Magic Dragon has been reading a lot of poetry lately. Reading out loud gives us the chance to hear the sounds and the music of the words.
I think we all know that the sound is important in poetry, and that some poems are written to be the lyrics for a song. Although poems may have many different kinds of sounds, the first thing most of us think of are rhymes.
Rhymes are a big part of writing poetry. A rhyme is when two or more words end with the same sound, like blue and glue or door and floor. The two words do not need to have similar spellings, just similar sounds, For example, the words sport and quart are rhyme words since both have the same ending sound even though they are spelled quite differently.
Some rhymes in poetry don’t always have the exact same ending sound. Sometimes, we use what are called slant rhymes—two words that end in almost the same sound. For example, the words hit and get do not have the exact same end sound, but the sounds are similar enough that poets will use them as a slant rhyme.
But some poems do not have any rhymes at all! How can those poems have interesting sounds and make music? Actually, poetry uses words interestingly in many different ways with something called poetic devices. Poetic devices are tools that a poet can use to create rhythm, make special sounds, add to a poem’s meaning, or help set a mood or feeling. The word alliteration is the name of a poetic device that creates special sounds much like rhyming does.
Alliteration is the mirror image of rhyme. It is when two or more words start with the same sounds. For example cat, cookies, and cut are alliterative words because they all start with the same sound. However, just like rhymes, alliterative words do not have to be spelled the same. They just need the same sound. Cat, cookies, kiss, and kitten all have the same beginning sound even though they are spelled very differently; they are alliterative. However, even though child, cat, and clam start with the same letter, they do are not alliterative words, because their beginning sounds are all different.
Tongue twisters are a fun form of word play that use alliteration a lot, and are a wonderful way to begin practicing alliteration in poetry. Most of you have heard the tongue twister, “Peter Piper picked a peck of pickled peppers.” Notice how almost every word in the sentence begins with the consonant “P” making an alliterative sentence. (The secret that helps make us twist our tongue is that each “P” sound is followed by a different vowel sound.)
While tongue twisters are fun to play with, we usually do not use them in our poems. Instead we use alliteration to make sounds that make our images stronger and that make a kind of music of our words. An example of an alliterative poem might be:
Day at the Beach
Children swim in the swift salt sea
Then search for seashells on the shore
They fish for flounder then set them free
Waiting, watching, wishing more.
In this little poem, alliteration is used in every line, along with rhyme. And the “s” sounds made by the alliterative words swim, swift, search, seashells, and shore make a kind of whooshing sound that reminds us of the wind blowing and the waves splashing at the beach. Not only are we showing our readers a picture of the beach on a hot summer day, but we’re also reminding them of the sounds at the beach We’ve perked up our poem with alliteration!
Now it is your turn to write something for the Magic Dragon. Try writing a tongue twister or an alliterative poem and send it into us. The Magic Dragon will be very delighted.