Arts & Culture

Poetic Devices

            Hello clay readers, and welcome to the first edition of 2019!  Here we are in a new year, with a hopefully merry Christmas season behind us.  It’s a fresh beginning, with fresh resolutions. Sparklers are flaring, fireworks are booming, and the ball in Times Square has dropped.  And to celebrate the start of a new year, in this article I’m going to take a completely different stance on my subject, and tackle the analysis of a few poetic devices.

            The first poetic device I want to discuss is called the quatrain.  This is a verse with four lines, and it typically continues through the whole poem.  When quatrain is used, usually the sets of four verses are somewhat unrelated to each other, andyet the poem still tells a story or creates an image.  Here is an example from Emily Dickinson’s “Hope is the Thing with Feathers.”


Hope is the thing with feathers

That perches in the soul, 

And sings the tune without the words, 

And never stops at all, 

And sweetest in the gale is heard; 

And sore must be the storm 

That could abash the little bird 

That kept so many warm. 

I’ve heard it in the chillest land, 

And on the strangest sea;

Yet, never, in extremity, 

It asked a crumb of me. 

Dickinson cleverly paints an accurate picture of hope while maintaining four lines for each stanza, and writing each stanza with a slightly different focus from the last.  The quatrain is a frequently used type of stanza, and it creates a unique rhyming pattern while shaping the image the author is trying to convey.  

The next device is called anaphora.  Anaphora is the repetition of a word or phrase throughout a poem or saying.  A perfect example of anaphora is found in a poem called “A List of Praises” by Anne Porter.  Below is a portion of her poem. 

A List of Praises by Anne Porter

Give praise with psalms that tell the trees to sing,

Give praise with Gospel choirs in storefront churches,

Mad with the joy of the Sabbath, 

Give praise with the babble of infants, who wake with the sun,

Give praise with children chanting their skip-rope rhymes, 

A poetry not in books, a vagrant mischievous poetry 

living wild on the Streets through generations of children.

Give praise with the sound of the milk-train far away 

With its mutter of wheels and long-drawn-out sweet whistle

As it speeds through the fields of sleep at three in the morning,

Give praise with the immense and peaceful sigh

Of the wind in the pinewoods, 

At night give praise with starry silences. 

Anaphora is useful when someone wishes to highlight their point or help their readers remember a significant idea.  It can also be used for persuasion or just to create a different feel to the writer’s work.  

            The last poetic device I want to define is imagery.  Imagery is one of the most commonly used poetic devices.  Poetry almost couldn’t be poetry without the power of imagery.  It lends itself to the feelings the author is trying to convey, it paints beautiful pictures, it adds something to writing that nothing else can.  Imagery is the lifeblood of well known poems. When creating images through writing, one common way to achieve an understandable comparison or picture is to use similes and metaphors.  One type of poetry that is specifically intended to create beautiful imagery (and my personal favorite to write) is the haiku.  (If you wish to learn more about haikus, see my previous article“Haikus: Japanese Poetry.”)  Here are two poems I wrote myself that utilize imagery to construct mental pictures.

Rain by Emma Grob

Gently pouring down,

pitter patter through the dark 

reflecting a glimmer from above

whose candles flicker through the night, 

keeping the children in their beds, 

and the lonely dog from howling.


Autumn Night by Emma Grob

Stardust glittering 

Crickets softly whistling 

Leaves stirring beneath.

            I hope you all enjoyed bringing in the new year with poetry and this crash course on poetic devices!!  Goodbye, or in Chinese, zaijian! 再见! 


Works Cited: 

“Quatrain.”  Literary Devices. Accessed Dec. 17, 2018. 

Dickinson, Emily.  “Hope is the Thing with Feathers.” Accessed Dec. 17, 2018. 

“Anaphora.”  Literary Devices. Accessed Dec. 17, 2018. 

Porter, Anne.  “A List of Praises.” Accessed Dec. 17, 2018. 


Polar Star. Accessed Dec. 17, 2018. 

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