What is onomatopoeia and how does it relate to poetry?
The word onomatopoeia (pronounced on-oh-mah-toh-pee-uh) takes it's roots from Ancient Greek and means "to make a name." It is a literary or poetic device using words that mean what they sound like when we say them, like "boom" or "crash". This helps the reader more clearly visualize, or imagine hearing, that sound or action described in the poem. It helps to add dramatic effect in writing prose or poetry. Below are some other common examples:
One great example of the use of onomatopoeia in a poem is seen in "Cynthia in the Snow" by Gwendolyn Brooks, found on https://examples.yourdictionary.com/examples-onomatopoeia-poems.html (6 April 2020).
Gwendolyn Brooks was an American author who wrote during the years of the civil rights movement. As an African-American woman, Brooks experienced many of the trials and tribulations associated with being black during a tumultuous time in the history of the United States.
She often poured these experiences into her poetry, which used sensory language to depict a variety of different ideas, scenarios, and stories. She later became Poet Laureate Consultant for her work.
Brooks' poem "Cynthia in the Snow" uses onomatopoeia to depict a girl's thoughts about the effects of snow:
The loudness in the road.
And laughs away from me.
It laughs a lovely whiteness,
And whitely whirls away,
Still white as milk or shirts,
So beautiful it hurts.
How is the onomatopoeia that Brooks uses in her poem "Cynthia in the Snow" different than the onomatopoeia that might be used when writing a poem about this experience in the snow? Click on the link to watch the short video: