Poetic Devices in Song Lyrics 

There is an intrinsic connection between poetry and songwriting. Today, we’ll examine poetic devices in song lyrics. Whether you’re a poet dabbling in songwriting (or the other way around) we hope to open your eyes to the versatility and essential role that poetry plays in different artistic mediums. 

Why Are Poetic Devices Used in Songwriting? 

Poetic devices are figures of speech that can be used in songwriting to make lyrics more interesting, metaphorical, symbolic, and captivating to listeners.  

Whether you read a lot of poetry or enjoy listening to music, chances are you recognize how clever lines of words can elicit a more emotional connection to a piece of art (or song).   

Want to dive in more? Explore our glossary of poetic devices.

Poetic Devices in Songs (with Examples) 


An allegory is a poetic device that translates a larger meaning or lesson into a simple story that can be easily understood. 

Total Eclipse of The Heart is a song full of allegory (yes, it’s about vampires!) Composer Jim Steinman wrote this song originally for a vampire musical. Let’s look at the lyrics: 

Your love is like a shadow on me all of the time (All of the time)

I don’t know what to do and I’m always in the dark

We’re living in a powder keg and giving off sparks

I really need you tonight

Forever’s gonna start tonight

Forever’s gonna start tonight 

always in the dark: vampires come out at night 

forevers gonna start tonight: the narrator is possibly hoping to turn into a vampire 


Allusion is a poetic device that references or suggests something without it being said explicitly. The song Kryptonite by the band 3 Doors Down is full of allusions referring to the lore of Superman.  

The lyrics read: 

I watched the world float to the dark side of the moon

After all, I knew, it had to be something to do with you

If I go crazy, then will you still call me Superman?

If I’m alive and well, will you be there and holding my hand?

I’ll keep you by my side with my superhuman might


In this song, the narrator is comparing their object of affection to Kryptonite, which is the mineral that incapacitates Superman. This allusion is meant to suggest the weakness the narrator has when this person is around. 


Anaphoria is a poetic device that refers to the use of repetitive phrases in a poem. Anaphoria can be observed in sonnets and other multiple-line poems and often in free verse poetry as well.  

In the song Firework, by Katy Perry, anaphoria is used in the opening verse, reading: 

Do you ever feel, feel so paper-thin

Like a house of cards, one blow from caving in?

Do you ever feel already buried deep

Six feet under screams but no one seems to hear a thing

Do you know that there’s still a chance for you

‘Cause there’s a spark in you? 

In this instance, the repetition of Do you helps to build tension and allows the song to connect with listeners. 


Antithesis is a poetic device that sets two opposing feelings, ideas, or adjectives against one another. Think of opposites, for example, like hot and cold, summer and winter, smiling and crying. 

In Should I Stay or Should I Go, by The Clash, we see numerous examples of the use of antithesis. 

One day it’s fine and next it’s black

So if you want me off your back

Well, come on and let me know

Should I stay or should I go?

Should I stay or should I go now?

Should I stay or should I go now? 


Imagery is a poetic device that makes songs more life-like. We recommend tapping into sensory language (sight, sound, smell, touch, and taste) to achieve this poetic device in your songs. 

In Let It Go, by Idina Menzel, you’ll see numerous examples of winter imagery. 

The snow glows white on the mountain tonight

Not a footprint to be seen…

The wind is howling like this swirling storm inside

Couldn’t keep it in, heaven knows I’ve tried…

Let it go, let it go

Can’t hold it back anymore. 

Learn more about poetic imagery here.


Personification refers to giving human traits to non-human things. 

In songs, personification can be used to create 3rd-party narrators or make a scene feel more real.

In Closer to Fine by Indigo Girls, we see instances of personification.  

Now the darkness has a hunger that’s insatiable. 

and the lightness has a call that’s hard to hear. 

Above, darkness is hungry, and light calls. These actions bring darkness and lightness to life.  

Other Songs with Poetic Devices

  • Mr. Brightside – The Killers
  • Nobody Puts Baby in the Corner – Fall Out Boy
  • Cardigan – Taylor Swift
  • Bohemian Rhapsody – Queen
  • Love Me In Chapters – Chrissi
  • Mourning – Post Malone
  • Howling – Noah Kahan

We encourage you to revisit some of your favorite songs to see if you can identify any poetic devices in the music you enjoy.

Tips for Using Poetic Devices in Song Lyrics 

What you don’t know, you can’t utilize or master. 

Familiarity with different poetic devices and practice will help you to integrate poetic devices into your song lyrics. Spend some time studying the poetic devices above and seeking out more examples. 

Want to get some practice? 

Choose one of the poetic devices above. Pick one central topic and set a timer for 5 minutes. During those 5 minutes, write as many short lines as you can involving the poetic device and your topic. 

Excited About Poetic Devices?

If you’re still developing your poetic voice, explore our guide to writing poetry for beginners. If you’re ready to share your work with the world, explore our calls for submissions.

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