Resources on poetry by the poets themselves



Assonance is a kind of rhyme made of vowel sounds. Poetry makes music from assonance as often as from alliteration. Read any good poem aloud and hear the assonance sing. Listen for echoes, not just at line-endings but anywhere in a poem. Poetry uses ‘w’ and ‘y’ for assonance as well as the long, short and combined sounds made by the 5 vowels: A,E,I,O,U.

‘O, wild west wind, thou breath of autumn’s being’  wrote the poet Shelley nearly two hundred years ago. You can hear the west wind in the first five words.

There are words made of nothing but vowel sounds, words like where, why, away, oh, woe, you, I, we. Actually, with a bit of punctuation and some dramatic expression you could make a poem out of just those words!

Seamus Heaney has a wonderful way with assonance. Listen to Perch, and read it aloud for ‘alder-dapple’, ‘grunts...flood-slubs, runty’, then ‘guzzling the current...muscle and slur’, and in the last lines, ‘hold’, ‘flows’, and ‘go’. Search Blackberry-Picking for ‘summer’s blood’ followed by ‘tongue’, ‘lust’, ‘hunger’. 

In my (Gillian Clarke) poem Catrin, listen for ‘there’, ‘hair’, ‘glare’, and  ‘old rope’. In Baby-Sitting watch for ‘snuffly’ and ‘bubbling’, ‘cold’ and ‘lonely’. In Mali,  ‘so slowly home’, ‘sweet’ and ‘easy’, ‘towed’ and ‘moon’.  In A Difficult Birth, ‘peace deal’ and ‘serious’, ‘broke’, ‘ago’, then ‘her own lost salty ocean’. Finally, ‘opened’ is echoed by ‘stone’.

In Carol Ann Duffy’s poem, We Remember Your Childhood Well, the assonance works as an occasional internal rhyme. That is, rhyme that is inside the lines, not at the ends of the lines. Listen for ‘moors’, ‘saw’, ‘door’. In Education for Leisure, note the way ‘ignored’, ‘ordinary’, ‘boredom’, and even ‘God’ echo, and therefore connect with each other.

In the poem beginning ‘Those bastards in their mansions’, Simon Armitage plays with ‘lawns’, ‘door’, ‘porches’, ‘torches’, the last two words fully rhyming. These are all words which draw attention to each other, because as we hear them we instinctively connect them. The sound affects the meaning of the poem.