A simple assonance definition is that is a poetic device often used to create rhythm and emphasize certain sounds in free verse poetry. It is the repetition of vowel sounds within words that appear close together in a line or sentence.

At its simplest level, this technique creates an internal rhyme, which can give a poem more structure and flow than it would otherwise have without assonance.

Assonance is quiet a simple technique, but one which can (as often as not) cause a poem to appear overly naive, or even amateurish compared to other poetic techniques.

What Is Assonance?

Assonance is the repetition of a vowel sound within words that appear close together in a line or sentence. The words don’t necessarily have to rhyme; they just need to contain the same vowel sound somewhere near each other. For example, the line “She sells seashells by the seashore” contains an assonance of the short e sound in each word, in addition to the sibilance of the “s” sound.

This technique can be used to create pleasing sounds and rhythms within a poem, often when rhyming words would be too obvious or awkward. When we expand that to consider free verse poetry, where there isn’t a rigid structure or pattern of rhyme to follow, it can be an effective way to improve the musicality of a line.

Assonance also adds emphasis to certain words within a poem, as it draws attention to the sounds associated with them. This can be used as a tool for a poet to direct their readers towards specific areas of content within their work.

What Are The Rules Of Assonance?

The rules of assonance are quite simple, as the repeated vowel sounds are all that’s required. However, when it comes to free verse poetry, there can be additional considerations.

When using this technique in free verse poetry, it’s important to consider how assonance will interact with other poetic techniques employed within the piece. For example, a poet may use assonance to accentuate certain words in a sentence or line, but if those words are also part of an alliteration pattern, then the assonance could be muted by the presence of that other technique.

It’s also important to consider how many vowel sounds you have in a line or sentence. Too many vowel sounds can make a poem sound overly simplistic, and detract from the overall flow of the piece.

When used correctly, however, assonance can be an effective tool for enhancing free verse (and even other forms of) poetry.

How Do You Identify Assonance?

Assonance is extremely easy to identify. All you need to do is look for words that contain the same (or similar) vowel sounds, adjacent to each other in a sentence or line.

Once you’ve identified the repeating vowel sounds, it’s important to then consider how those words interact with any other poetic techniques used in your poem; this will help ensure that the assonance is effective and does not detract from any other elements.

What Kinds Of Vowel Sound Can Be Used In Assonance?

While you can technically use any vowel sound to create an assonance literary device, it’s important to understand how the variations within these poetic devices can impact the meaning, flow and rhythm.

For example, using long vowel sounds, such as an “o” sound in a sentence can create a peaceful and calming effect. Whereas repeating the short “u” sound can give the sentence or line an upbeat feeling, or even a sense of aggression when paired with sharp consonant sounds.

It is important to consider these subtle nuances when choosing the language of your poem. In poetic and prose literature, assonance has been used with short vowel sounds, longer vowels and a range of other literary devices to create the desired effect and tone.

Can The Same Vowel Sound Assonance Be Used In The Same Word?

While assonance is usually used across multiple words, it can technically be used within a single word.

A word can contain two (or more) instances of the same vowel sound in different syllables if they are close together.

For example, the word “boot” technically contains two short “o” sounds, making it an example of assonance.

A more suitable example might be the word “tender”, which contains two e’s, both of which make the same “eh” sound.

One of the great things about English language poetry and prose is that, due to its complexity, there are multiple ways for a poet or writer to create an assonance effect. Whether it be across words, within one word, or even through the use of homophones (words that sound the same but have different spelling/meaning), assonance is an effective tool in free verse poetry and more structured poetic forms.

What Is The Effect Of Using Assonance In Poetry?

When used correctly, assonance can add subtlety and emotion to a piece of poetry. It can be used to accentuate certain words; to create rhythm and flow.

However, one of the greatest difference assonance makes to a line is how it can be used to use flow to change the emotion of a piece. For example, short words, with a sharp consonant sound, paired with fast assonance can naturally speed up a line, and gives you the ability to infuse your lines with anger.

Similarly, by choose “eh” or “oo” sounds, you can infuse your lines with slower pacing, and a little more piece.

Why Do Poets Use Assonance Vowel Sounds?

The use of assonance in poetry is a beautiful way to add layers of emotion and meaning into your pieces. It’s also an effective tool for controlling the pace and rhythm of a poem, which can be especially useful when writing free verse.

By repeating vowel sounds across words (or even within one word), you can create an effect that has a lasting impact on your reader. Whether it be to draw attention to certain words, or to evoke a certain emotion from the poem; assonance can be an incredibly effective tool in poetry.

What Is The Effect Of Using Assonance In Prose?

Assonance in prose has the same impact as in poetry – however, it is rarely given the focus that poetic lines possess. In fact, you’re more likely to find deliberate assonance in speech writing or song lyrics rather than prose or everyday speech.

What Is The Difference Between Assonance & Consonance?

Assonance is a literary device that uses the repetition of similar vowel sounds to create an effect or rhythm. For example, a line like “She sells sea shells by the seashore” contains assonance, as it repeats the ‘e’ sound throughout.

Consonance, on the other hand, focuses on repeating consonant sounds. For example, “The lead seal was sealed in the field” has a repeating ‘d’ and ‘l’ sound that gives it a quieter, more subtle feel than assonance.

Ultimately, both assonance and consonance are effective tools for creating emphasis on certain words or creating a rhythm in your writing. It is important that, whether you’re writing in free verse poetry, haiku or another form of structured poetry, that you consider the impact of both your consonant and vowel sound choices.

What Is The Difference Between Assonance & Alliteration?

Assonance is a form of alliteration, which is the repetition of a particular sound within nearby words. Alliteration can include both consonant and vowel sounds, whereas assonance only focuses on the repeating of similar vowel sounds.

For example, “The black bear barks at the babbling brook” is an example of alliteration, because it contains both the repeated ‘b’ sound and the repeated ‘a’ vowel sound.

It’s important to note that while alliteration can consist of both consonant and vowel sounds, assonance only contains repeating vowel sounds.

What Are The Different Types Of Alliteration?

There are arguable three main types of alliteration:

  • Consonance – the repetition of consonant sounds
  • Assonance – the repetition of vowel sounds
  • Slant rhyme – the repetition of consonant sounds that don’t match exactly, but are close enough to be perceived as similar. Some poets don’t consider slant a form of alliteration, but as it works to create a similar impact, we’ll overlook that for the moment.

By understanding the differences between these three types of alliteration, and using them effectively in your poetry writing, you can truly master the art of the poetic device.

What Is An Example of Assonance?

One of the most well known examples of assonance is in Robert Frost’s poem, “Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening”.

In this poem, Frost makes use of both assonance and alliteration to create an atmosphere of peacefulness:

“The woods are lovely, dark and deep / But I have promises to keep, and miles to go before I sleep.”

The repetition of the ‘ee’ and ‘eep’ sounds plays its role in the rhythm and pacing of the two lines, helping to create a soothing, relaxed pace.

Poe was also a poet who relied heavily on assonance in his poems, often creating a haunting atmosphere with its use. The following lines from his poem “The Raven” are a perfect example of this:

“Once upon a midnight dr ea ry, while I pond ered, weak and w ea ry”.

While it isn’t necessarily the first thing you consider in Poe’s work, his use of alliteration is some of the best in English language poetry.

Who Are Some Other Poets Who Often Used Assonance?

William Blake is a poet who often employed assonance in his poems. His poem “The Tyger” contains some memorable lines that use both alliteration and assonance to great effect:

“What immortal hand or eye/Could frame thy fearful symmetry?”

Blake also used the device of assonance in his poem “The Lamb”.

Emily Dickinson is another poet who used assonance to great effect. In her poem “Because I Could Not Stop for Death”, she employs the repeating ‘e’ sound throughout:

“We slowly drove, he knew no haste/And I had put away my grief.”

Dickinson’s use of assonance helps to add a dreamlike quality to her poem, creating an atmosphere of surreal eeriness.

By understanding how assonance can be used in poetry, and by exploring the different ways that alliteration can be employed, poets can truly master the craft of writing with sound.

Assonance In Free Verse Poetry Examples:

A few examples of assonance in poetry include:

  • Robert Frost’s poem “Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening
  • Edgar Allen Poe’s poem “The Raven
  • William Blake’s poem “The Tyger
  • William Blake’s poem “The Lamb
  • Emily Dickinson’s poem “Because I Could Not Stop for Death

Assonance is a wide-spread poetic device, so creating an exhaustive list is practically impossible. My advice would be, aside from these few common examples, go find some examples of your own, and really listen to how they impact your reading of the lines.

J.W. Carey
Latest posts by J.W. Carey (see all)