Sounds a Lot Like Spring! – Poetry and Sound Devices

springSkyWith April running away from us all and students seeing the light . . .
of spring,
and of the impending end of school,
it’s even more important to keep them fascinated.

Spring is the best time to read, enjoy and analyze poetry. I thought I’d give you all a quick sprint into literary sound devices you can use with your students. I am more than happy to share with you the devices I have used in my class, followed by suggestions for use. There is no better time than RIGHT NOW to enjoy the beauty of poetry.

The Sound Device Arsenal!

The Big Three – These are the devices we usually associate with sound devices in poetry
1. Alliteration: repeating consonant sounds at the beginning of words that are near each other.
2. Assonance: an example of this might be date and main, in which the vowel sounds in words near other are very similar and create a pleasing sound effect. The consonant sounds end differently, so the words do not rhyme.
3. Consonance: Consonance is when words end in similar consonant sounds though they do not rhyme. An example of this is coat and night.

Other MAIN CONSIDERATIONS! – Remember that without these devices below, we might not have poetry (or at least certain types of poetry…) !
4. Cacophony/dissonance— the use of jarring sounds that are discordant and do not sound pleasing. This may be used to mimic the atmosphere of the poem or the activity occurring in the poem. A line from Hart Crane’s poem “The Bridge: “Under the looming stacks of the gigantic power house/Stars prick the eyes with sharp ammoniac proverbs,/New verities, new inklings in the velvet hummed/. . .” What is important to note here is that you might find some words that are alliterative, or have consonance. The overall effect, however, is one of a “mashing together” or a “grating” or “grinding.”
5. End rhyme – Rhyme found at the end of lines of poetry that are near enough to each other to be a stanza, AND to be remembered be the reader. End rhyme makes stanzas and rhyme scheme possible and creates unity to the poem and a pleasing sound.
6. Euphony – the opposite of cacophony. Pleasing sounds, usually accomplished on purpose, through a variety of ways: assonance; alliteration; rhyme; consonance; which all result in harmony.
7. Internal rhyme – Rhyme that occurs in the middle of a line of poetry. Yet another unifying and effective sound device. The internal rhyme may rhyme with an end rhyming word nearby, an end rhyme in its own line, or another internal rhyme. An example is Rudyard Kipling’s “Pink Elephants:”

Now, Jenny and me were engaged, you see
On the eve of a fancy ball
So a kiss or two is nothing to you
Or anyone else at all.

8. Near-, eye-, slant-, half- or off-rhyme – scholars may argue a difference between these terms – these are all terms for words that almost or nearly rhyme and contribute to the overall sound quality. For example home and come, close and lose. You can debate whether these are also assonance or consonance, or you can also call them off-rhymes!
9. Onomatopoeia – Oh, one of our favorites. Words that are created in such a way that they sound like what they are meant to represent. Flip-flops really do flip, and flop as they move across the pavement. A dog does bark and that is what it sounds like, isn’t it? When something plops into the water, it sounds very different than a plunk or a thud. All of these words and more, are onomatopoetic, and they add sound and fun to your writing.
10. Meter, rhythm, accent – the basis for our most traditional poetic verse. Accents are significant stresses in words that put together into units, form the basis of meter, the feet that make up our iambs, trochees, dactyls, spondees and anapests (there are more, of course!). And all of this is the rhythm of poetry, and the art of the written word.

Visit with us tomorrow for more information on sound devices.


OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAGina Perfetto is a contributing writer and blogger, who publishes fine teaching products. She lives in New Jersey with her husband Gene and cat Dude.  Perfetto Writing Room Blog

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One thought on “Sounds a Lot Like Spring! – Poetry and Sound Devices

  1. Thanks for the great review of sound devices, Gina! I always forget to teach about “cacophony” and “euphony.” I appreciate the reminder!

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