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I first fell under the spell of ‘repetition’ when as a child I obsessively spoke the word “bench” over and over to myself till it lost its meaning and I entered a meditative space that frightened me to such a degree that I had to sit right down upon the original!

It is often remarked that if you are to read or repeat a word continually in a short period of time it seems odd or loses its meaning or sense altogether.” (Leo Cookman) 1

Thus, one use of repetition in poetry is to dislodge the reader from preconceived ideas and meanings in order to hear the words, as if for the first time. Other poets seek to add a touch of musicality, especially with reiterative sound devices such as assonance and alliteration. Whilst word repetition is a way of being emphatic, dramatic even, to let the reader really hear and consider what is being said. Or perhaps to restate a theme as with the use of a Chorus or merely to round up the poem.

There are technical terms for the 15 or so repetitive devices of both sounds and words. As a young reader of D. H. Lawrence’s poems, I felt uncomfortable with his somewhat constant use of word repetition though have since come to appreciate and view his style rather like a Fauvistic painter in oils – as in “Bavarian Gentians” or here in “Almond Blossom” where he makes use of ‘anaphora’ with the first word repeats in consecutive lines:

Even iron can put forth,
Even iron.

This is the iron age,
But let us take heart
Seeing iron break and bud,
Seeing rusty iron puff with clouds of blossom

The almond-tree,
December’s bare iron hooks sticking out of earth”

By contrast, Sydney Thompson Dobell conveys the mood of his poem: “Desolate” by re-referencing images as well as using the repetitive song of a bird and employing the opposite of anaphora with his consecutive end line repeats:

“…’So as it is with thee
Is it with me,
So as it is and it used not to be,
With thee used not to be,
Nor me.’

So singeth Robin on the willow tree,
The rainy robin tic-tac at the pane….

But the wintry water deepens at the door,
And a step is plashing by upon the moor
Into the dark upon the darkening moor,
And alas, alas, the drip-drop of the rain!”

The end-line repeats of epiphora are either exactly the same or sometimes for better effect, varying each time.  A device Walt Whitman uses in “Song of Myself” v16

   “ I resist any thing better than my own diversity,
    Breathe the air but leave plenty after me,
    And am not stuck up, and am in my place.

    (The moth and the fish-eggs are in their place,
    The bright suns I see and the dark suns I cannot see are in their place,
    The palpable is in its place and the impalpable is in its place.”

Since Anaphora has already been covered by Victoria (27th June 2013)  let us understand the use of its opposite. Epiphora, from the Greek ‘to turn about/upon’, is used:-

  • To drive home a point
  • To make the words “catchy” or memorable
  • To express a deeply held belief
  • To convey strong emotion
  • To create a regular rhyme scheme

   So today we shall write our poem using any style or meter as long as it contains:

1a. Epiphora (aka Epistrophe or Antistrophe). The end line repeats should for the most part be consecutive, although allowances are made for alternates as well as the use of the repeat word with variance. Employ repetitions with the maxim ‘ too often is too heavy’!

AND those who like an extra challenge might like to add in some

1b. Symploce – the  combined use  of anaphora and epiphora. Here is an example from Eliot’s “Prufrock”:

 “The yellow fog that rubs its back upon the window-panes,
The yellow smoke that rubs its muzzle on the window-panes

Fun Fact: Epiphora in medical terms means watery eyes due to excess tear production. So you may like to write a tear-jerker, something sad at least. Its optional!

Once you have published your poem, add it to the Linky widget and leave a comment (see below). Then go visiting, reading and sharing your thoughts with other contributors which is half the fun of our dVerse gatherings.

1. Leo Cookman – The use of repetition in D. H. Lawrence’s ‘Women in Love’

Further Reading:
Repetition in poetry – The Many Ways to Create Poetic Intensity