National Endowment for the Arts - The Big Read
The Poetry of Robinson Jeffers

The Poetry of Robinson Jeffers

by Robinson Jeffers

Permanent things, or things forever renewed, like the grass and human passions, are the material for poetry...


Robinson Jeffers, 1948 (Photo by Nat Farbman/Time Life Pictures/Getty Images)

A glossary of some of the poetic terms used in the lessons is listed below. Most literary definitions, both here and in the lessons, are taken from An Introduction to Poetry (11th edition), edited by X. J. Kennedy and Dana Gioia, or Handbook of Literary Terms, edited by X. J. Kennedy, Dana Gioia, and Mark Bauerlein (2005).

Allusion: A brief, sometimes indirect reference in a text to a person, place, or thing.

Biographical Criticism: The practice of analyzing a literary work by using knowledge of the author's life to gain insight.

Diction: Word choice or vocabulary that refers to the class of words that an author decides is appropriate to use in a particular work.

Eco-criticism: This relatively new approach to literature is primarily concerned with the relationship between humans and the natural world.

Free verse: From the French vers libre. Free verse describes poetry that organizes its lines without meter. It may be rhymed, but it usually is not.

Historical Criticism: The practice of analyzing a literary work by investigating the social, cultural, and intellectual context that produced it.

Meter: A systematic rhythmic pattern of stresses in verse.

Open form: Verse that has no set formal scheme—no meter, rhyme, or even set stanzaic pattern. Open form is always in free verse.

Persona: Latin for "mask." A fictitious speaker created by the poet.

Rhythm: The pattern of stresses and pauses in a poem.

Stanza: A unit of two or more lines of verse with space breaks before and after, the stanza is poetry's equivalent to a paragraph in prose.

Stress (or accent): A greater amount of force given to one syllable in speaking than is given to another.

Symbol: A person, place, or thing in a narrative or poem that suggest meanings beyond its literal sense.

Theme: The central thought of the poem. A short work may have a single obvious theme, but longer works can contain multiple themes.

Tone: The attitude toward a subject conveyed in a literary work. Tone may be playful, sarcastic, ironic, sad, solemn, or any other possible attitude.

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