Welcome to week four of our 10-week poetry for kids course!
This week we’re going to deal with some of the wonderful ways that poets use sounds to make their poems great.
Most people think of rhymes when they think of poems, and rhymes are one way that poets sometimes play with sounds to make poems enjoyable to read. There are lots of other ways, too, though.
If you read one of your favorite poems out loud, one of the first things you’ll notice is that it is probably fun and easy to read out loud. It won’t sound like plain conversation or like reading the newspaper. It will probably have lots of poetic tricks in it that give it special traits like rhythm, rhyme and flow.
If you pay closer attention, you may find that the poet has used other “poetic devices” too, like alliteration and repetition.
Let’s read Edgar Allen Poe’s “Annabel Lee” to talk about some of these poetic devices. You can read the poem here and read more about its history, meaning and critical elements here.
Read the poem out loud and pay attention to the way it sounds as you read it.
Here’s some of the poetic devices you might notice when you read it:
Rhyme: Rhyme is typically defined as the repetition of ending sounds of words (especially the vowels), such as with cat, hat, that and splat. Notice that Poe generally rhymes the words of every other line in the poem, but he also uses rhymes in some of the lines themselves.
For instance, Poe rhymes beams and dreams in one line and rise and eyes in another here:
For the moon never beams without bringing me dreams
Of the beautiful Annabel Lee;
And the stars never rise but I feel the bright eyes
Of the beautiful Annabel Lee;
Repetition: Poe repeats some words again and again in the poem. This gives those words special importance and also helps make the poem really “sing-song” to read. The words Poe repeats the most are obviously his wife’s name, Annabel Lee. He also repeats other words to get these effects, such as:
But we loved with a love that was more than love
Rhythm: Rhythm is the musical quality created in poetry with the use of stressed and unstressed syllables. Many poems have a rhythm even if they don’t use rhyme. For instance, the sound of the syllables might sound like “ba BUM ba BUM ba BUM BUM BUM.”
Listen to the rhythm of this line and notice how the stresses help make it sound very lyrical (song-like):
I was a child and she was a child,
In this kingdom by the sea;
Alliteration: Alliteration is a poetic device where poets repeat the same sound again and again for effect. While rhyming repeats only the ending sounds, alliteration can repeat the beginning sounds or sounds anywhere in words.
Listen to the way Poe uses the repetition of the D sounds (demons, down, dissever) and S sounds (sea, dissever, soul, soul) here, for instance:
And neither the angels in heaven above,
Nor the demons down under the sea,
Can ever dissever my soul from the soul
Of the beautiful Annabel Lee.
Sometimes poets use sounds in other ways to help their poems, too. For instance, a poet might use very short, choppy words in a poem about anger and very long, lyrical words in a poem about romance.
Now comes the fun part! We’re going to have some fun with alliteration this week. Make up 10 to 20 phrases using alliteration. They can be funny, sad, sweet or anything you like. Remember, alliteration is just the repetition of certain sounds again and again.
- A wish for wings that worked
- She sells sea shells by the sea shore
- The monster might marry my mummy
- I love the look of late June lilacs
- The cow couldn’t care about how her calf compared
Share them with your family members and see if you can use a lot of alliteration when you talk together this week.
- Look for alliteration and other poetic devices in poems, books and even TV ads.
- Continue to read poetry together as a family. Look for techniques like rhythm, rhyme and repetition in the poems.
- Each day, try to write a stanza (or section) of a poem using at least one of the poetic devices we talked about today. You don’t have to write a finished poem, just bits of poems to practice these techniques. You can write a whole poem if you like, though! Remember, there are no rules in poetry so you don’t have to use any one technique like rhyme unless you want to.
- Check out this Poetry River craft and the accompanying book if you like.
The poetry of baby names:
Here’s a fun extension activity you can do if you like. Look for poetic devices in people’s names. Parents tend to subconsciously use poetic devices like rhythm and alliteration when naming their babies. For instance, Marie has always been a very popular middle name because of the way it sounds with other names. Since it is stressed on the second syllable, it can make many names sound more lyrical.
Listen to the different ways these names sound by using Marie instead of Mary (names that otherwise have almost identical sounds), for instance:
- Dawn Mary versus Dawn Marie
- Elizabeth Mary versus Elizabeth Marie
See how the use of the second stressed syllable gives the names a sing-song quality?
Say your own name out loud with your middle name and with various nicknames. Do some variations sound more poetic than others? Think about the names of famous people. Are some of them more poetic sounding? The actress Jennifer Jason Leigh has a name that uses alliteration and rhythm to make it very lyrical, for instance.
If you like, look through baby name books or web sites and see what name combinations you could make up to use poetic devices. Have fun!
Note: This post is part of my free 10 week poetry for kids course. You can view all 10 weeks of the course with a description of each week and the links here.