". . . little shall I grace my cause

In speaking for myself. Yet, by your gracious patience,

I will a round unvarnish'd tale deliver . . ."

(William Shakespeare's Othello, I.iii.88-90)

Sunday, April 5, 2015

National Poetry Month, Day 4

One of the things that sets poetry apart from prose is the emphasis placed on the sound of the words. Meter and rhyme, which we already discussed, are two aspects of that. Another is alliteration. Alliteration is the repetition of the beginning sounds in a group of words. Tongue twisters are a great example of alliteration:

Peter Piper picked a peck of pickled peppers.
She sells seashells by the seashore.

What is the point of alliteration? Why do poets use it? In poetry, sound effects are used to emphasize or bring attention to the meaning the poet wants to convey. For example,

The slimy, hissing snake slithered sneakily through the grass.

Do you notice all the s's? They help us to imagine the snake even more. We can almost hear it hissing!

Related to alliteration are two other devices: assonance and consonance. They are both like alliteration in that they involve the repetition of sounds, but instead of coming at the beginnings of words the repeated sounds are contained within words. Assonance is the repetition of vowel sounds, and consonance is the repetition of--you got it!--consonant sounds. Can you find assonance and consonance in the example above? (Assonance: hissing, slithered, sneakily; Consonance: hissing, grass)

Boy, that's a lot of terms. Don't worry if you can't remember them all. Just remember that poetry is meant to be spoken, so poets choose their words not only for what they mean but for how they sound, and one of their most basic tools is repetition.

Try using alliteration, assonance and consonance by writing a tongue twister about yourself or someone you know. It can be pretend or real, serious or silly. Here's one I wrote. What vowel and consonant sounds, both at the beginnings of words and within words, do you see repeated?

Cheryl shared her sherbet with the thirty-three shrill chefs. 


Phillip said...

Phil found faith that fateful Friday.

Cheryl said...

From Evan:

Willard wondered why he was waiting at the wacky door.