Submit Poems
Get Your Premium Membership

Poetry Terms | Terminology

Poetry terms and terminology. A dictionary of poetry terms and examples that are excellent for teachiing and learning various aspects of poetry. This comprehensive glossary of English poetry terminology or literary terms is a valuable resource for all poets and educators.

PoetrySoup makes a distinction between poetry terms and poetry forms. Forms of poetry adhere to a certain pattern, scheme, or meter, etc. However, our poetry terms are words or terminology that are closely associated with poetry while not a form of poetry. We have seperated poetry forms from these definitions.

See also: Forms of Poetry

Poetry Terminology by Letter

Some Random Poetry Terms

Blues, The

Music of African-American origin which features a repeated 12-bar pattern and employs lyrics which focus upon the harsh realities of negro life.

Classical Poets/Poetry

Pre-Christian Roman and Greek poets such as Homer, Horace, Virgil, Ovid etc. Classicism is characterised by a sense of formality and restraint. See also neo-classicism. The romantic movement was a reaction against the constraints of neo-classicism.


Short pastoral poem originally written by Virgil who was imitating the idylls of Theocritus. Eclogues may also express religious or ethical themes. A modern example of the form is Eclogue from Iceland by Louis MacNeice. The eclogue is sometimes known as the bucolic.

ECLOGUE, a short pastoral dialogue in verse. The word is conjectured to be derived from the Greek verb ?κλ?γειν, to choose. An eclogue, perhaps, in its primary signification was a selected piece. Another more fantastic derivation traces it to α?ξ, goat, and λ?γος, speech, and makes it a conversation of shepherds. The idea of dialogue, however, is not necessary for an eclogue, which is often not to be distinguished from the idyll. The grammarians, in giving this title to Virgil’s pastoral conversations (Bucolica), tended to make the term “eclogue” apply exclusively to dialogue, and this has in fact been the result of the success of Virgil’s work. Latin eclogues were also written by Calpurnius Siculus and by Nemesianus. In modern literature the term has lost any distinctive character which it may have possessed among the Romans; it is merged in the general notion of pastoral poetry. The French “Églogues” of J.R. de Segrais (1624-1701) were long famous, and those of the Spanish poet Garcilasso de La Vega (1503-1536) are still admired.


The appropriate adherence to traditional poetic form and content.

Pure Poetry

Poetry that does not try to educate, instruct or convert the reader - as opposed to didactic verse. An example of pure poetry would be Ariel's Songs by William Shakespeare.


The subject matter of a poem - as opposed to the form.

Virelai Nouveau

Variation on the virelai featuring a double refrain at the start of the poem. These refrain lines are then used alternately at the end of  successive stanzas and then appear together again at the end of the final stanza but in reverse order. An example of a virelai nouveau is July by Dobson.


A seven syllable line.


A stanza comprising of 3 lines. See also Triplet.

Bob and Wheel

Device used at the end of the main stanzas in alliterative verse such as Sir Gawain and the Green Knight. The 'bob' is a short, one-stress line followed by the 'wheel' - which is a quatrain rhyming a-b-a-b   e.g.


Form of literary criticism developed by the French philosopher Jacques Derrida which stated that literary texts (including poems) have no fixed or definitive meaning but, instead, are full of contradictions and inconsistencies and are open to a variety of interpretations.

Confessional Poetry

A 20th century term used to describe poetry that uses intimate material from the poet’s life. Confessional poetry is normally written using the 'I' form. The American poet Robert Lowell pioneered confessional verse with his 1959 collection Life Studies.


ARIMASPI, an ancient people in the extreme N.E. of Scythia (q.v.), probably the eastern Altai. All accounts of them go back to a poem by Aristeas of Proconnesus, from whom Herodotus (iii. 116, iv. 27) drew his information. They were supposed to be one-eyed (hence their Scythian name), and to steal gold from the griffins that guarded it. In art they are usually represented as richly dressed Asiatics, picturesquely grouped with their griffin foes; the subject is often described by poets from Aeschylus to Milton. They are so nearly mythical that it is impossible to insist on the usual identification with the ancestors of the Huns. Their gold was probably real, as gold still comes from the Altai.

Nature Poets

Term used to describe poets whose subject matter predominantly concerns animals, birds, insects and vegetation. Notable English nature poets include John Clare, Gerard Manley Hopkins, D.H.Lawrence and Ted Hughes.

Golden Treasury, The

Influential anthology compiled by F.T. Palgrave and first published in 1861.