Poetics Serendipity: Rhetorical Modes

20 Nov

8:01 a.m. — Atlanta

listening to Joseph’s Dreams sung by Jason Donovan (when my Library is on shuffle, I get an odd mix)

Hello, everyone. There is no way, I can find, to make the following shorter, or snazzier, but rhetoric lies at the heart of what we do, whether poetry or prose. Rhetoric is the art of communicating with an audience which, for us, means communicating with readers using literary  and compositional techniques. There are many modes of rhetorical writing, but the following are the four main ones.

DESCRIPTION is a report of appearances, of how places or persons or objects strike the senses of an observer.

NARRATION is a report of actions, of what people do separately or to each other on a given occasion.

DRAMA (DIALOGUE) is a report of conversation, of people talking back and forth.

REVERIE (REFLECTION, STREAM OF CONSCIOUSNESS) is a report of thoughts and feelings, of what goes on in a particular person’s mind.

The following schemes are adapted by James Penha from Leo Rockas’ thinking and book, Modes of Rhetoric.

The various modes of DESCRIPTION, NARRATION, DIALOGUE, and REVERIE are often separate from each other, but also often mixed. REVERIE–the representation of a character or narrator thinking–tends to dominate the other modes it’s mixed with. Why? Because anything anyone thinks–thinking of the description of a garden once seen, thinking of the narration of an event that once happened, thinking of the dialogue of a conversation once overheard–tends to be subjective. Thus, reverie tends to bind the other modes mixed with the reverie to a particular “point of view.”


TIME comparison of the four modes:
DESCRIPTION: No story time.
NARRATION: Story time >/= reading time.
DIALOGUE:  Story time = reading time.
REVERIE:  Story time < reading time.

 SUBJECT/PRONOUN tendencies of the four modes:
DESCRIPTION: Things/people described as things; it.
NARRATION:  People/things described as people; he/she/they.

VERB & TENSE tendencies of the four modes:
DESCRIPTION: Being verbs in the past or present.
NARRATION:  Active verbs in the past.
DIALOGUE: Verbs of feeling in the present.
REVERIE: Future, hypothetical, or speculative forms of verbs.

TYPICAL FORMULAS of the four modes:
NARRATION:  he ran.
DIALOGUE:  you love.
REVERIE:  I will.
Notice that each mode gets closer to the self.

II.    LITERARY ELEMENTS & MODES.  Each of the four major literary elements tends to correspond to one of the modes:
SETTING is most easily rendered by DESCRIPTION.
PLOT is most easily rendered by NARRATION.
CHARACTER is most easily rendered by DIALOGUE.
THEME is most easily rendered by REVERIE.

REVERIE is subjective.

The point of view is objective when there is no reverie.
The point of view is subjective when there is reverie.
The point of view is omniscient when there is reverie of more than one character.
The point of view is limited when there is the reverie of only one character.
“First-person” point of view almost always results in reverie.
In “third-person” point of view, the character with the reverie is talked about in third-person.


No recognizable genre—save perhaps haiku and list poems—is predominantly DESCRIPTION.
Short stories, novels, epics, and narrative poems are dominated by NARRATIVE.
Plays and dramatic monologues (Browning, Eliot, Tennyson) and dialogue poems (Frost) are dominated by DRAMA.
Lyric poems are dominated by REVERIE.

Whew! We will return to normal links and such Thursday after next. Meanwhile, I shall see you tomorrow for the roundup; Tuesday for an image prompt; and the following Tuesday for a regular poetry prompt. We’ll be dark next Thursday and Friday.

Happy ingesting and writing, all.

What? One link? Okay. If you don’t know about Galley Cat, the site is giving tips specifically for NaNoWriMo, but many apply to the writing of poetry. They are not long and there are several nuggets. I’ll give you the general address for the tips and you can scroll around.

1 Comment

Posted by on 20/11/2014 in writing


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One response to “Poetics Serendipity: Rhetorical Modes

  1. julespaige

    20/11/2014 at 10:55 am

    It is just possible this piece fits in this informative post somewhere…
    For MLM and Red Wolf. I stuffed in two wordle lists plus some additional challenges:


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