An epigraph is a short quotation which is placed between the poem and its title. I have heard people wonder aloud about why poets do this, and some people even think it is there to show off how erudite the poet is.
In fact, the reason most of them are there is because of the following reasons:
- A way to acknowledge an inspiration or influence
- A way of demonstrating openness about the origin of a particular line
- Showing the reader some of the thinking process behind the poem
- Sharing a pithy quotation which sums up the poem – or in some cases, the whole collection
I’d be interested to hear from other poets their reasons for using epigraphs too, so drop a comment if you can add to my list.
I want to share one of my own poems which has an epigraph, to demonstrate what I mean:
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