approach between poetry and prose, this is wrong. A common critique is that "this is just prose with line breaks".

Alliteration: The repetition of the beginning sound of words (e.g. "sleep slips silently", "an axe angles") or stressed syllables (e.g. "premeditated Mexican meddling").

Assonance: The repetition of similar vowel sounds within words (e.g. "sleep keeps people free of all but dreams").

Consonance: The repetition of consonant sounds within words (e.g. "tractors caught in hilltop battles").

Internal Rhyme: Words that rhyme within a single line or strophe (e.g. "fight the light"). Internal rhyme can be annoying and should be used both sparingly and judiciously. The same is true of overuse of any aspect of good sonics, of course.

You and the other several wannabe “poets” can claim your sentences with line breaks are poetry. It won’t change the fact you are not writing actual poetry. It is not out of opinion. It is fact through various sources and definitions. You can claim that everyone else besides you and the wannabes here on Medium are completely stupid and clueless and can’t define “poetic elements” but that still does not change what poetic elements are and what poetry actually is.

THEY are slaves who fear to speak
For the fallen and the weak;
They are slaves who will not choose
Hatred, scoffing, and abuse,
Rather than in silence shrink
From the truth they needs must think;
They are slaves who dare not be
In the right with two or three.
- by James Russell Lowell

Think of why this stanza is a complete poem and why yours is not. Can you find poetic techniques in Lowell’s poem?

Anyone can be lazy and write an “emotional sentence” and break it up into parts and call it poetry. It’s much harder to write a real poem.

As a sword in the sun
A glory calling a glory
Our eyes, seeing it run,
Capture its gleam for our story.

Singer, marvellous gleam
Dancing in splendid light,
Here you have brought us our dream
Ah, but its stay is its flight !
- by Isaac Rosenberg

Do not go gentle into that good night,
Old age should burn and rave at close of day;
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

Though wise men at their end know dark is right,
Because their words had forked no lightning they
Do not go gentle into that good night.

Good men, the last wave by, crying how bright
Their frail deeds might have danced in a green bay,
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

Wild men who caught and sang the sun in flight,
And learn, too late, they grieved it on its way,
Do not go gentle into that good night.

Grave men, near death, who see with blinding sight
Blind eyes could blaze like meteors and be gay,
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

And you, my father, there on the sad height,
Curse, bless, me now with your fierce tears, I pray.
Do not go gentle into that good night.
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

- by Dylan Thomas

TO clothe the fiery thought 
In simple words succeeds, 
For still the craft of genius is 
To mask a king in weeds. 
 - by Ralph Waldo Emerson

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