Tone And Diction In Poetry

Analyzing poetry commences with carefully weighing the words and considering every nuance. Build and diction are two poetic devices to take into consideration. Tone identifies the attitude or feelings conveyed by the poem, while diction refers to word choice and phrase order.

When you read a poem on the site, grasping the shade can be tricky-after all, you can't actually notice the poet's speech. So, you need to focus on context and connotation. Identifying loaded words may help you decipher the tone.

Diction can also help you realize the poem's firmness. Word choice impacts interpretation and also decides the audio of the poem. Audio, subsequently, contributes its psychological effect.


Tone in Poetry

A poem's build can be explained as the attitude expressed toward its subject matter. Tone isn't stated directly: you have to investigate the words carefully to grasp it. You could decipher tone in several ways.

You'll need to read the poem more than once. First, browse the poem to comprehend its content. May be the poem about a meeting? Or does it describe a sense? Does it look at a social problem? Identifying the essential content will help you determine the firmness. A poem about discrimination, for example, might be likely to have a dejected or angry tone, while a poem about years as a child may have a happy, carefree tone.

But those simple assumptions aren't always the case. The poet might be using build to convey more technical meaning. So, reread the poem and ask yourself, "Who is speaking in this poem?" and "Who's the speaker speaking with?" Your answers will give you a sense of the relationship between the presenter and the audience, and between the speaker and the topic. Is the loudspeaker very near to the action, even immersed in it? Or sitting back and contemplating it? These different positions could supply the poem an extremely different tone.


After you've discovered the poem's subject matter and the presenter, consider the way the poem's expression choice and composition relates to its subject matter. Meter (tempo), imagery, metaphor, allusion, and diction all contribute to the tone. For example, a quick defeat and regular rhyme structure usually conveys a happy, or energetic, tone.

Remember, poems a comparable subject can have different tones. For example, a poem about graduating senior high school may have a joyous tone when compiled by a person who can't wait to get to college, be indie, and go through the world. A person who didn't get accepted in to the college that she'd aspired to for a long time might write a poem with an angry or sarcastic build, expressing a sense of being cheated.

Closely considering the terms and form of the poem will help you get the nuances of shade in poems that might otherwise seem similar.


After you've determined the poem's subject matter and the presenter, consider the way the poem's term choice and composition pertains to its subject material. Meter (tempo), imagery, metaphor, allusion, and diction all donate to the tone. For instance, a quick beat and steady rhyme routine usually conveys a happy, or energetic, tone.

Remember, poems about the same subject matter can have different tones. For example, a poem about graduating senior high school might have a joyous shade when compiled by a person who can't wait to access college, be indie, and experience the world. Someone who didn't get accepted in to the school that she'd aspired to for a long time might write a poem with an furious or sarcastic build, expressing a feeling of being cheated.

Closely considering the terminology and form of the poem can help you capture the nuances of shade in poems that might otherwise seem similar.


"Funeral Blues"

W. H. Auden had written "Funeral Blues" in 1938, but this poem about a loved one's death became famous in 1994 when professional John Hannah recited it in the movie Four Weddings and a Funeral. Watch Hannah's performance, and then read "Funeral Blues" directly.

Auden used shade to enrich this poem's so this means. The first stanza's build is one of sorrowful anger. The loudspeaker uses orders, such as stop, prevent, and silence. He angrily wants that the noises of everyday life stop, so that he can reflect on his reduction. Only the reduced sound of your muffled drum at the funeral is tolerable.

The shade shifts from anger to despair as the loudspeaker moves into more effusive phrases. He insists that depends upon, machines and characteristics, grieve with him: airplanes should "moan, " and white doves should wear black.


The third stanza of "Funeral Blues" has a more reflective and melancholy build. The speaker stocks what the person he lost meant to him. He repeats the word my nine times, emphasizing the actual fact that man was everything to him-his compass in life and the inspiration for his work. This stanza ends with a key line in the poem: "I thought that love would go on permanently: I used to be incorrect. " The single-syllable words plod continuously to the concluding phrase, "wrong, " that devastates the loudspeaker.

In the final stanza, the speaker's shade is bitter. If he has lost this man permanently, then all life in the universe should end too. Once again, the loudspeaker uses curt directions, this time around to tear apart those elements that sustain life: "Finish off the moon and dismantle the sun; Pour away the ocean and sweep up the hardwood. "

The firmness Auden creates in "Funeral Blues"-whether it is interpreted as sorrow, anger, bitterness, or love-is effective since it creates a robust sentiment in the audience. We grieve along with the presenter, even though we don't know the unnamed man who recommended a lot to him.


The North american poet Marge Piercy's poem "Barbie Doll" also appears to be about death, but the poem's main subject matter is something else: society's devaluation of women and women. Read Piercy's "Barbie Doll" and think about its tone.

In the first stanza, the firmness is dismissive and infantilizing. The lady is called a "girl-child, " an indistinguishable feminine person in a species, not a person with a name. She is born "as common, " as though there were nothing to be celebrated in the beginning of your baby girl. The expression "did pee-pee" is baby-talk, recommending girls are forever babies.

In the next stanza, notice the way the speaker represents the girl's positive traits in a primary, objective list. The loudspeaker doesn't inject sentiment into the explanation, rather just expresses the genuine facts, implying that these were clear for all to see. But population could worry less, and ignores her positive capabilities because she wasn't pretty. The tone is one of icy objectivity, even perhaps, frosty fury.


Probably the most dominant shade is one of sarcasm, however. Sarcasm threads through the poem, first showing in the phrase "the magic of puberty" in the first stanza. Puberty is typically a hard transition, not a time of wondrous transformation as the word magic suggests. And for this girl, cruelly told she is ugly-well, some magic!

In the ultimate stanza, the same woman who was advised she was flawed with a "big nose area and fat lower limbs, " is named pretty as she lays frigid and still in her coffin, with the undertaker's makeup products on her lifeless face. The collection "Consummation finally" persists the heavy sarcasm and also lends the poem a shade of anger. The word consummation evokes society's ultimate goal for ladies, to find a man, and ironically equates it with fatality.

Lesson Activity - Self-Checked

Read Piercy's "What's That Smell in the Kitchen. " Then compare this poem to "Barbie Doll" in 150-200 words, answering the questions in the Shade in Poetry portion of the Lesson Activities.


For the North american poet Robert Frost, tone was very important. He said, "It's tone I'm deeply in love with; that's what poetry is, firmness. " Frost presumed that firmness conveyed the art in poetry. He called himself an "ear audience, " no "eye reader. " He interpreted this is of what he read by how it sounded to him. That is reflected in his own poems, which come to life in the reader's auditory thoughts.

Frost used build to make his poems interesting, or as he said himself, "You've got to get remarkable. " Read the poem "A Patch of Old Snow" to see how he shifts firmness to create a sense of play.

The first six lines explain a patch of old, melting snow. The firmness is one of nonchalance: this little bit of snow is hardly worth noticing, just a "blown away" scrap in a "corner. " Once symbolic of winter's beauty, the snow is now as unimportant as yesterday's discarded newspaper. Within the last two lines, however, there's a shift in shade. The speaker catches himself short with a dash: "The news headlines of your day I've neglected---/If I ever read it. " His attention is instantly captured by the irony of old information. The voice may drop when reading "If I ever before read it. " While people may browse the newspapers diligently every day, even today's seemingly stunning news is really as temporal and unimportant as a patch of melting snow. This sudden change in the firmness within the last two lines mocks how transient a person's interest is.

Lesson Activity - Teacher-Graded

Read Frost's poem "The Pasture, " and then answer the questions under Shade in Poetry in the Teacher-Graded section of the actions sheet.


Diction in Poetry

In the poems you merely analyzed, did you notice how build can be determined by the term choice and phrase order? This is diction, or the vocabulary a poet uses-basically the poet's linguistic style. Compare these ways of describing a puzzled state of mind: "He understood not how to proceed, " and "he previously no clue what to do. " As the first is formal as well as perhaps pretentious, the other is plainspoken.

A poem's tone is also affected by altering the term order; for example, a poet might change "She went down to the riverside in her dark feeling, " to "Down to the riverside, dark in ambiance, she went" to give the line a more dramatic and foreboding tone.

The diction a poet decides can also be based upon the poem's context. For instance, when describing the death of any heroic warrior, a poet might use the dramatic "He breathed his last in the forearms of his loved, " over the straightforward "He passed away in his lover's hands. "


Now take a look at a few examples of how poets change diction in their poems to mention their thoughts and emotions. Read the British poet Andrew Marvell's "To His Coy Mistress" and please note the sort of diction the presenter uses to address his beloved.

By explaining his love in terms of world geography ("by the Ganges side") and Biblical record ("a decade before the Flood"), the presenter attempts to win over her with the vastness and depth of his devotion. The reference to the Ganges River in India also shows that her beauty is amazing.

The words should and would, repeated many times and indicating action that might happen, convey a sense of languor in the first stanza. But in the third stanza, the speaker urgently attempts to persuade her to give in to his advances, using lively verbs such as sport, devour, and rip. The diction creates a build of ardent entreaty.

Lesson Activity - Self-Checked

Go to the Diction in Poetry activity in the Self-Checked section and experiment with diction as aimed.


Let's check out a very different example of the role of diction in poetry. With only a few well-chosen words, the twentieth century African-American poet Gwendolyn Brooks powerfully conveys the bravado of a group of young boys. Listen to or read Gwendolyn Brooks' "We Real Cool, " which is approximately several kids skipping college.

In this poem, Brooks uses the slang "we real cool, " rather than the grammatically correct "we are actually cool" to mention the teens' attitude. Brooks uses the collective we, rather than the singular I, to speak that the audio speakers of the poem are several teenagers. The term we is also used showing their solidarity to each other. This expression depicts their reliance on their group individuality, since these teens haven't developed their own person identities yet and are excessively inspired by their peers.


In the poem, Gwendolyn Brooks uses the precise diction to imitate unrefined young adults, and efficiently conveys their seeming toughness while in truth they may be insecure and protective. She keeps the poem brief to point their limited vocabulary and limited self-awareness. These teens are "rebels without a cause. " The poet herself said that the we of "We real cool, " is to be said softly to show their uncertainty. Pay attention to what Brooks says about the poem just before she recites it to comprehend how the poem's diction helps build the desired tone.

Did you also notice how the diction of the poem appears to echo jazz looks? The repeated alliterations in the lines ("We lurk later, " "We hit directly, " "We sing sin, " "We Jazz June") give it a musical quality, and the shortness of the words and lines have a percussive effect, like when cymbals in a jazz music group crash.

Lesson Activity - Not Assessed

Read more about how exactly to make use of diction effectively in poetry. Then go to your Lessons Activities and write a short poem of your own in the Not Evaluated section.


Tone, Diction, and Meaning

You've seen how analyzing diction can help you identify a poem's build and understand its interpretation. Now, read John Keats's poem "This Living Palm, " and think about how the firmness is conveyed through its diction.

"This Living Side" has a mournful, natural tone. In the event that you evaluate the poem tightly, you'll observe that certain words such as cold, tomb, and icy evoke loss of life and create a solid build of dread. When Keats composed this poem, he knew he was dying. This poem was, in simple fact, the last poem Keats ever wrote. He passed on when he was just 26.

The presenter is accepting death as unavoidable, but is disappointed in regards to a life not completely resided and is resentful of those who will live full lives, as is clear from the lines, "So haunt thy days and chill thy thinking nights, That thou wouldst wish thine own heart dry of blood vessels, So in my own blood vessels red life might stream again. " The presenter faces death, and makes readers face it too, with his outstretched hands.


Just as it is possible to identify a poem's firmness and understand its so this means from the diction, it's also possible to adjust the poem's shade and interpretation by changing the diction. Read Robert Browning's "Pippa's Song. " This poem has a peppy build, which comes through words like morn and spring, and particularly the previous lines "God's in His heaven, / All's right with the earth!" If you were to change certain words in this poem, though, you would invert the poem's shade and meaning. For instance, changing spring to winter, or at the morn" to at night could help create a dark, gloomy tone.

Lesson Activity - Teacher-Graded

Read Edgar Allan Poe's poem "A Fantasy Within a Wish" and write a 250- to 300-message article as instructed in the Shade, Diction, and Meaning portion of the Teacher-Graded Activities.

Lesson Activity - Self-Checked

Listen to or read Brooks's "We Real Cool" again. Go to the Firmness, Diction, and Meaning portion of the Self-Checked Activities and rewrite this poem as aimed.



The French poet, playwright, and filmmaker Jean Cocteau once said, "The poet doesn't invent. He listens. " And that is what you, as a audience, need to do when analyzing a poem's build and diction.

If build conveys the feeling and attitude of a poem, diction helps create the build. To analyze firmness, you must understand diction. You also need to figure out who the poem's presenter is, to whom could it be addressed, and what the poem's central matter and context is. For instance, you may skip the irony in Robert Frost's "A Patch of Old Snow" and the bravado in Gwendolyn Brooks's "We Real Cool" unless you read the poems tightly.

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