Australian of the lustral basin
architect adrift aloft
redesigning negative space
with Gaudi and Don Quixote…
-Vasiliki Katsarou, “Seven Women”
Last week we talked about alliteration, which is the repetition of the first letter of a word in several words of a line of prose or poetry. Today we will talk about another form of sound repetition. It’s one of my favorite literary techniques. It’s called assonance. Assonance is the resemblance of sound between syllables in nearby words arising from the rhyming of stressed vowels (e.g. sonnet, porridge), and also from the use of identical consonants with different vowels (e.g. killed, cold, culled).-(from The Concise OED). We can see the use of this technique in the poetry quoted above. We hear the repetition of the “str” sound in the first line and the “ft” sound in the second line, as well as the wonderful “a” sounds.
By the way, I wanted to let you know about one of the websites that often provides ideas and poetry for this column every week. It’s called Poetry Daily. I go to this website every day and read a poem before I start my own writing. It’s got some great stuff, and I highly recommend it to you. OK, let’s go back to talking about assonance.
You know who is really masterful at using assonance in their work? Spoken Word poets and rappers. Here’s an example or two from rappers:
If you a fighter, rider, biter, flame igniter, crowd exciter…-Dead Prez, “Hip-Hop”
If your girl is fine, she’s a dime, a suit is a vine…-Big L, “Ebonics”
And from spoken word:
Giving thanks and praises to so many names and faces
In different places…
It’s that breathlessness that inspired my tired hand
To write these endless epilogues that some call pretentious
Living verse existence surviving…
Assonance can make your poetry very musical and lyrical. It can also do the same for prose writing. I guess you could say I’m attesting to the arresting effect of ingesting the round sounds of assonance. Well, hopefully, you get the idea. And I would love to hear back from you with examples of your own. Until then…richer writing!
Teresa Sari FitzPatrick