Term: Kenning

A kenning is a much-compressed form of metaphor, originally used in Anglo-Saxon and Norse poetry. In a kenning, an object is described in a two-word phrase, such as 'whale-road' for 'sea'. Some kennings can be more obscure than others, and then grow close to being a riddle. Judith Nicholls' 'Bluebottle' uses kennings as part of a larger poem, that is itself a riddle; Andrew Fusek Peters and Polly Peters go further, building a pair of poems both consisting entirely of kennings.

How to use this term

The 'word-fisher' in Kevin Crossley-Holland's 'Beachcomber' is a kenning for a poet; the title itself may once have been a kenning, although it has now ceased to be one, as it is so established a word that its metaphorical weight has been lost.

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Daljit Nagra

From time to time a poet is in residence at the Poetry Archive, talking about poetry with anyone who wants to join in the conversation.

Comic Verse

I'm troubled, as you can tell by my introduction, about comic verse. Comic verse gets bad press because rigid notions of comedy foreground throwaway poems. Surely the best comedy is when the poem surprises us into laughter rather than setting up t... >