cacophony - jarring or clashing of words or more likely the sounds within a line. Discordant sound is often used in a line of poetry for this effect. (See also sound devices, dissonance, euphony)

cadence - cadence occurs in two forms, the first being the rhythmic pattern in the lines which is not as regular as metre but is a more flexible unit often used by writers of free verse. The second is the rhythm of the accented syllables when the poem is read aloud and in some respects is a product of the reader’s interpretation and dialect. (See also accent, stress, rhythm, metre, free verse)

caesura - (siz-YUR-uh) Originally this was a break which occurred due to ending a word within a metrical foot today though the definition is much broader and relates to any intentional pause or break in the line or flow when a poem is being read. Used to convey stress or remove ambiguity. A pause, to allow a thought to develop before the reader continues. This is often associated with a punctuation mark of some sort but not necessarily so. In a printed poem a caesura is sometimes marked with two lines - ||, like that.

calypso - A Caribbean song, generally with a topical subject. A sung ballad.

canon - A body of writings that have gained acceptance as authentic parts of a work such as the Bible or the collected plays of Shakespeare.

canto – Long poems are divided into sections called cantos.. If a stanza relates to a paragraph then a canto would relate to a chapter. (See also stanza)

canzone - (kan-tsow-nay) Medieval Italian poetry form. A lyric poem with varying stanzas and an envoi. (See also stanza, lyrical, envoi)

caricature - A character in literature displaying some quality that is highly exaggerated. (See also archetype)

catachresis - (kat-uh-KREE-sis) The use of a word which is wrong for the context, as in facsimile for copy. It can also be a trope in which a word is used unrelated to its meaning, as in "...a sight so loud it made him blink." This is closely related to the oxymoron which describes the joining of two words of opposite meanings. (See also trope, malapropism, oxymoron)

catalectic - This occurs when one or two unaccented syllables are omitted from the end of a line, the resulting line ending with an incomplete foot. This occurs almost by necessity in poems which are trochaic or dactylic, e.g. "When Sir Joshua Reynolds died" ( , ( | , ( | , ( | ,): here we expect the final unaccented syllable of the trochee in vain. (See also trochaic, dactylic)

catalogue verse - Uses lists of related items. (See also didactic poetry)

cataphora - (kuh-TAF-uh-ruh) A substitute word which has the same relationship as the word following it, as in "...in front of him, he saw..."

catharsis - Aristotle’s theory that "tragedy through pity and care purges these very emotions." The cathartic value in writing is well documented and in some instances can offer a release from emotional pain.

caudate rhyme - A tail rhyme. Used as a short line following longer ones and rhyming with another caudate or tail rhyme. (See also tail rhyme)

cento - A poem made from other writer’s lines. Often humorous or a parody.

chain rhyme - A poem which links rhyming lines in different stanzas. For example the first stanza may rhyme aba and the second stanza may rhyme bcb. (See also terza rima)

chanson de geste - Old French epic song or poem about heroic deeds.

chant royal - Old French ballade form. Five stanzas of eleven lines, and an envoi of eight lines, and five rhymes. Often with the rhyming pattern ababccddede. (See also envoi, ballade)

chapbook - A small book or pamphlet, usually used to describe small poetry collections.

Chaucerian stanza - See rhyme royal

chiasmus - (kah-YAZ-muhs) A form of parallelism, where a following clause repeats in reverse the corresponding words from the first. "... Is lust in action; and till action, lust" Shakespeare, Sonnet 129. (See also parallelism)

choree - Another word for the trochee. (See also trochee)

choreus - See choree

choriamb - An ancient form of metrical foot, in which a stressed syllable is followed by two unstressed and another stressed – a cross, as the name implies, between a choree and and iamb ( , ( ( , ).

choric ode - An ode written to be sung, usually in the three distinctive ode parts of strophe, antistrophe and epode. (See also epinicion, Pindaric verse)

cinquain – Syllable-based quintet, five lines with a syllable count of 2, 4, 6, 8, 2. (See also quintet)

classicism - Keeping to a traditional classic style of literature. One of a number of schools of writing, such as idealism, imagism, impressionism, metaphysical poetry, objectivism, realism, romanticism, symbolism, modernism, post-modernism. The classic style was starkly pure and lacking in ornament. The heyday of classicism was the Age of Enlightenment in the eighteenth century - the age of Pope and Dryden.

clerihew - Usually humorous, the clerihew consists of two rhyming couplets, aabb, and has the name of a person in the opening rhyme. As in,

Sir Humphry Davey

abominated gravy

He lived in the odium

Of having discovered sodium.

(G K Chesterton)

cliché - A combination of words or a word used in a particular context which has become overfamiliar through overuse. As in "At the end of the day...", "There will be no stone left unturned...", "As cold as ice".

climax - The peak of intensity in a work of fiction, leading to a resolution or turning point. (See also anabasis, anticlimax, bathos)

close rhyme - Two rhyming words which are placed closely together, as in "True blue." (See also echo verse)

closed couplet - a couplet which has its sense complete within itself and is syntactically correct. Called "closed" because in neoclassical use the two lines were used to express a complete idea. Closed couplets are also used for epigrams, such as Pope's:

  • You beat your pate, and fancy wit will come.

    Knock as you please - there's nobody at home.

  • comedy of manners - A comedy concerning the intrigues of aristocrats.

    common measure - The most common form of basic structure used for hymns. An iambic metre which consists of a four-line stanza whose lines have 8,6,8,6, syllables.

    common metre - The same as "common measure".

    conceit - A metaphor taken to extreme limits. (See also hyperbole, metaphor)

    concrete poetry - Visual poetry which when printed forms a shape designed to impact on the reader. It is essentially visual and therefore the words or letters used are of secondary importance. (See also visual poetry)

    conflict – The playing out of opposing forces or the characters embodying them as in Shakespeare’s Othello that between the protagonist, Desdemona, and Iago. (See also crisis, climax, dénouement)

    connotation - A suggestion or an associated meaning beyond the literal meaning of a word. For example, the word pink denoting pale red, connotes Communist fellow-traveller, homosexual, filter of optimism, etc. (See also denotation)

    consonance - The repetition of a consonant sound at the end of words in a line of poetry. As in, "east, west" or "pit, set" (See also alliteration, assonance)

    content - Used for everything that a poem or story contains, it often refers to the poet’s ideas. (See also theme)

    continuous form ( or verse) - A poem not broken into stanzas.

    couplet - Two lines of poetry of similar length and rhythm, which follow each other in the poem and may have an end-line rhyme. (See also heroic couplet)

    courtly love - Developed by the French troubadours of the eleventh and twelfth centuries, it is a veneration of women, closely associated with the Virgin Mary, chaste and idealistic rather than sexual.

    crambo - A rhyme-making game, played with an odd number of players who alternately give and write lines of rhyming couplets. (See also bouts-rimés)

    cretic - A metrical foot of three syllables, once used in ancient poetry, one long syllable, one short and one long ( , ( , ). Another word for amphimacer. (See also amphimacer)

    crisis – The critical point in a narrative when the spectator, listener or reader realises the conflict is about to be resolved, as in Shakespeare’s Hamlet when the protagonist has strolling players act out his uncle’s crime. (See also climax, dénouement, conflict)

    criticaster - A term of contempt to describe a petty critic.

    cross rhyme - Called such when there are multiple rhymes which cross other rhyming lines, as in a,b,a,b.

    curtal sonnet - A modified sonnet form developed by Gerald Manley Hopkins, consisting of one six-line stanza and another of four lines, followed by a half line. All lines are in hexameter except the last which is in trimeter. the rhyme sequence is abcabc abcbdc.

    cycle - A series of poems on the same subject or theme, which can be anything or anyone but is usually mythical or heroic. So a collection of poems about the Authurian legends written by a number of poets can be described as a cycle.(See also sequence)