Repetition, repetition, repetition: working with alliteration, anaphora and epistrophe in poetry


The poets love alliterationthe repetition of consonant sounds in adjacent, neighboring or related words.

See how Carolina Ebeid grabs the reader’s attention by repeating the “b” sound in the opening lines of the poem “Although”:

Because I wanted
do something to you

gorgeousI borrowed
a book on how to keep

a hive made of glass.

And how Jane Wong accentuates her conclusion with the repetition of the “w” sound in “Lessons on Lessening”:

I have to become younger myself again. For to carry my life
like heavy wool, woven In my own mass.

Kamilah Aisha Moon’s “Cataracts” contain many examples of alliteration. The poem begins:

when life scrapes & ultimately scars the eyes
they become turtles — withdraw into themselves,

dive inside private swamps, trailing under
the former girl they belong to, the dewy women

(Notice in the second stanza that even though ‘dive’, ‘drag’ and ‘dew’ all start with ‘d’, only ‘dive’ and ‘dew’ are considered alliterative. Why? ‘dr’ in ‘drag’ produces a different sound than the “d” in “dive” and “dewy”.)

Students, read the rest of Moon’s poem. How many other cases of alliteration can you find?

Go further

Where do you see alliteration in your daily life? Try to collect at least two examples of any type of written or spoken text. Here are some places you could look:

Next, consider the following questions:

Finally, you could try your hand at alliteration. Write a poem, song lyrics, or a short passage that repeats the sound of the beginning of a word. How is the use of this literary device going? What does it add to your room?


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