Poetry Stanza Definitions

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Last updated: December 6, 2019

stanza
a part of a poem, based on form of meter and rhyme

couplet
a two-line stanza

triplet
a three-line stanza, also called a tercet

quatrain
a four-line stanza

quintet
a five-line stanza, also called a quinquain

sestet
a six-line stanza

septet
a seven-line stanza

octet
an eight-line stanza

ballad
a quatrain alternating iambic tetrameter in lines one and three with iambic trimeter in lines two and four; rhyme scheme is abcb

limerick
a five-line nonsense poem, mostly in anapest, rhyme scheme aabba; lines ones, two, and five have three feet, but lines three and four have only two feet

English/Shakespearean Sonnet
a fourteen-line poem of four stanzas, three quatrains and a couplet; rhyme scheme is abab cdcd efef gg

Italian/Petrarchan Sonnet
a fourteen-line poem of an octave and a sestet; rhyme scheme is abba abba cde cde

Spenserian Sonnet
interlocks the sonnet’s three quatrains’ rhymes, abab bcbc cdcd ee rather than moving to new rhymes in each quatrain

Submerged Sonnet
a sonnet that is concealed within a longer work

rime royal
seven lines of iambic pentameter, rhyme scheme ababbcc

heroic couplets
rhymed couplets of iambic pentameter

terza rima
a special form of triplet; a three-line stanza, usually iambic pentameter, in which the first and third lines of each stanza rhyme, and the middle line becomes the beginning rhyme of the next stanza

villanelle
a poem of nineteen lines: five tercets and a quatrain; only two rhymes; all of the tercets rhyme aba, and the quatrain rhymes abaa, so the poem is aba aba aba aba aba abaa; lines 6, 12, and 18 repeat line 1, and lines 9, 15, and 19 repeat line 3; no specified meter

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