The Elements of Poetry Part 4: Diction

For the final week of National Poetry Month, April, I will continue my brief introductions to the four elements of poetry. These four elements are Prosody, Rhyme, Form, and Diction. The last in the four-part series I will discuss on the elements of poetry is Diction. The simplest way to define diction is the words chosen for the poem. This includes what words a writer chooses for describing a person or place. I would argue it even includes what point of view of the speaker in the poem.

Metaphor, simile, and tone of voice are important things to consider in a poem’s diction. Modern poets often choose to ignore these rhetorical devices. They attempt direct presentation and explore tone. Surrealists often stretch rhetorical devices to their limits. Other elements of diction include allegory and imagery. Refrains can add to the effect of imagery, be it a small phrase or longer line. For example, Homer’s “rosy-fingered dawn.” Imagery in poetry describes things in different and unexpected ways. A writer should look for new ways to describe things readers have seen before. 

In my experience with my own writing, diction is often considered before from, rhyme, or rhythm. One should not be against trying different words or new descriptions of old things. Writers may consider writing from the point of view of an inanimate object. Or they may consider writing about an emotion through a metaphor of something physical. The one takeaway I want people to get from this four-part introduction is that anything goes. Writers should write what and how they want and write what they feel.

Caturday Poetry: Under the Cat's Eye Moon

The heart within my heart (Trapped within my
thoughts) Beats for you (Fantasies unfulfilled)
Even if yours does not (Obstacles
plentiful) Under the cat’s eye moon (As
many as stars above) I dream of
what was not (Nightmares relived daily) A
reverie of peace

(Healing takes time) Lighting up my eyes (Time
feels never ending) I can’t stop the 
smile you generate (The past directs
the present) A world without you
unimagined (And I’ve nowhere to run)
I destroy the thought before it comes (Stuck
in the circular dreamscape)

This beating heart of mine (Love is a 
fickle thing) Often falls for what can’t be
had (Fantasies unfulfilled)

From the poetry collection Cats, Coffee, Catharsis.

Flashback Friday Poetry: Courting Women

“it’s hunting season”
he hollered to his son
“it’s time you learned
how things should be done
first the proper clothing
and other things you should wear
this is a must when hunting
two-legged deer
secondly speech
this you’ll surely need
it is the most important
so listen to me
choose your words carefully
speak in good time
do not interrupt
and no wandering of the eyes
when you’ve achieved their attention
all else is downhill
if you have not
than prepare to be grilled
when you’ve got her
please respect your woman
otherwise she’ll make you
stand over the oven”

Early poetry from James. From the poetry collection Pariah Bound: The Lonesome Poetry.