25 Jan 2015

Shakespearean Sonnets

Shakespearean Sonnets are mostly written in Iambic Pentameter, also used in his plays.
Iamb (foot) is a part of a metrical line made up of two syllables, the first is unstressed and followed by the stressed one.

Iamb represents a heartbeat and is usually written as:
da DUM or baBOOM

Pentameter consists of five Iambs; it is called Iambic Pentameter and it is written as:

da DUM da DUM da DUM da DUM da DUM
baBOOM / baBOOM / baBOOM / baBOOM / baBOOM

Compare with Shakespeare's Sonnet 29:

When IN / dis GRACE / with FOR / tune AND / men’s EYES
I ALL / a LONE / be WEEP / my OUT/ cast STATE

Shakespeare's Sonnet consists of 14 lines divided into three quatrains (each of four lines) and ends with a couplet (of two lines). 
The rhyme of a sonnet can be written as: 
abab cdcd efef gg 

Reading Shakespeare's sonnets should begin with checking words in an etymological dictionary, then we are ready to find the main theme (not just love) and motifs of a sonnet. Next, try to find out how the language techniques are used to convey the meaning in a sonnet. And do not panic, enjoy Shakespeare!


When, in disgrace with fortune and men's eyes,
I all alone beweep my outcast state, 
And trouble deaf heaven with my bootless cries,
And look upon myself, and curse my fate, 
Wishing me like to one more rich in hope, 
Featur'd like him, like him with friends possess'd,
Desiring this man's art and that man's scope, 
With what I most enjoy contented least; 
Yet in these thoughts myself almost despising,
Haply I think on thee, and then my state, 
Like to the lark at break of day arising 
From sullen earth, sings hymns at heaven's gate;
For thy sweet love remember'd such wealth brings
That then I scorn to change my state with kings. 

You may find useful comparing your thoughts and analyses with some examples: Shakespeare online or Spark Notes. Happy reading!

24 Jan 2015


Polyptoton is the figure of repetition, where roots of the words are repeated, but the endings are different. It is rarely recognised as a figure of speech and hence often used to strike the reader with its originality. It is mainly used in aphorisms and poetry.

'Love is an irresistible desire to be irresistibly desired.'  Frost

(...) Not words of routine this song of mine,
But abruptly to question, to leap beyond yet nearer bring;
This printed and bound book—but the printer and the printing-office boy?
The well-taken photographs—but your wife or friend close and solid in your
    arms? (...)
SONG OF MYSELF, Walt Whitman, 42

16 Jan 2015


Anaphora is a figure of repetition; it is the repetition of a word or a phrase at the beginning of the successive clauses, sentences or lines.


Walt Whitman

A call in the midst of the crowd,
My own voice, orotund sweeping and final.

Come my children,
Come my boys and girls, my women, household and intimates,
Now the performer launches his nerve, he has pass’d his prelude on the reeds
Easily written loose-finger’d chords—I feel the thrum of your climax and close.

My head slues round on my neck,
Music rolls, but not from the organ,
Folks are around me, but they are no household of mine.

Ever the hard unsunk ground,
Ever the eaters and drinkers, ever the upward and downward sun, ever the air
and the ceaseless tides,
Ever myself and my neighbors, refreshing, wicked, real,
Ever the old inexplicable query, ever that thorn’d thumb, that breath of itches
and thirsts,
Ever the vexer’s hoot! hoot! till we find where the sly one hides and bring him
Ever love, ever the sobbing liquid of life,
Ever the bandage under the chin, ever the trestles of death.

In the last part, there are many instances of anaphora of a word: ever.Next step in understanding the figure of speech is answering the question: why the poet uses this particular tool? One of the answers may be that 'ever' unites all these ideas and unites all people.

15 Jan 2015

Physical metaphors

Parts of a metaphor
The metaphor comes in two main parts: a tenor and a vehicle.
The tenor is a subject of a metaphor and a vehicle is a concept giving the tenor another dimension.
Tenor and its vehicle are connected by a connecting word, mainly by a verb 'to be'.

She is a rock.
Tenor - she
Vehicle - rock
A connecting word - is
Dimension - concept, idea, characteristics of the rock (strong, stable, fundament etc)

Physical metaphors

Metaphors and things


Making the concept concrete.
She was looking for true love.  (We cannot really see love, we feel it.)
He grasped the idea. (Again, the idea is something abstract, it may be understood, but not really grasped.)


When a concept is given the human characteristics. 
Justice is blind.
His energy was burning
His frustration ate him. 


When an object serves as a whole or the whole as an object.
She is the brain in the office. (She is the most intelligent, not only her brain.)
I like football. (not just a ball but the sport, the league ..)
It's the police! (when a single policeman comes)
I drive a Mercedes. (only one car branded that name)

13 Dec 2014

Creating metaphors

A language figurative tool giving the object the additional characteristics, often used to reveal hidden features, feelings or emotions. Through a metaphor, an author shows us an object by depicting it and using a connection with something which is not, at first glance, similar. Metaphor is the art of poetry and writing, but also the part of everyday speech, and most of the idioms are metaphors. When a metaphor is used too often that the hidden message is lost, then it is called a dead metaphor and it is advisable not to use it in writing.

It is raining cats and dogs. Idiom and a dead metaphor.
The tv set in this room is an old dinosaur. Easy metaphor.
My soul was a lampless sea and she was the tempest. Hard metaphor.

Extended metaphor: when one idea is used in different perspectives or characteristics in a paragraph, the whole scene or a chapter.
My soul was a lampless sea and she was the tempest. Stormless days were rare, but we loved our boat

Mixed metaphor: when two different ideas are connected to one object creating rather comic effect - avoid it by all costs.
She is a rock in the hot water
She is an iceberg in the hot water.  

Creating metaphors is not an easy task and requires good knowledge of a language: rich vocabulary and grammar, as well as creativity and hard work.

The easiest way to create a metaphor is to remember that we need to link two objects or two ideas, and, therefore, compare them in a not obvious way; furthermore, we do not use connectors: as or like.

She was happy. // She felt like a twinkling star on the midnight firmament at Christmas. This is a simile, easier to create.

She was a twinkling star ion the black firmament, a Christmas star sparkling brightly during the whole year.

Worn out elbows on his work shirt, George has done twelve years of donkey work, toiling for the same factory six days a week, ten hours a day.

George felt as worn out as the elbows on his work shirt.

Katie, a wilting flower in the desert, was longing for the rest of the cooling night in the comfort of her bed.

Katie was longing for the rest of the cooling night in the comfort of her bed, a wilting flower in the basket on the street.

Kate's body was a lifeless desert tired of the ruthless sun and endless customers, dreaming of the cooling night at her own, comfortable bed.

While creating a metaphor, we need to see a picture and show it to the reader, not just describe a scene. Using the convoluted adjectives or adverbs will not help to convey the feelings. Simple way is better and the best teachers are books, which we should read twice, once for the action and then for the understanding how the author used the language and why.

11 Dec 2014

The premise of a novel based on the blurb

The blurb is what we usually may find on the back cover of a book, the short text informing the reader what is the book about and at the same time - trying to attract her or him, to grab their attention so that they will want to buy it.

There are other types of blurb - all are more or less just marketing texts trying to sell goods. Personally, I prefer a blurb depicting enough about the settings and the plot of a book to know what a book is about, what I may expect, but without disclosing too many details.

Too long a blurb with too many details puts me rather off the book, unless it is really a wonderful piece of writing. Another thing, alarming my suspicious, is the usage of too many super adjectives or adverbs, such as 'graspingly chilling' or 'splendidly crafted'.

The most tragic (sic!) outcome is when a literary critic writes a blurb: please try to read 'The list of the best sellers of 2014' in the New York Time and in the Independent. English is not my first language, but I am quite sure that the over convoluted style of writing books reviews in the Independent will not contribute to the frenzy of Christmas shopping in the bookstores.

Now, about the premise of a novel: it is a sentence (at best) defining it. Do not confuse a theme or themes of a novel with its premise. Theme is usually a boarder term whereas the premise narrows to the actions, events happening in a novel. A good blurb gives us the premise or foretaste of it.

For a reader, it is a wonderful exercise, employing your language skills: try to write the premise of a book you have recently read. And try to limit yourself to twenty words. Here my own work: the premise of Susan Hill's 'The woman in black'.

Arthur, as an old man, writes a diary; he paints the remote and haunted place, at which he attended the funeral of late Mrs. Drablow to faced the most traumatic events of his life.

7 Dec 2014

Noun clauses

A noun clause is a subordinate clause that acts as a noun or pronoun and answers a question who or what. A noun clause can be introduced by either a subordinating conjunction or a relative pronoun. Sometimes the relative pronoun is dropped.

Noun clause as a subject
What I think is none of your business.
Whatever you want to do after lunch is fine with me.

Noun clause as a direct object
Peter asked if he could borrow a car.
It is not absolutely sure whether he takes part in a competition or not.

Noun clause as an indirect object
Peter promised an award whoever finds his missing cat.
Jane sent a kiss that man in a front row.

Noun clause as a predicate nominative
Love is all what people need.
The good thing was that they did not have to do it again.

Noun clause as an object of a preposition
I am interested in what we are going to do with it.
He wrote a book about what he had found during his trips.

Noun clause as an object complement
They named him whatever they call the president in that country.

I think that the grammar jargon is not as important as the ability to create proper sentences using the pattern shown above.

Noun clause used as an object is very common in academic writing and I am going to show a few common forms of the usage of a noun clause in academic writing.

Reported speech after verbs: say, state, report, claim, argue.

He said that he wanted to give up smoking.
He told me that he wanted to give up smoking.

In both cases the red part is a direct object, me - indirect object or recipient.

Peter told me that although he loved the language, he hated working on grammar.

Sentences with such verbs, like: prove, show, mean, demonstrate.
This shows that the public investment in certain goods can benefit the whole society.
These data demonstrate that while some cases of cheating are intentional, the great majority arise from a lack of understanding.

Other common sentences beginning with: It is plus + adjective/passive voice + that + noun clause.
It is believed that the Earth is a planet.
It is widely understood that...noun clause.
It is clear/unclear that /why... noun clause.

He does not know why she left so early.
It is not clear whether or not punishment is the best way to deter plagiarism in papers.

Results from a study questioned whether treatment with the drug really improved survival.
(Cambridge dictionary)