some defintions of poetic terms and styles

Some terms used in poetic rhythm

prosody |ˈpräsədē| |ˌprɑsədi| |ˌprɒsədi|
the patterns of rhythm and sound used in poetry : the translator is not obliged to reproduce the prosody of the original.
• the theory or study of these patterns, or the rules governing them.
• the patterns of stress and intonation in a language : the salience of prosody in child language acquisition | early English prosodies.
prosodic |prəˈsädik; -zädik| |prəˌsɑdɪk| |proʊˌzɑdɪk| |prəˌsɒdɪk|or prosodical |prəˈsädikəl; -ˈzäd-| adjective
prosodist |ˈpräsədist; ˈpräz-| |ˌprɑsədəst| noun
ORIGIN late 15th cent.: from Latin prosodia ‘accent of a syllable,’ from Greek prosōidia ‘song sung to music, tone of a syllable,’ from pros ‘toward’ + ōidē ‘song.’

4 Prosody a group of syllables constituting a metrical unit. In English poetry it consists of stressed and unstressed syllables, while in ancient classical poetry it consists of long and short syllables

trochee |ˈtrōkē| |ˌtroʊˈki| |ˌtrəʊkiː|
noun Prosody
a foot consisting of one long or stressed syllable followed by one short or unstressed syllable.
ORIGIN late 16th cent.: via Latin from Greek trokhaios (pous) ‘running (foot),’ from trekhein ‘to run.’

e.g. DUMM de

an iam is one unstressed syllable followed by a stressed syllable e.g. de Dum

meter |ˌmidər| |ˌmiːtə| ( Brit. metre)
the rhythm of a piece of poetry, determined by the number and length of feet in a line : the Horatian ode has an intricate governing meter | unexpected changes of stress and meter.
• the basic pulse and rhythm of a piece of music.
ORIGIN Old English , reinforced in Middle English by Old French metre, from Latin metrum, from Greek metron ‘measure.’

pentamter: five feet in a meter or line of poetry


Definition: The limerick, whose name comes from the town in Ireland, is a five-line joke of a poem — witty, usually involving place names & puns, and most often bawdy, sometimes unprintable. The first two lines are three anapests, the second two are two anapests, and the last line is three, the whole poem rhymed aabba. Edward Lear is the best known of limerick writers, and some say he invented the form, but there are many anonymous limericks that date back further than Lear’s time (the 19th century).

Anapest: the metrical foot consisting of two unaccented or short syllables followed by one stressed or long syllable: da-da-dum.

Limeric meter
(uses ‘anapest’ feet)

da da Dum da da Dum da da Dum
da da Dum da da Dum da da Dum
da da Dum da da Dum
da da Dum da da Dum Dum
da da Dum da da Dum da da Dum

Definition: an unrhymed, syllabic form adapted from the Japanese: three lines of 5, 7 and 5 syllables. Because it is so brief, a haiku is necessarily imagistic, concrete & pithy, capturing a single moment in a very few words. Because the form has been brought into English from a language written in characters, in which a haiku appears on a single line, many poets writing haiku in English are flexible about the syllable and line counts, focusing more on the brevity, condensed form and “Zen” attitude of haiku. The traditional Japanese haiku requires some reference to nature or the season; thus the related short form of senryu is distinguished from haiku as being concerned with “human nature” or social & personal relationships.


The sestina is a challenging form in which, rather than simply rhyming, the actual line-ending words are repeated in successive stanzas in a designated rotating order. A sestina consists of six 6-line stanzas, concluding with a 3-line “envoi” which incorporates all the line-ending words, some hidden inside the lines. The prescribed pattern for using the 6 line-ending words is:

1st stanza 1 2 3 4 5 6
2nd stanza 6 1 5 2 4 3
3rd stanza 3 6 4 1 2 5
4th stanza 5 3 2 6 1 4
5th stanza 4 5 1 3 6 2
6th stanza 2 4 6 5 3 1
envoi 2–5 4–3 6–1

2 responses to “some defintions of poetic terms and styles

  1. Definitely one of the better descriptions of haiku.

    As Hiroaki Sato states:

    “Today it may be possible to describe haiku but not to define it.”
    Hiroaki Sato: Author; Columnist; and Editor of “One Hundred Frogs: From Matsuo Basho to Allen Ginsberg”

    For a highly praised simple overview of haiku check out:

    all my best,


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