Poetry: verse forms, meter, etc.

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Last updated: December 13, 2019

Iamb
unstressed, stressed

Anapest
two unstressed syllables followed by a stressed syllable.

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Dactyl
stressed syllable followed by two unstressed syllables

Trochee
stressed, unstressed

Spondee
stressed, stressed

Pyrrhic
unstressed, unstressed

Pentameter
five feet

Tetrameter
four feet

Trimeter
three feet

Italian Sonnet
A poem of 14 lines split into two stanzas. The first stanza is an octave with a rhyme scheme of abbaabba and the second stanza is a sestet of varied rhyme.

Shakespearean Sonnet
A poem of 14 lines consisting of 3 quatrains and a couplet with a rhyme scheme of abab cdcd efef gg written in iambic pentameter

Spenserian Sonnet
14 line stanza of iambic pentameter ababbcbc cdcdee

Terza Rima
Tercets with interlocking rhyme scheme: aba bcb cdc.

..

Couplet
Two rhyming lines

Rhyme Royal
ababbcc

Sestina
6 stanzas of 6 lines each with a 3 line envoy. The end words of each line in the first stanza repeat throughout the poem in a different order at the end of each line in the following stanzas. The envoy requires the words from lines 1, 3, and 5 at the end, with words 2, 4, and 6, included somewhere in the 3 lines.

Ballade
abcb where the lines alternate between iambic tetrameter and trimeter. Octosyllabic, with 28 lines

Nonce Forms
Poems that do not conform to one kind of verse form.

(AKA: You heard it here, first!)

Limerick
5 lines–primarily used for children’s poetry

Volta
the turn in a line of poetry. In a Shakespearean sonnet, the volta appears in the final couplet; in an Italian sonnet, the volta appears at the start of the sestet.

Curtal Sonnet
First 10 lines iambic ends with a single spondee

Villanelle
5 tercets where the first and third line in the first stanza alternate as the final line in the following four. (See: Do Not Go Gentle Into That Good Night)

Quatrain
Stanza made up of four lines

Tercet
Stanza made up of three lines

Spenserian Stanza
8 lines in iambic pentameter and 1 in Alexandrine (aka hexameter) ababbcbcc

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