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Higher Education

Student Resource

The aim of this glossary is not to set in concrete words that are constantly changing and evolving, but rather to help students develop the critical tools and vocabulary with which to understand and talk about poetry. Since poets themselves often disagree about the meaning and importance of terms such as free verse, rhythm, lyric, structure, and the prose poem, and since control of literary discourse is part of each new generation’s struggle for poetic ascendancy, it seems only reasonable and appropriate for the student to view all efforts to define critical terminology in a historical perspective and with a healthy degree of scepticism.

This mini-glossary reflects the continuing debate between traditional metrics and free verse, and between differing conceptions of the poet’s craft and role in society. A fuller and more lively debate may often be found in the notes on the poets and in the poetics section. In a number of instances, I have been less concerned to offer hard-andfast definitions than to alert readers to the controversy that surrounds certain critical terms.

Glossary of Poetic Terms

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