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Poetic echoes: what they are and how to use them

“Hello.” Hello “Orange soda, sister boom-ba.” oom ba

Remember how much fun it was to hear your voice bounce around a large room and then come back to you as a kid? Whether those are faded memories, or you still do it when no one is around, let me show you how to inject that fun into your poetry. The first are some poetic and literary terms, and the final section will be a form of poetry.

Poetry and music have a close affinity, so it shouldn’t surprise you when I tell you that a poetic echo has to do with the “music” or sound in a poem, specifically with regards to the types of rhymes.

In general literary terms, an echo is a “repetition of the same sound, or combination of sounds, close enough together so that they ‘echo’ each other.[, and is a] common device in verse to strengthen meaning and structure, and also to provide tone and melody” (Cuddon and Preston 247).

Alliteration, the repetition of initial sounds, is probably the most familiar, but there are also vowel and consonantal echoes, the repetitions of which are more subtle.

Vocal echo repeats are “vowel sounds” [that] are repeated but not necessarily in order (cotillon/goat)” (Miller 14). If you look at Miller’s example, you will see that he has used the long “o” and short “i” sounds in the cotillion. male goat the sounds are repeated, but not in the same order.

In contrast, consonantal echoes have repeated consonantal sounds, “but not, as in alliteration, in the same order (say/late, waver, traffic)” (Miller 14). When you look at Miller’s consonant echo example, you see that the “t” and “l” sounds in the word “tell” are repeated, but in reverse order in the word “beat.” Unlike a vowel echo, if you choose not to reverse their order, it will no longer be called a consonant echo. It would be alliteration, or a type of rhyme, depending on where the repetition occurred within the word and within the stanza.

My favorite kind of echo I call literary echo. I use this technique when I write my essays, poetry, stories or articles. Instead of repeating a sound, as in the terms above or in the echo verse below, it repeats a theme or subject. Let me give you an example. I wrote a senior paper a few years ago, and in my opening paragraph I compared presidential candidates to apples and oranges (from the saying). As I closed my essay, I echoed this with a slight twist and referred to everything as a fruit salad. This reminded the reader where I started and helped me wrap up the essay.

Speaking of oranges, another example is the Writer’s Digest poetry winner a few years ago who used this technique, and interestingly the subject of the echo they used was an orange. They began with a short stanza about the rhyming ability of citrus fruits and then went to the heart of his poem, which was not about oranges at all. They finally ended up referring to the orange.

This can be done in any type of prose or poetry. In poetry and other short works, it can easily be used as a contrast to the true theme of the poem and allow you to add depth to your work.

Finally, I have a form of poetry for you.

echo verse


Like many forms of poetry, echo verse began in the classical Greek period. It is an “ingenious device generally known as echo verse”. [and] would simulate the syllabic repetitions and truncations of natural echoes for satirical effect” (Hollander 37). Hollander’s definition is for echo verse in its purest form, but any echo used for any kind of intended effect could be called verse. echo in terms of modern poetry.


–An echo sounds similar, not unlike my examples that open this article/editorial-although you’ll want your echoes to have more meaning.

–Not exactly a must, but rather a very good idea: be smart and purposeful with your echoes. Don’t put them in your poem to make noise, let them sing and elevate your poem in the process.

That’s it. that’s all you must have.

I COULD HAVE o What is the poet’s choice in all of this?

–How do you present your echo? You could have it on the same line like so:

I would like a present. feel.

You could have it in the following line, like so:

I would like a present.


You could designate your echo, like so:

I would like a present.

Echo: feel.

Be creative. However you decide to present it, make it meaningful.

–Choose which meter type, or choose none.

Echoes are fun for both children and adults and poets. I can’t resist adding something that reminds me of my favorite joke: Orange, are you glad to know more about poetic echoes? Yes, you can start moaning, as long as you play with some poetic echoes.

Source Notes:

Cuddon, John Anthony, and Claire Preston. Dictionary of literary terms and literary theory. 4th. MA: Blackwell Publishers, Inc., 1998.

Hollander, John. Reason for the rhyme. 3rd. Yale University Press, 2000.

Williams, Miller (1986). Poetry Patterns: An Encyclopedia of Forms. Baton Rouge, Louisiana: Louisiana State University Press.

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