The Poets

March 05, 2011

Poetic Terms: Apheresis

Inasmuch as poetry is concerned, an apheresis is where one or more letters are omitted from the beginning of a word without diminishing the word’s actual meaning. Here’s a few examples:

- 'til from until
- 'round from around
- 'bout from about
- 'long from along
- 't was (twas) from
it was
- 't is (tis) from it is

For the most part, these words are employed in poetry in order to shape the meter. If a poet needs to lose a syllable an apheresis is one way to do that. Here’s an example from Paul Laurence Dunbar's poem, Opportunity (keep in mind this particular poem is done in dialect):

GRANNY'S gone a-visitin',
Seen huh git huh shawl
W'en I was a-hidin' down
Hime de gyahden wall.
Seen huh put her bonnet on,
Seen huh tie de strings,
An' I'se gone to dreamin' now
'Bout dem cakes an' t'ings.


John W. May said...

I wrote a poem last July entitled Moonlight; in it I relied on an apheresis to lose a syllable (even though the rhythm of that line would have still flowed well). I thought it worked well ...

O would that I could know thy state
And share with thee, O moon, thy fate-
Be one with that belovéd Sun,
And all this darkness round me shun.

cheryl said...

I loved that poem. Consequentially, I stole it. I do need to link back to you, I keep forgetting to do that.

I'm strange I know...but I have to ask...Do you find it easier to pronounce words like, ''twas' instead of 'it was'? I find that they flow off the tongue easier. But again, I'm strange and that could just be me.

As of April 9th, 2010