One of my constant companions is William Harmon and Hugh Holman’s A Handbook to Literature. I can’t imagine writing without it. In fact, I now have about five editions. I just like to browse it for pleasure, highlighting the brief articles that cover just about everything. Never know what I’m going to learn. For instance, pulling the eleventh edition off the shelf and flipping to the E section, two short entries immediately caught my eye:
Echelon: One of a group of lines printed stepwise across and down a page…called en échelon in French.
It gives then an example from William Carlos Williams’ “The Ivy Crown”:
is past. This is
the heart says,
and not even the full of it.
I know this as “stepped poetry” – but the literary term will be useful. And it makes me think of ideas.
Just a little further down the page is the entry for
Echo Verse, “Poetry in which the closing syllables of one line are repeated, as by an echo, in the following line–and usually making up that line–with a different meaning, and thus forming a reply or comment, as in Barnaby Barne’s lines:
Echo! What shall I do to my Nymph when I go to behold her?
Skip down to the ps and we come to:
Peripety (or Peripeteia) – The reverals of fortune for a protagonist–possibly either a fall, as in a tragedy, or a success, as in a comedy. See DRAMATIC STRUCTURE.
Not a page goes by with some useful insight or term, often with a list of readings and cross-reference. I recommend every writer and teacher to own a copy of this indispensable handbook!