What does Repetition Mean in Poetry?
When it comes to understanding what Repetition in poetry means, it is often best to take a step back and define the term ‘repetition’ first. Repetition is the process of repeating words, ideas and phrases within a text. It is often used to emphasize a point or to create a sense of rhythm and imagery. In poetry, repetition has a powerful effect on the reader; it can draw attention to certain words and concepts, it can create a sense of mood and emotion and it can help the poem to stick in the reader’s mind.
For example, in William Wordsworth’s poem ‘Daffodils’, he uses the same phrase ‘I wandered lonely as a cloud’ throughout the poem. This repetition creates a sense of loneliness in the reader and evokes a feeling of serenity and peacefulness. Similarly, in Robert Frost’s poem, ‘The Road Not Taken’, the repeated line, ‘Two roads diverged in a yellow wood’ creates a sense of anticipation, as the reader is left wondering what the protagonist will choose. The repetition here also serves to draw the readers’ attention to the difficult decision the character is facing.
In addition to creating an emotional effect, the use of repetition in poetry can also be used to emphasize a key point. In Alfred Lord Tennyson’s poem ‘Break Break Break’, he uses the phrase ‘break break break’ several times to emphasize the difficulty of the situation he is facing. He is lamenting his lost love, yet the repetition of the phrase ‘break break break’ shows his desire to break away from his sorrow and move on. Here, the repetition serves to demonstrate the protagonist’s emotional turmoil.
The use of repetition in poetry can also be used to create a musical effect. Poetry is written to be read aloud, and the repetition of certain words and phrases creates a natural flow and rhythm. For example, Shakespeare’s poem ‘Shall I Compare Thee to a Summer’s Day’ uses the line ‘Shall I compare thee to a summer’s day’ as an accompaniment to a song. The repeated phrase creates a light and lilting effect, which complements the poem’s lyrical quality.
Repetition in poetry can also be used to create a sense of unity between the poem’s different parts. In Robert Frost’s ‘Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening’, the repeated phrase ‘The woods are lovely, dark and deep’ serves to tie together different images and sections of the poem. The repetition of the phrase creates a sense of cohesion and builds up to the poem’s climax, which reinforces the poem’s main theme.
The Effects of Repetition
The effects of repetition in poetry are varied and often depend on the specific poem in question. Repetition can be used to create an emotional effect, draw attention to a certain part of the poem, emphasize a point or create a sense of unity. In many cases, the repetition serves to underscore the poem’s central idea or theme. It can bring together disparate images and make the poem feel more coherent and complete. Repetition in poetry can also act as a powerful tool to evoke emotion in the reader.
Repetition can also be used to create a sense of anticipation or build suspense. It draws attention to certain words and images and makes the reader want to know what will happen next. In T.S. Eliot’s poem ‘The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock’ the repeated phrase ‘Do I dare?’ creates a sense of impending doom, as the reader wonders what the protagonist will do. Repetition can also be used to create a sense of rhythm or to emphasize a particular line in the poem.
The Limitations of Using Repetition
Although repetition can be effective when used correctly, there are also certain limitations that need to be taken into consideration. One such limitation is that repetition can become monotonous for the reader. If a phrase or word is repeated too often, it can become tiresome or detract from the poem’s overall effectiveness. Therefore, it is important to use repetition sparingly and in moderation.
In addition, the use of too much repetition can lead to a lack of variation in the poem’s structure. Although repetition can help to create a sense of unity, if it is used excessively, then the poem can begin to feel formulaic and lack originality. Finally, the use of repetition can create a sense of predictability, which can be off-putting to some readers.
Tools to Use Repetition Effectively
Despite its limitations, repetition can be an effective tool when used correctly. One of the best ways to use repetition effectively is to ensure that the repetition does not become monotonous for the reader. This can be achieved by using different words and phrases to describe the same idea; this helps to keep the repetition fresh and interesting.
In addition, it is important to ensure that the repetition does not overshadow the rest of the poem. The repetition should be used in moderation and should be balanced with other poetic techniques, such as imagery and metaphor. Finally, when using repetition in poetry, it is important to ensure that the repetition is appropriate for the poem’s theme and message.
The use of repetition in poetry can create a powerful effect on the reader. It can evoke emotion, emphasize a point and create a sense of rhythm and unity. However, it is important to use repetition in moderation and to ensure that the repetition is appropriate for the poem’s theme and message.