Poem: Style



       This technique of direct address to something or someone who is absent is seen in:        Dry your tears, Africa!

Your children come back to you.


    This is a technique of regular repetition of an expression in a poem.


    This is a repetition of a pattern of expression for effect or the repetition of words or phrases in a poem. As in

Dry your Tears, Africa:   To the splendour of your beauty

                                           To the smell of your forests

                                  To the charm of your waters

                                  To the clearness of your skies

                                  To the caress of your sun.

 A Taxi Driver:         The use of ‘I’ in five places in stanza 1

The Casualties:        The recurrence of ‘The Casualties are not only those who…’ 


     This is a transfer of human attributes to non human things or qualities of life and living to inanimate. As in ‘Dry your tears, Africa!’ Africa is seen as a weeping woman. In ‘Night’, l.1 Night is given a hand. In ‘And So It Came to Pass’,l.6 wise members of the family are regarded to as foxes in the family.


    This is a poetic device in which an overt comparison is made through use of as or like. As in:

I bear no heart mercuric like the clouds (‘Night’, l.1)

Woman as a clam, on the far crescent. (‘Night’, l.4)

Shedding shame like water (‘And So It Came to Pass’, l.14)

My heart aches and drowsy numberless pains.

My sense, as though of hemlock I had drunk. (‘Ode to a Nightingale’, l.1,2)



    This is a device by which poets create music through the repetition of consonant sounds. As in

Your hand is heavy (‘Night’, l.1)

Submitting like the sands, blood and brine (‘Night’, l.8)

Hide me now, when night children haunt the earth (‘Night’,l.13)

Shielding shame (‘And So It Came to Pass’, l.14)

 Came cascading down (‘And So It Came to Pass’, l.4)

Happy tail of toil (‘And So It Came to Pass’, l.26)

Silence seems to Simmer and strain (‘A Taxi Driver’, l.6)

Caught in the clash of counter claims (‘The Casualties’, l.28)

Because eyes have ceased to see the face in the crowd (‘The Casualties’, l.23)

A cold coming we had of it (‘Journey of The Magi’, l.1)

A hard time we had of it

And three trees on the low sky. (‘Journey of The Magi’, l.16)



    This is a device by which poets create music through the repetition of vowel sounds. As in:

Fluorescence, dance b the pulse incessant (‘Night’)

Poised for poisoning of our Atlantic reservoir (‘And So It Came to Pass’, l.5)

Nor for love of own (‘A Taxi Driver’, l.11)

Because eyes have ceased to see the face of the crowd (‘The Casualties’, l.33)

A fortress of falling walls. (‘The Casualties’, l.17)


Enjambment / Run On Line

    This is a device in which a run-on sentence continues across the lines or stanzas. Or a device of linking stanzas. As in

…to dare

Exacerbation from your subtle plough. (‘Night’, ll.2-3)

…dance on the pulse incessant

Of  the waves. (‘Night’, ll.6-7)


Diction / Language Use

    This refers to the poet’s selection and effective use of words which enrich the poem’s account of events and experience. As in :

  1. ‘heart mercuric’, where Soyinka refers to the changing, moving and therefore difficult to track and conquer nature of the clouds up in the sky. (‘Night’, l.2)
  2. ‘undo me, naked, unbidden, at night’s muted birth’ by which Soyinka refers to the deep silence which ushers the darkness and silence which come in the wake of the night. (‘Night’,l.5)


Traditional Imagery

   This refers to the use of the impression of things from the perspective of African Culture. As in:

‘Hide me now when night children haunt the earth’ in which night spirits are said to roam the environment at night in the African culture. This enhances the poet’s creation of an atmosphere of fear and dread which night is associated with in the poem.



    This is the reoccurrence of words or phrases in strategic places for emphasis. As in

‘They’ in initial position of ‘The Casualties’ l.20, 22, 24, and ‘Because’ in initial position of l. 32, 33, 34. The word ‘And’ was repeated at in ‘Journey of The Magi’ l. 12-15.



      This is a device of using a part to refer to the whole or vice versa. As in

They do not see the funeral pile (referring to the dead people) in ‘The Casualties’, l.22.

Because eyes have ceased to see the faces in the crowd in ‘The Casualties’, l.33.

Six hands at an open door dicing for pieces of silver’ in ‘Journey of The Magi’, l.27.



    This is a device of juxtaposing words of opposite meaning in a poem. As in ‘fortress of falling wall’ in The Casualties, l.17. ‘For these red lips, with all their mournful pride’ in The Rose of the World l.2. The person who is proud is usually happy and full of himself. The poet’s description of pride as mournful is definitely contradictory. A critical look at the expression shows that the poet is right. The ultimate outcome of pride is great sorrow for the arrogant.


End Rhyme

    This is a device of repetition of syllable sounds at the end of lines. As in A Troubadour I Traverse a b b a (l.1-4); a b b a (l. 5-8); a b aa b a (l. 9-14)



    A metaphor is defined as an implied analogy, which identifies an idea or object with another and ascribes to the first object some of the qualities of the second. For instance in Ode to a Nightingale, ‘That thou, light-winged Dryad of the trees’, a dryad is regarded as the spirit of the oak tree. By referring to the nightingale as a Dryad of the trees, the poet present the picture of a creature that derives its livelihood  and pleasure from staying on trees.


Allusion / Classical Allusion

   It means a reference to an individual, place or things for its historical, classical or theological importance.

‘Hemlock’, the poison that Socrates drank. (‘Ode to a Nightingale’, l.2). ‘Lethe’, the river in which the dead crossed to reach the underworld ( l.4). ‘Hippocrene’, the fountain of the Muses on Mt. Helicon. Muses are known to enhance and encourage creativity (l.16).




    Some common and abstract nouns have their intial letters capitalized despite the fact that they do not occur at the beginning of sentences. For instance, ‘Where Beauty…’, ‘Or now Love…’ in Ode to a Nightingale l. 29, 30.



    This literary device is used when the last word or phrase of a sentence is repeated again at the beginning of the next line. As in

‘Of perilous seas, in fairy lands forlorn’

‘Forlorn! The very word is like a bell’ (‘Ode to a Nightingale’, l.70-71)


Exclamation Mark

    Most poets make use of exclamation expressions on several occasions. Exclamation is used to express strong feeling or emotion. In Spoken text, it is often said with rising intonation and accompanied with some loudness.


Rhetorical Question

    This is a question asked by a speaker to create dramatic effect. It is not asked to elicit any answer. It is a way of affirming a position that the speaker espouses. Some poets often employ this technique as in:

But must I confess how I liked him,

How glad I was he had come like a guest

In quiet, to drink at my water-trough…

And depart peaceful, pacified, and thankless,

Into the burning bowels of this earth? (The Snake, l.27-30)

Was it cowardice, that I dared not kill him?

Was it perversity, that I longed to talk to him?

Was it humility, to feel so honoured? (The Snake, l.31-33)



    The poet uses the technique of italicizing to foreground the negative influence of western education. As in ‘If you were not afraid you would kill him!’ in The Snake


Hyphenated Compound Words

    There are instances in which poets use hyphenated compound words. As in: The Snake

‘And trailed his yellow-brown slackness

Soft-bellied down’ l.8

‘And as he slowly drew up, snake-easing his shoulder, and’

‘Into the black hole, the earth-lipped

Fissure in the wall-front.’ L.51


Hyperbole / Exaggeration

‘Thy beams, so revered and strong’

‘Why shouldst thou think?’

‘I could eclipse and cloud them with a wink’ The Sun Rising, l.11-13

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