|Poetry Types||Traditional Verse
|Most of what follows (below) applies to Traditional Verse, especially all aspects that constrain or define form, meter, rhyme, or sequence in stanzas, or require patterns of emphasis (stress).|
|Free Verse usually contains crafted, deliberate lines, and can be considered Narrative, Lyric, or Dramatic, but is not constrained by traditions of form, stanza, meter, etc. It often makes use of stresses, phrase repetition, exacting word choice, and a melodic pace, following natural speech/thought, not fixed form.|
|Prose Poems might use line breaks in an original, un-prosaic manner, but is usually written like prose (paragraphs). It can even adhere internally to Stanzaic and Fixed Forms, but without line breaks and/or enforced stresses (thus emulating natural speech).|
|Stream-of-consciousness, narrative, or dramatic monolog; prose poems.|
|Blank||Unrhymed iambic and usually pentameter lines (using 5 beats / 10 stresses). Most common form of English poetry.|
|Epigram||1 to 4 lines of concise, polished observations or "wisdom" statements. No fixed form, but poetic epigram conforms to a metric musicality, always.|
|Haiku||Traditional haiku is 17 syllables (on or morae), in three phrases (lines) of 5, 7, 5. (But even Haiku masters broke the 17 rule.)|
|Heroic Couplet||2 rhyming lines, iambic pentrameter or tetrameter. Rhyme progresses: aabbccdd, etc. Caesura or pause comes after 5th or 6th syllable.|
|Ghazal||Rhymed couplet, with refrains of 5 or more. Each couplet can stand alone but is united in the overall theme of unconditional. 'superior' love—and seperation. Strict rhyme and rythmn, and lines share same meter. Ancient; roots are Arabic/Persian/Urdu; remains a major Indian subcontinent form. Last verse often contains poet's name.||
|Limerick||5 lines with anapestic meter (ta-ta-TUM) and a strict rhyme scheme of aabba. Lines 1, 2, and 5 have 3 feet of 3+ syllables; lines 3 and 4 are 2 feet of 3 syllables (though 3-3-2-2-3 stresses is the essential thing).|
|Pantoum||4 line stanzas (quatrains). No fixed length. Rhyming scheme is abab.
2nd and 4th lines of 1st quatrain is 1st and 3rd of Q2, and so forth with successive quatrains. Final quatrian uses the unrepeated 1st and 3rd lines (Q1) are reversed as 2nd and 4th lines.
|Sestina||6 stanzas of Sestets (6 lines), often followed by
3 line half-stanza (Terset) Iambic, often pentameter; varies.
Usually unrhymed. If rhymed: uses triplets (abcabccefedf),
Line endings (words) are rotated in set patterns.
1st stanza: 123456.
2nd: 615243 (S1's first/last end words).
3rd stanza: 364125, etc.
|14 rhymed lines (iambic, often pentameter).
1 Octave (2 Quatrains) followed by
1 Sestet (2 Tersets).
Rhyme scheme is abbaabba, cdecde
(alt: ababcdcd, cdccdc or efgefg, etc).
|Villanelle||19 rhymed lines. 5 Tercets, then a Quatrain.
No established meter (trimeter, pentameter, etc).
2 refrains and 2 repeating rhymes:
Rhyme is A1bA2 abA1 abA2 abA1 abA2 abA1A2.
The 1st line of 1st stanza is the last line of 2nd and 4th stanzas. The 3rd line of 1st stanza is last line of 3rd and 5th stanzas.
|(see: Types of Stanzas, below)|
|A poem with an arc of story, a plot, a set of characters who undergo transformation according to the tradition of storytelling.|
|Lyric||Lyric poetry is a relatively brief, personal or emotional poem, with a central theme or singular effect, that uses creative imagery, inventive ideas, and musical or dramatic meter. Elegy, Ode, and Ballad are considered "shaping forms" by Strand and Boland, the environments within which the architecture (fixed forms) reside. Tradition makes environments of fixed forms as well, so I group them here as content types.
|Elegy||Historically, Greek elegaic couplets that mourned, commemorated, or exalted persons and events. Any form can be elegiac.|
|Haiku||Haiku is "cutting" (kiru)—the parataxis or pairing of 2 ideas seperated by a kireji ("cutting word"). Call-and-response, change of focus, unexpected twist, deeper meaning, are examples of kireji.|
|Limerick||Often bawdy if not obscene, always humorous or witty. Like haiku it has a singular idea, and pays it off with a punchline or twist.|
|Ode||Formal and heroic, and ode reveres and praises a person, place, object or event. Modern ode traqdition can elevate and celebrate abstractions, like the wind.|
|Pastoral||An evocation of virtuous rural life that predates Rousseau by 2000 years, the Pastoral form re-emerged in the 16 c. as a way to explore class, religion, and pholiosophy|
|Pantoum||From Malayan, via France. No fixed length, unlike most fixed forms. It is considered "slow" in how it gradually introduces new lines, and thus suits looking back, timelessness. Early champions were Hugo and Baudelaire.|
|Sestina||A form derived from troubadour music (12th c.) that has enjoyed many revivals as a popular form, including by modern poets. Understood by many as a form suited to harsh complaint or demands, because of its tight, labyrinthine harmonies|
|Sonnet||Traditionally, each Octave is often a problem/question, and the Sestet is the resolution/answer. Line 9 is the turn (volta).|
|Villanelle||Historically these were pastorals (ital. villanella, rustic song). Modern usage is for obsessions, intense examination or focus which exploits/suits the recurrence in the structure. Villanelles are again a popular form, undergoing innovation since the 1980s|
|Dramatic||Plays||From ancient Greece into the 17th century, plays were stanzaic. Meter and formal lines are preseved in all comedic and dramatic musicals, of course.|
|Monologs||Browning shows in the My Last Duchess (example, right) how inventive and dark he was in his later work, and how forms like the couplet could be pushed to the limit, distorted, without losing veins of poetic meter, and music.|
A poem can qualify under more than one Form and Type. For example, "Howl," a dramatic free verse, has aspects of Lyric and Narrative Content Types.
Some Forms resist certain kinds of Content. A Villanelle, with its recurring, circular use of lines and rhymes, resists narrative, and lends itself to poems about found moments, universal themes, and observed phenomenon or sensation. A Ballad can be Fixed or Stanzaic, Lyric and/or Dramatic.
|Poetic feet in classical metrics|
|Macron and breve notation: ¯ = stressed/long syllable, ˘ = unstressed/short syllable|
|˘||trochee, choree (or choreus)|
|˘||major ionic, double trochee|
|¯||minor ionic, double iamb|
|"The Making of a Poem—A Norton Anthology of Poetic Forms"
Mark Strand and Eavan Boland