Introduction to Poetry - English Poetry Notes

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  • Poetry is the study of poems and the poetic language. A poem is a creative composition usually written in verse and that uses diction, imagery and economy of words to communicate.
  • Poetry expresses language more powerfully than prose. Poetry can be compared to a palace if prose is a house. So just as a palace is more than a house, but it must be a house at least so also poetry is more than prose but it must still be language at least.

Poet, Persona, Subject and Theme of a Poem

  • A poet is someone who writes poems.
  • The voice speaking in a poem is called the persona. What the persona refers to or talks to in a poem would be the subject and the issue that is being talked about or being raised is the subject matter or theme.
  • In many cases the voice speaking in the poem or the persona is different from the poet. The persona can be a female voice denouncing men but the writer of the poem is male.

The girl next door by G.R. Lazarus

She was the girl next door
Beautiful booming and shy
Our interaction was measured
Our chemistry guarded
But she was curious and hideous
Then she was of age and I married
But more lustful and hideous ~ By G.R Lazarus

  • In the poem above the poet is Lazarus. The subject of the poem is the girl next door because the persona is referring to her.
  • The subject matter or theme of the poem is love/lust because the persona is attracted to the girl next door and although he later gets married to someone else he still sees her.
  • The persona in the poem is a man who neighbours the girl (she was the girl next door). Remember the persona is different from Lazarus, the poet.

Structure of a Poem

Lapobo by Cliff Lumbwa


Tall but not too tall
Short but not too short
She is of medium height


Her teeth are not as ash
Nor the colour of maize flour
Her teeth are as white as fresh milk
The whiteness of her teeth
When I think of her Lo!
Makes food drop from my hand


Black but not too black
Brown but not too brown
Her skin colour is just between black and brown


Her feet have no cracks
Her palms are smooth and tender to touch
Her eyes—Ho! They can destroy anybody

  • The structure of the poem refers to how the lines in a poem are arranged. For example, a poem can have four stanzas and each stanza can carry five lines. In some cases like in this poem by Lumbwa, the structure of the poem is made to resemble a picture of a beautiful woman whose features are well arranged.
  • In this poem the poet is Cliff Lumbwa, the persona is a lover who admires Lapobo (Lapobo, black but not too black), the subject is Lapobo (Lapobo, her teeth are white as fresh milk), subject matter is love—the persona loves Lapobo (Her eyes—ho! They can destroy anybody)

Clementine by Okot P’Bitek

Ocol is no longer in love with the old type
He is in love with a modern girl
The name of the beautiful one is Clementine

Brother when you see Clementine
The beautiful one aspires
To look like a white woman

Her lips are red-hot like glowing charcoal
She resembles the wild cat
That has dipped its mouth in blood

Her mouth is like raw meat
It looks like open ulcers
Like the mouth of an ogre

Tina dusts powder on her face
And it looks so pale
She resembles the wizard
Getting ready for the midnight dance


Identify the structure, the persona, the poet, the subject and the subject matter of the poem.

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Read 5678 times Last modified on Monday, 17 January 2022 07:47
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