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9&60 Ways - Assonance

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Old 08-31-2008, 09:22 AM
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Default 9&60 Ways - Assonance


Assonance is when vowel sounds are repeated to create internal rhyme. Many great poets of the past have used assonance. "Ah, broken is the golden bowl!" exclaims Edgar Allan Poe in his poem "Lenore", and the repetition of the "o" sound reminds us of moaning in grief. Alfred, Lord Tennyson, uses it in "The Lady of Shallot". Notice the tense "ee" sound in the first and second line, and the lax "i" in the third:

And by the moon the reaper weary,
Piling sheaves in uplands airy,
Listening, whispers, " 'Tis the fairy
The Lady of Shalott."

Assonance is alive and well today, too. Hip-hop songs use a lot of it. (Indeed, many rappers speak so fast that all we hear is assonance!) Here are some examples from Will Smith's "Switch":

Hey, vibe to vibe a second-
It's a club, girl, why you arrive nekkid?
Hear that, how the veteran glide the record?
But don't download, go out and buy the record!

Assonance is a powerful tool for poets. When we read poems aloud, we are subliminally aware of how the sounds make us feel. The difference between a shriek and a groan may have much to do with the light, high "ee" sound vs. the low, mournful "o" sound.

Your challenge this month is to incorporate assonance into a poem. Experiment with it, and enjoy the language! Questions and comments about this mini-lesson go in this thread. Your work can be posted as a separate thread with the word "Assonance" in the title.

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Old 09-01-2008, 02:32 PM
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I think this is a very good way of introducing poetic form and function, Hoilei. Breaking it down like this you're gonna help build on critquing skills too.
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Old 09-01-2008, 03:03 PM
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Thanks for that, thats really cleared up for me what assonance really is as I have never really got it before. I have simply defined it as a "type of rhyme" whenever I have been asked. Hey have you seen Educating Rita, when she describes assonance as "getting the rhyme wrong."
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Old 09-01-2008, 06:19 PM
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Thanks, Jarin! That was one consideration in writing it. So often, people aren't sure how to critique poems, so I hope these mini-lessons will help!

Hi Cecilia! I never saw "Educating Rita", but that's certainly an amusing way of defining assonance! She's sorta right; the nucleus (vowel in the middle) of the syllable rhymes, but the coda (consonant end) doesn't.

HoiLei
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Old 09-04-2008, 12:48 PM
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If it helps, Hoilei, Educating Rita was based on Bernard Shaw's Pygmalion. (All to do with a linguistics teacher 'doing the prescriptive' with a common girl and preaching 'ow y'gotta talk, y'know, propa') Reminds me of my secondary English teacher...

Good'n to read, better to watch with Michael 'blow the bloomin' doors off' Cain (Educating Rita).
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Old 09-04-2008, 05:48 PM
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Default prescriptivism

Originally Posted by Jarin View Post
All to do with a linguistics teacher 'doing the prescriptive' with a common girl and preaching 'ow y'gotta talk, y'know, propa'
Ah, yes; that was before descriptive linguistics, wasn't it! Linguistics to such as Henry Higgins was historical linguistics, with an emphasis on how the language was "degenerating" in the present.

Still, an interesting sociolinguistic case! Eliza learns code switching and is able to change her place in society.
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Old 09-05-2008, 05:42 AM
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Originally Posted by HoiLei View Post
Ah, yes; that was before descriptive linguistics, wasn't it! Linguistics to such as Henry Higgins was historical linguistics, with an emphasis on how the language was "degenerating" in the present.

Still, an interesting sociolinguistic case! Eliza learns code switching and is able to change her place in society.
HoiLei
Talk of degenerisation never stops, does it? Look at texting. Personally I love 'oralution': texting slots so lovely into that theory under the heading of language creativity and diversity.

Thought you may know Pygmalion...
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Old 09-06-2008, 12:08 AM
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I'm about to give this one a shot, HoiLei.

This is an excellent introduction, and I feel as though I've learnt something already. Whether I can apply it or not, well. We shall wait and see.
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Old 09-06-2008, 06:07 AM
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I wait on tenterhooks (whatever they are)!
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Old 09-06-2008, 10:41 AM
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Being poetically challenged as I am, I doubt I know my assonance from my elbow, but I think I'll give this one a go.
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Old 09-06-2008, 10:57 AM
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Default assonance how-to

It might help to start with a poem idea, rather than starting with assonance. As you write, read aloud and try to find words that assonate. For instance, suppose you know you want to write about rain:

"The rain is falling very hard. It's pouring."

Now listen to the vowel sounds, especially of stressed syllables. See what they remind you of.

rain, play, change, lay, gray, bane...
falling, autumn, haul, all...
very, heavy, let, get...
etc.

Pick words that go with the subject matter:

Playing on cars, the hard, falling rain
lays makes a gray change in the...

And so on. Then let it play in your head for a day or so, or more. That's one way to do it!
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Old 09-06-2008, 01:26 PM
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Thanks! I'll try that.
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Old 09-06-2008, 07:13 PM
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That's probably a good idea, HoiLei, since I'm feeling very unimaginative right now.

For something known as 'getting the rhyme wrong', it sure is difficult!
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Old 09-12-2008, 01:57 PM
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Well, I shall surrender on this one. For me, at least, assonance is purely accidental. Trying to write something that intentionally copies vowel sounds, while varying the consonants, is difficult because I'm choosing words I would not necessarily opt for otherwise.

I quite like using internal rhymes and half rhymes (which presumably constitute assonance when the rhyming segments are the vowels, but not when the rhyming portions are the consonants) but often when I do this, it simply comes to me in that form. It's not something I specifically set out to do.

Oh, well. Maybe I had better try something else.
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Old 09-12-2008, 02:57 PM
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It looks like you're doing good with the cinquains! I noticed one of your contest entries followed that form.

Assonance in one line often strikes me as accidental, but when the poet uses it consistantly, it's impressive. Big Punisher (a rapper) was King of Assonance!
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Old 09-12-2008, 05:05 PM
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Yes, I did use the cinquain for one of those poems. Glad you noticed. That's something I could play with and have fun (I still have to try the second type you mentioned) but assonance, I fear, is beyond me unless it's accidental. Oh, well. At least I understand what it is so I've learned something. Thank you!

By the way, in examples of assonance I came across after reading what you posted, it wasn't always clear that the assonance was necessarily deliberate. There were instances where it was fairly apparent that the poet was using this device (Poe for example), but some of the other quoted cases seemed a bit of a stretch. Which makes me wonder if we sometimes find it where it wasn't planned. That seems likely to me not least since people often find things in my writing that I certainly never intended. Do you think that could be possible?

In any case, I'm now working on something in blank verse, which is something I've been wanting to try. Your post on it has now given me an extra shove. So thanks again.
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Old 09-12-2008, 06:38 PM
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Originally Posted by Q Wands View Post
Which makes me wonder if we sometimes find it [assonance] where it wasn't planned. That seems likely to me not least since people often find things in my writing that I certainly never intended. Do you think that could be possible?
Definitely! Consider the tomes that have been written on Shakespeare! There's no way a single man could have knowingly put all the stuff in his work that people say he did. A lot was intentional, but a lot must be the result of thousands of people reading it and noticing different things.

Oh, here's an example of definitely-intentional assonance, from Big Punisher:

Ay-yo my murderous rap verbal attack is actual fact
Tactical tracks match perfectly with graphical stats
Half o’ you lack the magical dap of tragical rap
That tackles you back and shackles and laughs at you
That's...the mathematical madness I'm on, the savage, the strong
The marriage, a bond of havoc and song…!

Cool, huh? I'm not sure what it all means, but it is impressive. In classical English poetry, method hides behind meaning, but occasionally people show off the methods specifically. That's quite common in hip-hop, where rappers are known for their particular lyric styles.
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Old 09-12-2008, 06:52 PM
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Alliteration is pretty much the same, too, in Historical terms...

(difference is repetion of non-vowel)
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Old 09-12-2008, 06:53 PM
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I'm afraid rap is something that leaves me cold. I suppose it's a form of poetry insofar as any lyrics are, but a crusty like me has more in common with Frank Sinatra and Marilyn Manson. Lol.

But thank you for taking the time to explain things to me. I may not be able to manage it, but I still like learning; now I'll be able to appreciate it when it crosses my path.
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Old 09-12-2008, 07:14 PM
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@ Q Wands: You're welcome! I'm having fun explaining things, especially since it gives me a reason to reach bunches of poetry looking for good examples. Plus, I get to read what you all come up with!

@ SynonymousWords: I have alliteration planned for a future month. I didn't want to put them right next to each other, though. When I learn two similar concepts close together, I always get them confused. If I learn them separately, the first gains mental associations before the second comes in. (I'm working from the idea that I'm not the only one with this problem!)

Anyway, keep watching this forum; there's a lot more to come!
HoiLei
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Old 09-15-2008, 07:13 PM
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Whoops!

Beggin' your pardon, then, miss...
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