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A portrait of the French poet Charles BaudelaireA portrait of the French poet Charles Baudelaire Poetry is a type of writing that uses the shapes and sounds of words to add meaning. Poets play with rhyme and rhythm, and make clever use of language. Poems are not written in sentences and paragraphs like prose. Instead, they are laid out in lines and verses, sometimes called stanzas. The structure of a poem is called its form. Poems are often shorter than prose (writing that is not poetry) using a relatively small number of lines to convey what the poet wishes to say.

Two poems by Gerard Manley HopkinsTwo poems by Gerard Manley HopkinsClick to play video

The sounds of words

A poet chooses each word carefully. There are a number of techniques. Assonance repeats a vowel sound across several words, for example, "Who are you, the man in blue?" Consonance repeats the same consonant, such as "humming and strumming his song". Alliteration is the repeated use of the same consonant at the beginning of words, such as "mean and moody monster". Onomatopoeia describes words that sound like the object or action, such as "zip" or "slurp".

The Mahabharata, an Indian epic poem, is the world’s longest: about 1.8 million words long.

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