Poetic Terminology: Consonance

By Nikki Anne Schmutz

As a poet, it is vital to know poetry terminology! Awareness of the devices used to create specific poetry styles will help us broaden our own style and skill. As we learn – we recognize the device, we see how other writers utilize it in their poetry, and we begin to dabble in something new. Creating our own version of something we learn is like the final exam of self-study.

Today we look at the use of Consonance. In definition, Consonance is a poetic device characterized by the repetition of the same consonant two or more times in short succession, as in “pitter patter” or in “all mammals named Sam are clammy”. Consonance should not be confused with assonance, which is the repetition of vowel sounds.

Consonance is the opposite of assonance – which is the repetition of similar vowel sounds within a word, phrase, or sentence. There is also a distinction between consonance and rhyme. In rhyme, consonant sounds can be present at the beginning, middle, or end of successive words, not only at the ends of words.  Consonance should also be distinguished from alliteration.  Consonance involves repetition of consonant sounds only, not vowels.

Using consonance gives a lyrical feeling to poetry that cannot be added in other ways and can be used to clarify images outside the standard rhyme formats. It is a tool to employ in adding layers and emphasizing the underlying feeling and meaning in poetry.

Here are some examples of consonance:

Glass boss. (Using ss)

Mammals named Sam are clammy. (Using m)

Pitter-patter. (Using tt and er)

Slither slather. (Using sl, th and er)

 

One of my favorite poets, Emily Dickinson used repetition of consonant ‘m’ frequently through the poem to emphasize the words.

‘Twas later when the summer went
Than when the cricket came,
And yet we knew that gentle clock
Meant nought but going home.

‘T was sooner when the cricket went
Than when the winter came,
Yet that pathetic pendulum
Keeps esoteric time.

 

Have fun trying Consonance in your own poetry!

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