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Poetry Terms Beginning With 'P'

Poetry Terms - p. This is a comprehensive resource of poetry terms beginning with the letter p.


Poetry Terminology by Letter


Paeon

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A metrical foot (of Greek origin) containing one long syllable and three short syllables. The position of the long syllable can be varied hence the so-called first, second, third or fourth paeon.


Palindrome

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Word, phrase or line of verse which reads the same forwards or backwards e.g. 'Able was I ere I saw Elba.'


Palinode

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Poem which retracts a statement made in a previous poem.


Panegyric

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Poem which praises or eulogizes something or someone.


Pantoum

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A rare form of poetry similar to a villanelle. It is composed of a series of quatrains; the second and fourth lines of each stanza are repeated as the first and third lines of the next. This pattern continues for any number of stanzas, except for the final stanza, which differs in the repeating pattern. The first and third lines of the last stanza are the second and fourth of the penultimate; the first line of the poem is the last line of the final stanza, and the third line of the first stanza is the second of the final. Ideally, the meaning of lines shifts when they are repeated although the words remain exactly the same: this can be done by shifting punctuation, punning, or simply recontextualizing.


Parable

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A parable is a brief, succinct story, in prose or verse, that illustrates a moral or religious lesson. It differs from a fable in excluding animals, plants, inanimate objects, and forces of nature as actors that assume speech and other powers of humankind.


Paradox

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Seemingly absurd statement which, on closer examination, reveals an important truth e.g. Wordsworth's ' The child is father of the man'.


Parallel Structure

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The repetition of words or phrases that have similar grammatical structures.


Parallelismus Membrorum

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Parallelismus Membrorum is of traditional Hebrew origin. It has lines of parallel construction and presents antitheses and complementary extensions. The lines are usually short and contain three or four words.


Pararhyme

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Term coined by Edmund Blunden to describe a form of 'near rhyme' where the consonants in two different words are exactly the same but the vowels vary. Pararhyme is particularly a  feature of the poetry of Wilfred Owen.  For example, in Owen's unfinished poem Strange Meeting we find lines ending with words such as 'groaned' and 'groined' and 'hall' and 'Hell'. Pararhyme is more commonly known as double consonance.


Parataxis

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The use of clauses (one after the other) but without conjunctions e.g. Caesar's 'I came, I saw, I conquered'.


Parnassian

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Term coined by G.M.Hopkins to describe competent but uninspired poetry.


Parnassian Poets

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Group of 19th century French poets (including Leconte de Lisle) who reacted against the excesses of romanticism - favouring instead restraint and objectivity. See also the symbolist poets who, in turn, reacted against the objectivity of the Parnassians.


Parody

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Imitation of a poem or another poet's style for comic/satiric effect. In Alice's Adventures in Wonderland Lewis Carroll's poem Old Father William is a parody of  The Old Man's Comforts by Robert Southey.


Pastiche

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Literary work composed of material taken from various sources or written in the style of other poets/authors.


Pastoral

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A poem that depicts rural life in a peaceful, romanticized way.


Pathetic Fallacy

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Term coined by Ruskin to describe a tendency of poets (particularly Wordsworth) and painters to attribute human feelings to nature.


Pathos

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One of the three modes of persuasion in rhetoric (along with ethos and logos). Pathos is appeal based on emotion.


Pen-Name

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Literary pseudonym.


Pentameter

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A pentameter is a line of verse consisting of five metrical feet. Iambic pentameter is one of the most commonly used meters in English.


Performance Poetry

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Poetry that is performed 'live' in pubs and clubs  - usually from memory. In the UK, performance poetry is often humorous in nature e.g. John Hegley, John Cooper Clarke, Ivor Cutler  and Atilla the Stockbroker etc. Performance poetry was pioneered in the UK by Adrian Mitchell and the Liverpool Poets (Roger McGough, Adrian Henri and Brian Patten.)


Periphrasis

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Circumlocution (or roundabout speaking) employed for poetic effect. See kenning.


Persona Poem

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See dramatic monologue.


Personification

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A form of poetry in which human characteristics are attributed to nonhuman things. Personification offers the poet a way to give the world life and motion by assigning familiar human behaviors and emotions to animals, inanimate objects, and abstract ideas.


Petrarchan Sonnet

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See sonnet.


Phanopoeia

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Poundian term to describe a poem which relies upon 'throwing a visual image on the mind'. He went on to say that this is particularly exemplified by Chinese poetry because the Chinese language is composed of pictograms. See also logopoeia and  melopoeia which, according to Pound, make up the tripartite division of poetry.


Pindaric Ode

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See ode.


Pleonasm

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The use of unnecessary or superfluous words. Poets often fall into this trap when trying to pad out a metrical line e.g. the clown's song from Shakespeare's Twelfth Night.


Poem

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Originally a metrical composition. However, many modern poets no longer use meter so a more accurate definition might be: a concentrated or charged piece of writing; often featuring stanzas and line breaks.


Poëme

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Term coined by Alfred de Vigny to define epic or dramatic poems presenting philosophic thoughts.


Poesis

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The making of poetry. It derives from the Greek word 'to make' and eventually became the English word  'poetry' via 'poesie' and 'poesy'.


Poesy

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Archaic word for poetry. Shelley uses it in the first stanza of his long poem The Mask of Anarchy.

Poetry taken collectively. The art of writing poetry. 


Archaic word for poetry. Shelley uses it in the first stanza of his long poem The Mask of Anarchy.


Poet

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A writer of poems.


Poet Laureate

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Formerly one who received a degree in grammar (i.e. poetry and rhetoric) at the English universities: a poet bearing that honorary title, a salaried officer in the royal household, appointed to compose annually an ode for the king's birthday and other suitable occasions.

Originally the poet appointed by the king or queen of England to write occasional verse to celebrate royal or national events. In return the poet laureate received a stipend. Ben Jonson was the first unofficial poet laureate although Edmund Spenser did receive a pension from Elizabeth I after flattering her in The Faerie Queene. Jonson was succeeded by Sir William D'Avenant but John Dryden became the first official poet laureate in 1668. Traditionally English poets laureate are appointed for life but Andrew Motion, the current laureate, is the first to be appointed for ten years. The requirement to write occasional verse is no longer enforced. See complete list of UK Poets Laureate.


Poetaster

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An inferior poet. See doggerel.


Poète Maudit

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An under appreciated poet. In French, it literally means the 'cursed poet'.


Poetess

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A female poet.


Poetic

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Exhibiting the good qualities of poetry.


Poetic Diction

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The particular language (words and phrases) employed by poets. Poetic diction has changed much over the centuries. Traditionally poetry was associated with a certain 'floweriness', but since the advent of modernism this has been replaced by a more sparse lexicon. Modern poets have also tended to avoid elision such as ne'er or 'tis and also the use of archaic terminology such as thee, thy and thou.


Poetic Form

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See: form


Poetic Justice

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The justice meted out by poets (in an ideal world) - where virtue is rewarded and vice punished.


Poetic Licence

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The freedom of poets to depart from the normal rules of written language and/or literal fact in order to create an effect. This often occurs when poets use inventive figurative language.


Poeticise/Poeticize

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To make poetical.


Poeticize

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(or Poeticise) To make poetical.


Poetics

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Essays describing the art and theory of poetry e.g. Poetics by Aristotle.


Poetise/Poetize

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To write or compose poetry.


Poetize

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(or Poetise) To write or compose poetry.


Poetry

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Poetry is a careful, inventive, or creative consideration of words written in order to convey some thought as a literary composition. Usually, but not always, the words written are designed to evoke emotion. Poetry can manifest itself as a two-word phrase or a one thousand-page book.


Poetry Review

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The journal of the Poetry Society, founded in 1912.


Poetry Slam

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Form of performance poetry pioneered by Marc Smith in Chicago U.S.A.. Poetry Slam takes the form of a competitive poetry reading where participants read their own poems from memory and are marked on their performance by judges.

(or Slam) The term "Poetry Slam" is an umbrella category (not form) for any form of poem (Couplet, Rhyme, Free Verse, Alliteration, etc) meant to be performed for a live audience in a competitive environment. These performances are then judged on a numeric scale by previously selected members of the audience. Typically, poetry slam is highly politicized, speaking on many issues including current social and economic issues, gendered injustices, and racial issues. Poets are judged not only on the content of their slam but the manner of delivery and passion behind their words.


Poetry Society

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UK society founded in 1909 to promote poetry and the art of verse speaking. Visit the Poetry Society website.


Poets' Corner

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Part of the south transept of Westminster Abbey where many famous English poets are buried or commemorated - including Chaucer, Spenser, Dryden, Tennyson, Gay, Drayton and Browning etc. Technically it is not a corner, nor is it occupied exclusively by poets.


Point of view

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The vantage point from which the writer tells a story: first person, third person limited, omniscient, and objective.


Polemic

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A poem presenting a controversial discussion e.g. Milton's Areopagitica (1664).


Political Verse

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Political verse is also known as Decapentasyllabic verse. This is a Byzantine form of poetry with 15 syllable lines which has a long oral tradition and is historically associated with folk songs.


Polysyllable

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(or polysyllabic) - words with four or more syllables


Polysyndeton

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The repetition of conjunctions (in close proximity)  e.g. 'and' in The Lonesome Death of Hattie Carroll by Bob Dylan.


Portmanteau Word

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Factitious word created by blending the sounds and meanings of two other words e.g. 'slithy' from Lewis Carroll's Jabberwocky which is a combination of 'lithe' and 'slimy'. See also neologism.


Poulter's Measure

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Alternating lines of iambic hexameter and iambic heptameter.


Poundian

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In the style of Ezra Pound i.e. highly eclectic.


Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood

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A group of poets and artists including D.G. Rossetti, Walter Pater and William Morris. Their work is characterised by the use of medieval settings and subject matter and was a reaction against the ugliness of Victorian life. They were particularly inspired by La Belle Dame Sans Merci by John Keats.


Proceleus Maticus

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Classical foot consisting of four short or unstressed syllables. Also known as proceleusmatic.


Prologue

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The introductory section of a poem or literary work. In The Canterbury Tales Chaucer employed a general prologue but also individual prologues e.g. The Franklin's Prologue and The Reeve's Prologue. See also epilogue.


Prose

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Prose is writing distinguished from poetry by its greater variety of rhythm and its closer resemblance to the patterns of everyday speech. The word prose comes from the Latin prosa, meaning straightforward. This describes the type of writing that prose embodies, unadorned with obvious stylistic devices. Prose writing is usually adopted for the description of facts or the discussion of ideas. Thus, it may be used for newspapers, magazines, novels, encyclopedias, screenplays, films, philosophy, letters, essays, history, biography and many other forms of media.


Prose Poetry

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Prose is writing distinguished from poetry by its greater variety of rhythm and its closer resemblance to the patterns of everyday speech. The word prose comes from the Latin prosa, meaning straightforward. This describes the type of writing that prose embodies, unadorned with obvious stylistic devices. Prose writing is usually adopted for the description of facts or the discussion of ideas. Thus, it may be used for newspapers, magazines, novels, encyclopedias, screenplays, films, philosophy, letters, essays, history, biography and many other forms of media.

Prose poetry is usually considered a form of poetry written in prose that breaks some of the normal rules associated with prose discourse, for heightened imagery or emotional effect, among other purposes. Arguments continue about whether prose poetry is actually a form of poetry or a form of prose (or a separate genre altogether). Like poetry (intense, sculpted) but without line breaks.


Prosody

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Prosody is the study of the meter, rhythm, and intonation of a poem.


Prosopopeia

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From the Greek meaning to 'make' a 'person' - hence the personification of inanimate objects or abstractions. See also personification.


Protagonist

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Main character


Prothalamion

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Similar to epithalamion but written prior to the wedding in question. In 1596 Spenser published Prothalamion to celebrate the double marriage of Lady Elizabeth and Lady Katherine - daughters of the Earl of Worcester.


Psalm

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Poetic-musical composition, introduced in the Jewish liturgy by king David, who improvised sacred songs accompanied by a harp. Psalm means in fact "chant accompanied by a string instrument".


Pseudonym

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Pen-name or nom de plume adopted by a poet/author.


Puffery

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Reviews which overpraise or laud unworthy work; usually produced by literary cliques. Probably originated from the character Mr Puff in Sheridan's play The Critic. See log-rolling.

(or Puff) Reviews which overpraise or laud unworthy work; usually produced by literary cliques. Probably originated from the character Mr Puff in Sheridan's play The Critic. See log-rolling.


Pun

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Playful device where similar sounding words with different meanings, or single words with multiple meanings are employed. Shakespeare frequently used puns for both comic and serious effect e.g. in Romeo and Juliet the dying Mercutio says: "Ask for me tomorrow, and you shall find me a grave man." 


Pure Poetry

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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.


Puritan Poets

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17th Century US colonial poets - such as Edward Taylor, Anne Bradstreet and Michael Wigglesworth - who wrote pietistic poetry.


Purple Patch

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Pejorative term for an excessively ornate or florid passage of writing.


Pylon Poets

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Group of 1930s left-wing poets including W. H. Auden, Stephen Spender, Cecil Day-Lewis and Louis MacNeice. They were known for their use of industrial imagery - which included references to trains, skyscrapers, factories, roads etc. The actual term 'pylon' was derived from Spender's 1933 poem The Pylons. See also MacSpaunday


Pyrrhic Meter

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A metrical foot comprising two unstressed syllables.