Types of Poetry

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Last updated: November 25, 2019

a poem that tells a story; may be short or long, simple or complex

a simple narrative poem imitating the language, form, and spirit of a traditional song, such as Keats’s “La Belle Dame sans Merci”

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a long poem about the adventures of a hero of great historic or legendary importance; the setting is vast and the action may have cosmic significance through the intervention of gods, angels, or demons

a poem expressing the emotions and thoughts of a single speaker (not necessarily the poet); takes many forms, including the dramatic monologue, elegy, haiku, ode, and sonnet. A traditional theme is carpe diem.

Dramatic monologue
a poem in which the speaker addresses a silent audience, revealing a dramatic situation and some aspect of his or her temperament or personality.

a mournful, contemplative lyric poem commemorating someone who is dead (often ending in a consolation), or a serious meditative poem expressing melancholy thoughts

three unrhymed lines of five, seven, and five syllables presenting an intense emotion or vivid image of nature, leading to spiritual insight (style borrowed from the Japanese)

a relatively lengthy lyric poem expressing lofty emotions in a dignified style; characterized by a serious topic, such as truth, art, freedom, justice, or the meaning of life; tone tends to be formal.

a poem extolling the virtues of an ideal place or time

a fixed poem of fourteen lines, usually written in iambic pentameter

Italian or Petrarchan sonnet
Divided into an octave, (abbaabba) and a sestet (cdecde, cdcdcd, or cdccdc). The octave often presents a situation, attitude, or problem that the sestet comments upon or resolves.

English or Shakespearean sonnet
Organized into three quatrains and a couplet, with a typical rhyme scheme of abab cdcd efef gg

a poem or song of or about lovers separating at dawn

A fixed poem consisting of nineteen lines of any length divided into five tercets and a concluding quatrain. The first and third lines of the initial tercet rhyme; these rhymes are repeated in each subsequent tercet (aba) and in the final two lines of the quatrain (abaa). Line 1 appears in its entirety as lines 6, 12, and 18, while line 3 reappears as lines 9, 15, and 19.

A style of 17th Century poetry first by John Dryden and later by Dr.

Samuel Johnson because of the highly intellectual and often abstruse imagery involved. Such poems are not part of a thematic or even a structural school, although there are some common characteristics: argumentative structure , dramatic and colloquial mode of utterance, acute realism, and wit in the form of a parallel between apparently dissimilar things, often drawn from widely varied fields of knowledge

poetry presenting the pleasures of rural life (often that of a shepherd) through idealism rather than realism; common topics include love and seduction; the value of poetry; death and mourning; the corruption of the city or court vs. the “purity” of idealized country life; politics (generally satirical)

poetry designed to teach an ethical, moral, or religious lesson

poetry in which punctuation marks, letters, or words are arranged on a page to form a visual design (for ex: a cross or a bumblebee)

a form of poetry in which the poet reveals very personal, intimate, or sometimes shocking information about himself or herself

a derogatory term used to describe poetry whose subject is trite and whose rhythm and sounds are monotonously heavy-handed

a type of poetry with regular meter (usually iambic pentameter) but no rhyme

terms describing various styles of poetry lacking strict meter and rhyme, but still recognizable as poetry (Walt Whitman and e.e. cummings)

a poem categorized by the pattern of its lines, meter, rhythm, or stanzas. Fixed forms include the sonnet, limerick, sestina, and villanelle

a type of fixed form poetry consisting of thirty-six lines of any length divided into six sestets and a three-line concluding stanza called an envoy.

The six words at the end of the first sestet’s lines must also appear at the ends of the other five sestets, in varying order. These six words must also appear in the envoy, where they often resonate important themes.

a light, humorous poem of five lines with the rhyme scheme aabba; lines 1, 2, and 5 contain three feet, while lines 3 and 4 usually contain two feet.

Subjects range from the silly to the obscene.

a brief, pointed, and witty poem (usually a couplet), making a satiric or humorous point

a serious or humorous inscription on a tomb or tombstone, or verse written on the occasion of a person’s death

(Italian: “turn”) the turn in thought in a sonnet, often indicated by such initial words as but, yet, or and yet. Occurs between the octet and sestet in a Petrarchan sonnet and between the 8th and 9th or 12th and 13th lines of a Shakespearean sonnet

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