Sunday, March 9, 2014

Sounds in poetry


Euphonics: a Poet's Dictionary of Sounds 



Sound can have a profound influence on the meaning of poetry, adding depth and layers to imagery and significance, while adding to the mood or feeling when matched with the senses of the poem they appear in.

Creating a poem involves more than plucking words at random and putting them on paper. Words are chosen for their sounds as much as their connotation and meanings. While it is understood that some of these choices may not always be made from a conscious level, the role that the sounds of words play is undisputable. Poetry is an aural art form where the words intimately connect with sounds in a way that is important to the poem, resulting in a relationship between various elements, a matching of sound and sense.

A number of sounds and sound patterns are used in poetry. The same sounds can convey different meanings depending on the context of the poem. One of the most familiar stylistic sound devices is rhyme, where there is identical or similar sounds at the end of lines. ‘Once in a while a moon painted blue/emits its beams in amazing hue’ is an example of a rhyming couplet from a poem I wrote some time ago.

Other sound devices include alliteration, in which groups of similar sounds are grouped together.  The three basic types include similar first letter sounds as in the old tongue twister, ‘Peter Piper picked a peck of pickled peppers’. 

Assonance, or similar vowel sounds is another sound device. ‘It beats as it sweeps as it cleans’ was an advertising slogan for Hoover vacuum cleaners in the 1950s, while consonance is the use of similar sounds as in, ‘Ralegh has backed the maid to a tree/As Ireland is backed to England/And drives inland/Till all her strands are breathless’ (Ocean's Love to Ireland by Seamus Heaney) .

There are other sounds or types of sounds that are used in poetry to convey the meaning of the poem. For example, the mention of snakes with repeated ‘s’ sounds to evoke and reinforce the imagery of the poem. ‘s’ is also used to illustrate a sigh, whispering or silence. Identifying the sound patterns helps the reader to understand the deeper meaning of the poem.

Onomatopoeia is using words that sound like what they are i.e. buzz, slap, crash etc.  for sound effect to add to the atmosphere of the poem and to create different effects in diverse contexts, which are more meaningful when occurring in some kind of pattern. An excellent example of onomatopoeia can be seen in Silver Bells by Edgar Allan Poe - Silver bells!/What a world of merriment their melody foretells!/How they tinkle, tinkle, tinkle,/In the icy air of night!/While the stars that oversprinkle/All the heavens seem to twinkle – although the whole poem can be seen as onomatopoeic.

Other sounds used in poetry:

Accent
The rhythmically significant stress in the articulation of words, giving some syllables more prominence than others. 

Consonance
A pleasing combination of sounds with the repetition of the same end consonants of words. 

Cacophony
Discordant sounds often deliberately used in poetry for effect. 

Dissonance
A mingling of harsh, inharmonious sounds that are grating to the ear.

Euphony 
Harmony of sound that provides a pleasing effect to the ear. 

Internal or middle rhyme 
Rhyme that occurs within the line.  

Meter 
The measure of rhythmic quantity. The unit of meter is the foot and metrical lines are named for the constituent foot and for the number of feet in the line: monometer (1), dimeter (2), trimeter (3), tetrameter (4), pentameter (5), hexameter (6), heptameter (7) and octameter (8);

Modulation 
The harmonious use of language relative to the variations of stress and pitch.

Phonetic or sound symbolism
The association of particular word-sounds with common areas of meaning so that other words of similar sounds come to be associated with those meanings. 

Resonance
The quality of richness or variety of sounds. 

Rhyme
 A type of echoing that utilizes a correspondence of sound in the final accented vowels and all that follows of two or more words, but where the preceding consonant sounds must differ. 

Rhythm
The regular or progressive pattern of recurrent accents n the flow of a poem as determined by the metrical feet. The measure of rhythmic quantity is the meter. 

1 comment:

  1. Great post Merlene! Sound has such a profound and round(ing) effect. Thank you!

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