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Poems usually begin with words or phrase which appeal more because of their sound than their meaning, and the movement and phrasing of a poem. Every poem has a texture of sound, which is at least as important as the meaning behind the poem. Rhythm, being the regular recurrence of sound, is at the heart of all natural phenomena: the beating of a heart, the lapping of waves against the shore, the croaking of frogs on a summer’s night, the whisper of wheat swaying in the wind. Rhythm and sound and arrangement –the formal properties of words—allow the poet to get beyond, or beneath the surface of a poem. Both Gwendolyn Brooks’ “Sadie and Maud” (799) and Anne Bradstreet’s “To My Dear and Loving Husband” (784) emphasize poetic sound to express their themes.
Used to enhance sound in a poem, alliteration is the repetition of sound in consecutive or neighboring words, usually at the beginning of words. Both Brooks and Bradstreet make use of alliteration in their poems. “Sadie stayed at home. / Sadie scraped life…” (2-3) the repetition of s is evident in these two lines, reflecting the sassiness and independence that Sadie possessed. “Then while we live, in love lets [persevere]” (11) the slow musical repetition of the l sounds reflect the romantic emphasis in the poem.
Assonance—the repetition of the same or similar vowel sound, especially in stressed syllables—can also enrich a poem. Assonance can be used to unify a poem as in Bradstreet’s poem in which it emphasizes the thematic connection among words and unifies the poem’s ideas of the husband and wife becoming one. “Compare with me ye woman if you can” (4). In Brook’s poem, repeated vowel sounds extend throughout. Brooks indirectly links certain words and by connecting these words, she calls attention to the imagery
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Gwendolyn Brooks, Sadie, Maud, Anne Bradstreet, Papa…,
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