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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.

2 comments:

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