Monday, 17 December 2012

Ugly Urchin Alliteration: a Poetry Appreciation Primer

As many students are struggling with their forthcoming Unseen Appreciation (poetry) exams, I've collected from the web a quick guide to some of the key elements of sound appreciation in poetry. 

It's very easy for students to learn the key critical terms and it is fun to begin to apply them. I'd also recommend using them! Why not ask your children/students to compose short alliterative poems? Even nonsense poems? 

Poetry should be fun, after all, and creativity is the high road to brilliant critical insight...


Sibilance is a manner of articulation of fricative and affricate consonants, made by directing a stream of air with the tongue towards the sharp edge of the teeth, which are held close together; a consonant that uses sibilance may be called a sibilant. Examples of sibilants are the consonants at the beginning of the English words sip, zip, ship, chip, and Jeep, and the second consonant in vision.

In language, alliteration is the repetition of a particular sound in the prominent lifts (or stressed syllables) of a series of words or phrases.

Matthew Mendlegs miss'd a mangled Monkey
Did Matthew Mendlegs miss a mangled Monkey?
If Matthew Mendlegs miss'd a mangled Monkey,
Where's the mangled Monkey Matthew Mendlegs miss'd?

Consonance is a poetic device characterized by the repetition of the same consonant two or more times in short succession, as in "pitter patter" or in "all mammals named Sam are clammy".

Assonance is the repetition of vowel sounds to create internal rhyming within phrases or sentences, and together with alliteration and consonance[1] serves as one of the building blocks of verse. For example, in the phrase "Do you like blue?", the /uː/ ("o"/"ou"/"ue" sound) is repeated within the sentence

Examples

And murmuring of innumerable bees
    Alfred Lord Tennyson, The Princess VII.203

That solitude which suits abstruser musings       
— Samuel Taylor Coleridge, "Frost at Midnight" 

on a proud round cloud in white high night        
    E.E. Cummings, if a cheerfulest Elephantangelchild should sit

Two quartets, with end-of-line assonances coloured yellow and end-and-beginning assonances coloured teal.
"He battled with the Dumbledors,
the Hummerhorns, and Honeybees,
and won the Golden Honeycomb,
and running home on sunny seas,
in ship of leaves and gossamer,
with blossom for a canopy,
he sat and sang, and furbished up,
and burnished up his panoply."

Errantry  by J.R.R. Tolkien, (1933). From Tolkien's The Adventures of Tom Bombadil (1962).

Coming soon: rhythm and metre ...

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