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The appearance of being true, or a likeness to truth. Verisimilitude is related to mimesis or imitation, though it is also connected to ideas of literary decorum and proper use of conventions. Verisimilitude can thus exist in both works of literary realism and fantasy, since readers’s perceptions of the “reality” of a work may depend on the inner consistency of elements (such as character, language, plot) and not just the work’s fidelity to a preexisting outer world. Though more often associated with fiction, the principle of verisimilitude can be seen in poetry from Homer and Virgil, and in the poetry of William Wordsworth and Samuel Taylor Coleridge, whose “willing suspension of disbelief” is also introduced into discussions of the technique.

Vers libre

A French phrase meaning “free verse.”


As a mass noun, poetry in general; as a regular noun, a line of poetry. Typically used to refer to poetry that possesses more formal qualities.

Verse paragraph

A group of verse lines that make up a single rhetorical unit. In longer poems, the first line is often indented, like a paragraph in prose. The long narrative passages of John Milton’s Paradise Lost are verse paragraphs. The titled sections of Robert Pinsky’s “Essay on Psychiatrists” demarcate shifts in focus and argument much as prose paragraphs would. A shorter lyric poem, even when broken into stanzas, could be considered a single verse paragraph, insofar as it expresses a unified mood or thought; see Gail Mazur’s “Evening.”


Poetry written in England during the reign of Queen Victoria (1837-1901) may be referred to as Victorian poetry. Following Romanticism, Victorian poets continued many of the previous era’s main themes, such as religious skepticism and valorization of the artist as genius; but Victorian poets also developed a distinct sensibility. The writers of this period are known for their interest in verbal embellishment, mystical interrogation, brooding skepticism, and whimsical nonsense. The most prolific and well-regarded poets of the age included Alfred, Lord Tennyson, Robert Browning, Elizabeth Barrett Browning, Matthew Arnold, Gerard Manley Hopkins, and Oscar Wilde. Browse more Victorian poets.


A French verse form consisting of five three-line stanzas and a final quatrain, with the first and third lines of the first stanza repeating alternately in the following stanzas. These two refrain lines form the final couplet in the quatrain. See “Do Not Go Gentle into That Good Night” by Dylan Thomas, Elizabeth Bishop’s “One Art,”  and Edwin Arlington Robinson’s “The House on the Hill.”

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Italian word for “turn.” In a sonnet, the volta is the turn of thought or argument: in Petrarchan or Italian sonnets it occurs between the octave and the sestet, and in Shakespearean or English before the final couplet. See Thomas Wyatt’s “Whoso List to Hunt, I Know where is an Hind” and William Shakespeare's Sonnet 129 [“Th’expense of spirit in a waste of shame”] for examples of voltas of each type.

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