Literature: Poetry

Literature: Poetry

What is a poem?

You have come across different poems, some of them you have studied in your junior classes.

What is the difference between a poem and your comprehension passages, short stories or articles in the newspaper?.

In the poems you have come across, you would have noticed that deep feelings on different issues were expressed by the writer

or poet.

Simple matters that can be discussed in poems include the beauty of flowers, the activities of insects and the importance of


Serious matters such as hunger, death, war and love are some other themes in poems.

You would also have noticed that

poems are not as easy to understand as your comprehension passages because poets use

specific expressions in calculated (also called metrical) lines: You can find a particular number of syllables in every line in some poems.

In most poems all the divisions, referred to as stanzas, have the same number of lines.

Let us look at some examples of divisions.



Structure of poems





The word couplet is used to refer to two lines of verse in sequence. These lines form a single unit because the last word in each line has the Same sound (rhyme).

Here is an example of a couplet in ‘Sonnet Iir’ by William Shakespeare:


But if thou live, remember’d not to be,

Die single and thine image dies with thee.



A tercet is a set of three lines of poetry that form a unit.

Look at these lines from Dennis

Brutus poem ‘A common hate enriched our love and us’.


and sharper than our strain, the passion

against our land’s disfigurement and tension

hate gouged out deeper levels for our passion


A quatrain is a four-line verse. In some poems, the quatrain will have lines that rhyme alternately:

line 1 will rhyme with line 3 and

lines 2 and four 4 will also end in words that sound the same.

The following quatrain is a part of Lenrie Peters’ poem It is time for reckoning in Africa’.


It is time for reckoning in Africa

time for taking stock

Never mind New York, America –

It’s ours; is here, and running short.


this is exactly how quatrain looks

You will have come across poems that have this division. Can you provide the title? If you can still remember the poem, you can recite it to the whole class. some songs or hymns have this structure.

Can you sing any one you can remember?



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