Formal Poetry Study Guide

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Last updated: December 12, 2019

Sonnet
14 lines, lyrical, & distinct rhyme scheme

English (Shakespearean) Sonnet
Iambic Pentameter, 3 Quatrains and 1 couplet, ABABCDCDEFEFGG rhyme scheme, the “turn” occurs in the couplet

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Italian (Petrarchan) Sonnet
Iambic. Octave presents a problem and then sestet gives an answer or a way around the problem, so the turn occurs between the two.

Octave- ABBAABBA Sestet- CDECDE, CDCCDC, or CDDCDD rhyme scheme.

Spenserian Sonnet
14 lines, Iambic Pentameter, 3 Quatrains & 1 Couplet. ABABBCBCCDCDEE.

Ballad
Song or songlike poem that tells a story. 2 types- Folk and Literary. Compromised of quatrain stanzas. Follow a ABCB, AABB, or ABAB rhyme scheme. Iambic.

Haiku
3 lines. 17 syllables. Line 1- 5 syllables Line 2- 7 syllables Line 3- 5 syllables.

Often focus on nature

Limerick
A popular form in children verse. 5 lines. AABBA rhyme scheme. Meter tends to be anapestic especially at the end of a line.

Villanelle
19 line prom with 2 repeating rhymes and 2 refrains.

The form is made up of 5 tercets followed by a quatrain. The 1st and 3rd lines of the opening tercet are repeated alternately in the last lines of the succeeding stanzas; then in the final stanza.

Sestina
a fixed verse form consisting of 39 lines or 6 stanzas of 6 lines each followed by a 3 line envoi. Words that end each line of the 1st stanza are used as line endings in each of the following stanzas rotated in a set pattern.

Ottava Rima
Consists of 8 iambic lines, usually iambic pentameters. Each stanza consists of three alternate rhymes and one double rhyme, following the ABABABCC pattern.

Terza Rima
Three line stanza using chain rhyme in the pattern ABA, BCB, CDC, DED.

There is no limit to the number of lines, but poems or sections of poems written in terse rims end with either a single line or couplet repeating the rhyme of the middle line of the final tercet.

Verse
A term that describes form in general. Whether formal or free.

Formal Verse
Poetry written in a particular form that adheres to line length, meter, and rhyme conventions.

Formal Verse Attributes
Line/ Stanza length, Rhyme, Rhythm

Free Verse
Open form poetry that does not adhere to line length, meter, and rhyme connection.

Oral Tradition
Predates literacy in many early cultures. Important info had to be memorized and passed down.

Performative Nature of Early Poetry
Meant to be sung or spoken to others in a specific manner.

The Epic of Gilgamesh
3000 B.C. was written in cuneiform on clay tablets. Earliest poetry. Hero’s journey.

Walt Whitman
A vanguard of the free verse movement, meaning that he was experimenting with the free verse style before it gained traction as a movement.

Leaves of Grass
Written by Walt Whitman. His poetry collection that he spent his entire life writing. Contained over 400 poems.

Verse Libre Movement
19th-century poetic innovation that liberated French poetry from its traditional prosodic rules. In vers libre, the basic metrical unit is the phrase rather than a line of a fixed number of syllables, as was traditional. In vers libre, the lengths of lines may vary according to the sense of the poem, the complete sentence replaces the stanza as a unit of meaning, and rhyme is optional.

Modernist Free Verse Poets
Through T.E. Hulme and F.

S. Flint, knowledge of Verse Libre movement flowed to England and then America. According to T.S. Elliot, this was the “starting point of Modern Poetry.” This inspired Harte Crane, Ezra Pound, T.

S. Elliot, William Carlos Williams, Marianne Moore, Yeats, Auden, and Hughes.

Petrarch
Italian scholar, poet, and humanist whose poems addressed to Laura, an idealized beloved, contributed to the Renaissance flowering of lyric poetry.

William Shakespeare
Famous poet. Wrote sonnets that were unnamed and numbered 1-154.

English sonnet is named after him.

Edmund Spenser
Sonnet writer. Wrote Amoretti which was composed of 88 sonnets.

Literary Ballads
Ballads that are composed and written down by known poets, usually in the style of folk ballads.

Folk Ballads
Ballads that were passed down from generation to generation before they were written.

Samuel Coleridge
19th century poet who helped evolve the ballad into a writer’s sport. Wrote, “The Rime of the Ancient Mariner.”

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