Knowing Your Assonance from a Hole in the Ground


I remember my first encounter with exceptionally written assonance in poetry. I was in a writers’ group in my hometown, and a friend of a friend joined the group for just a few meetings.

She read her poem and I fell in love with the sound. We begged for more. Twenty-one years later, I still remember that poem.

Assonance is the repetition of vowel sounds, and when done well, it’s glorious to read.

Shelly certainly did it well in Ozymandias. The vowels in bold font (my doing):

I met a traveller from an antique land,
Who said—“Two vast and trunkless legs of stone
Stand in the desert. . . . Near them, on the sand,
Half sunk a shattered visage lies….

And it keeps going from there.

Then there’s Gertrude Stein, who redefined word play, making the assonance more important than the words (my opinion):

Sweet sweet sweet sweet sweet tea.
       Susie Asado.
Sweet sweet sweet sweet sweet tea.
       Susie Asado.
Susie Asado which is a told tray sure.
A lean on the shoe this means slips slips hers.
When the ancient light grey is clean it is yellow, it is a silver seller….

Why is assonance important? Think of assonance as the back beat to your poem. It creates a musical quality, a not-so-hidden song that adds one more layer to your writing.
So this week’s task: go back over one or more poems. Look for ways in which assonance could elevate the ideas. Find reasons to write a poem that uses assonance to pull the reader along.

Poets, what’s your favorite example of assonance?

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