Poetry Types Traditional Verse
closed form
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
open form
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 Poem
open 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).
Form Types Continuous
  Stream-of-consciousness, narrative, or dramatic monolog; prose poems. Jack Kerouac
Blank Unrhymed iambic and usually pentameter lines (using 5 beats / 10 stresses). Most common form of English poetry. Wallace Stevens
Epigram 1 to 4 lines of concise, polished observations or "wisdom" statements. No fixed form, but poetic epigram conforms to a metric musicality, always. Stevie Smith
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.) Greg Correll
Heroic Couplet 2 rhyming lines, iambic pentrameter or tetrameter. Rhyme progresses: aabbccdd, etc. Caesura or pause comes after 5th or 6th syllable. Anne Bradstreet
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.

Abigail Carl-Klassen

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). 'Bright'
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.
Stuart Dischell
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.
Elizabeth Bishop


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).
Rupert Brooke
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.
Dylan Thomas
  (see: Types of Stanzas, below)
Content Types Narrative Ballad,
A poem with an arc of story, a plot, a set of characters who undergo transformation according to the tradition of storytelling. 'Gilgamesh'
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. Paul Celan
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. Masaoka Shiki
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. 'Nantucket'
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. Charles Simic
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 Christopher Marlowe
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. 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 A. C. Swinburne
Sonnet Traditionally, each Octave is often a problem/question, and the Sestet is the resolution/answer. Line 9 is the turn (volta). G. M. Hopkins
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 E. A. Robinson
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. Shakespeare
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. Robert Browning   Thomas Wolfe   Alan Ginsberg
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.
Types of Stanzas
Stanzas Stanza or Verse
2 or more lines grouped together (4 lines is common). Lines of the same length are Isometric, different line lengths are Heterometric.
Couplet 2 lines that end in perfect rhyme. The basic unit of English poetry. Fox in socks, our game is done, sir.
Thank you for a lot of fun, sir.
—Dr. Seuss 
Tercet a unit of three lines*   
Quatrain (Quartet) four lines*   
five lines*   
Sestet six lines*   
Septet seven lines*   
Octave eight lines*   
  * with a recurring rhyme scheme   
Reading Lines of Poetry
Lines End-Stopped
the meaning of a line comes to an end "the wine-dark sea a furious cauldron.
they lashed him tight to the mast" 
the meaning continues on to the next line "our marble souls carved
by hands colder than stone" 
Enjambment the running of one line into another line   
The Sounds of Poetry
Rhyme End
the words at the end of the lines rhyme   
two words look as though they sound alike (plough and slough) 
the sound of the two words is exactly alike (faster and master) 
or Slant
the sound of the two words is close but not exact (dale and dell) 
Masculine the accent on the rhyming words is on a final strong syllable (infuse and defuse) 
Feminine the accent on the rhyming words is on a weak syllable (reasonable and disassemble) 
Internal using rhyme in the middle of a line as well as the end "his fear was such that none came near" 
Alliteration Sequences of same-sounding syllables. A constant cacophony of consonants or the repetition of initial identical vowels, in successive or closely places syllables, especially stressed syllables. Alliteration,  mostly consonants, is less persistent than than rhyme, which involves both vowels and consonants. 
  "Rock rings with molten melody, the mute music of metamorphic madness" 
  "Over the old oaken forest
Orpheus sent his mournful ode " 
of sounds
  "The moan of doves in immemorial elms, / And murmuring of innumerable bees."
Assonance The repetition of vowel sounds in a line or phrase. An artful "strew" of same/similar vowel sounds in stressed syllables with otherwise different initial or final consonant sounds. (Rhyme engages both vowels and consonants.) "rail" and "bail" are full rhyme; "rail" and "rate" assonance. 
Consonance Final consonants in the stressed syllables agree but vowels differ. Eye rhymes ("bomb-comb") are often consonance. "glass-stress," "torn-cairn" 
Onomatopoeia Words that “sound” like a noise or audible process; can include words that stongly evoke the sensation of hearing a particular sound
zazz (cicadas), murmur, bark, meow 
The Rhythm of Poetry

Meter measures a line of poetry based on the rhythm of words. Foot is a unit of stressed and unstressed syllables. For example: "The barefoot boy with shoes on" is "bah-BAH bah-BAH bah-BAH bah, or "the BAREfoot BOY with SHOES on." The first three feet are called an iamb or iambic foot (bah-BAH—unstressed syllable, then a stressed one).

Rhythm Rhythm in a poem is based on the sound of words   
Scansion How we analyze a poem with a pattern of accents in each line   
Accent Strong syllable or syllables, what we emphasize with breath and tone   
Strong Accent words with more than 1 syllable have at least one strong accent   
Stressed the emphasized sound(s) in a word   
Weak Accent less- or un-stressed syllables in a word   
Unstressed the unemphasized sound(s) in a word   
Foot one unit of the rhythmic pattern that makes up the meter   
Iamb 1 weak and 1 strong syllable depart 
Iambic Meter rhythm based on the iambic foot   
Trochee 1 strong and 1 weak syllable input 
Trochaic Meter rhythm based on the trochaic foot   
Anapest 2 weak syllables followed by a strong syllable "Twas the night..." 
Anapestic Meter the rhythm based on the anapestic foot   
Dactyl a strong syllable followed by two weak syllables Palentine 
Dactylic Meter the rhythm based on the dactylic foot   
Spondee two strong accents together  fuckall 
Pyrrhus two weak accents together in the (ocean) 
Caesura a break in meter (with a period, colon, semicolon, or comma; can be a line break)   
Anacrusis an unstressed syllable at the beginning of a line
that does not affect the overall meter
"t'the cellar we ran, giddily, trippingly" 
Meter The pattern set up by the regular rhythm of words in a poem. (Derived in part from a chart by H. T. Kirby-Smith).  
Monometer a line of one (1) foot  * /
 / *
 * * /
 / * *
 / * /
Dimeter a line of two (2) feet  * / | * /
Trimeter a line of three (3) feet */|*/|*/
Tetrameter a line of four (4) feet */|*/|*/|*/|
Pentameter a line with five (5) feet */|*/|*/|*/|*/


Hexameter a line with six (6) feet  */|*/|*/|*/|*/|*/
(six feet)
(six feet)
Heptameter a line with seven (7) feet  */|*/|*/|*/|*/|*/|*/
(seven feet)
(seven feet)
Octameter a line with eight (8) feet (eight feet)
(eight feet)
(eight feet)
(eight feet)
Poetic feet in classical metrics
Macron and breve notation: ¯ = stressed/long syllable, ˘ = unstressed/short syllable
˘˘ pyrrhus, dibrach
˘¯ iamb
¯˘ trochee, choree (or choreus)
¯¯ spondee
˘˘˘ tribrach
¯˘˘ dactyl
˘¯˘ amphibrach
˘˘¯ anapest, antidactylus
˘¯¯ bacchius
¯¯˘ antibacchius
¯˘¯ cretic, amphimacer
¯¯¯ molossus
˘˘˘˘ tetrabrach, proceleusmatic
¯˘˘˘ primus paeon
˘¯˘˘ secundus paeon
˘˘¯˘ tertius paeon
˘˘˘¯ quartus paeon
¯¯˘˘ major ionic, double trochee
˘˘¯¯ minor ionic, double iamb
¯˘¯˘ ditrochee
˘¯˘¯ diiamb
¯˘˘¯ choriamb
˘¯¯˘ antispast
˘¯¯¯ first epitrite
¯˘¯¯ second epitrite
¯¯˘¯ third epitrite
¯¯¯˘ fourth epitrite
¯¯¯¯ dispondee



Wikipedia References


See also

External links


  1. Baldick, Chris (2008). The Oxford Dictionary of Literary Terms. New York: Oxford University Press. ISBN 978-0-19-923891-0.
  2. Howatson, M. C., ed. (1976). The Oxford Companion to Classical Literature. New York: Oxford University Press. ISBN 0-19-866121-5.
  3. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Foot_%28prosody%29
  4. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Syllable_weight
  5. http://www.poets.org/poetsorg/collection/poetic-forms
  6. https://www.youngwriters.co.uk/glossary-poetry-types
  7. http://www.poetrysoup.com/poems/continuous
  8. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Poetry_analysis
  9. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Free_verse
  10. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Blank_verse
  11. http://webs.anokaramsey.edu/stankey/Literat/Poetry/Poetry0a.htm (Adapted from Charters/Charters, Literature and Its Writers, Compact Second Edition, Chapters 8-11, and A Handbook to Literature, 9th edition.)
  12. http://ghazalpage.com/64-klassen