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All About Alliteration

Hello my passionate, playful, pleasant poets!


Welcome to another week! I am a bit behind the eightball after dealing with an incredibly icky instance of influenza. But, my blight-battered brain is beginning to build brilliant batches of blog posts again!


Alright, that's enough of that. You know what we're talking about this week.


Just as a refresher, alliteration is the recurrance of the same letter or sound at the beginning of words that are closely connected. I'll bet you remember the classic tongue-twister "She Sells Seashells By the Seashore?" Or my personal favorite, "Rubber Baby Buggy Bumper." Okay, now say it five times fast!


Alliteration is one of the most easily identifiable poetic devices, but it is also the most fun to use. Especially when reading a poem aloud, alliteration challenges the reader to pay close attention to each stressed syllable. I consider alliteration to be a type of "seasoning" for a poem, sprinkling in a little spice to keep the reader on their toes.


It can be used in words and phrases that are directly next to each other. Take a look at this example from Edgar Allan Poe's "The Raven":


While I nodded, nearly napping, suddenly there came a tapping,

As of someone gently rapping, rapping at my chamber door.


The words "nodded, nearly, napping" all begin with the letter n. The use of alliteration here also makes the phrase read a bit sleepy and drowsy. Talk about some good "seasoning!"


Alliteration can also be used when the words are spaced out a little bit. Maya Angelou's "The Caged Bird" is a great example of this:


The free bird thinks of another breeze

and the trade winds soft through the sighing trees

and the fat worms waiting on a dawn bright lawn


Bird and breeze, trade and trees, soft and sighing, and worms waiting. All excellent examples of alliteration with letters. But did you notice the reptitive sound in dawn and lawn? The whole thing rolls off the tongue beautifully.


And there you have it! All about alliteration. Try some of these techniques out in your own work, and let me know how it goes. If you can think of any other poems with great alliteration, please send them my way!


Until next time!


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- W.H. Auden

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