Poetry Facts

Resonance in Poetry: The Art of Empowering Your Poems

Last Updated: November 20, 2022

David Farland, an award-winning, New York Times best-selling author, once confirmed in a writing conference: “One of the most important skills for a writer to master is the proper use of resonance.”

So what is that powerful “resonance” in poetry and in general? And what are some good examples? Let’s read on to learn more about this interesting yet not-so-familiar poetic device!

The definition of the word “resonance”

Being derived from the Latin words “resonantia” – echo and “resonare” – resound, the term “resonance” is commonly used in various aspects of life and arts: physics, music, literature, and so on.

You might have already heard of resonance in physics, which refers to the production of a sound as a result of vibration. Alternatively, you can also discover it in the musical refrain. Every symphony has specific motifs (melodies) being repeated, with or without changes.

In general, the word “resonance” implies something deep, full, and reverberating.

Resonance in poetry

When it comes to resonance in poetry, the same concept of “reverberating” applies.

Have you ever read a new author and realized that his universe is comparable to the ones you’ve previously enjoyed in poetry? Or have you felt as if the author was living the same life as you did? If yes, it was a resonance that you experienced.

In poetry, resonance can be defined as “the power of words or phrases to have an aura of significance and leave a sympathetic excitement on the receivers”.

There are generally 3 types of resonance, according to David Farland, including:

  • Resonance within a Genre
  • Resonance with Life
  • Resonance with Emotional Needs.

Although it goes without saying whether a poem resonates and elicits strong emotions depends on readers’ personal experiences, there are hundreds of ways for a poet to create verses that resonate, for example:

  • Echo others’ famous works
  • Reflect universally shared experiences
  • Create internal resonance
  • Write a bold opening conclusion
  • Drops names
  • Refer to religions
  • Employ aphorisms and epigraphs

That being said, resonance can also be a double-edged sword. Most of the time, poets must tread a fine line between themes that resound and those which have been overdone or adopted to the point that they no longer pique the audience’s interest.

Examples of resonance in poetry

summary. For instance, if the storyline closes with the death of the main character, alluding to such a loss at the very first lines would make it resonate to the audience when reading on.

We can also take the case of “The Wasteland” by T.S. Eliot as an example for resonance:

“April is the cruelest month, breeding
Lilacs out of the dead land, mixing
Memory and desire, stirring
Dull roots with spring rain.”

Those lines depict a picture of the world after World War I. The story then starts from it and is resonant as a result of such a scene.

Another common way of resonance is through name droppings. You can easily find this technique in various poems, for example:

“Would I might rouse the Lincoln in you all,
That which is gendered in the wilderness
From lonely prairies and God’s tenderness.
Imperial soul, star of a weedy stream,
Born where the ghosts of buffaloes still dream,
Whose spirit hoof-beats storm above his grave,
Above that breast of earth and prairie-fire—
Fire that freed the slave.”

(Lincoln, by Vachel Lindsay)

There are also other pieces of poetry that use resonance this way, such as “Abraham Lincoln Walks at Midnight” by Vachel Lindsay, “In Memoriam: Martin Luther King, Jr.” by June Jordan or “Report to Crazy Horse” by William Stafford, etc. These pieces resonate as you are very likely to recognize the ones mentioned, or even have enough connections with that name.

You might also find verses that resonate and evoke deep emotions in a way of reflecting universal experiences. A typical illustration for this is the spoken-word poem “What I Wish Someone Told Me About Having Sex” by Daysha Edewi:

“”I thought I knew everything there was to know about having safe sex.
Always carry a condom, and never, ever get pregnant.”

Or “Friend Zone” by Dylan Garity:

“The first time I ever danced with a girl
she leaned in close and asked me:
why are your arms so stiff?

Dancing with you is like dancing with a mannequin,
if they made mannequins super bony
and with very sweaty palms.

And to be fair, my palms were sweaty
and simultaneously ice cold.
I was, and continue to be, a miracle of physics.”


Resonance is a poetic device that empowers verses as well as evokes strong sentiments among the audience. There are different types and ways to make poems resonate, yet the author must strike a balance between echoing and being in a rut.

More importantly, resonance is personal. One might feel “The Road Not Taken” by Robert Frost relevant and touching, while others don’t. Everyone has their poems to feel resonated, have you come up with your own?

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