View Full Version : Common Forms of Poetry Described in Detail

May 13th, 2014, 02:06 AM
ABC - a form where every word begins with a successive alphabet letter. Not to be confused with an abecedarian poem (see below)

Abecedarian - a form where each line begins with a successive alphabet letter.

Acrostic - a poem where the initial letters of the lines form meaningful words as as sort of "hidden message".

Ballad - a poem that tells a story.

Ballade - a four-stanza form, the first three stanzas are of eight lines each. These stanzas maintain a consistent meter and rhyme scheme with the last line of each being a refrain. The fourth and final stanza is four lines and is usually addressed to a prince.

Blank Verse - a poem with consistent meter patterns but no rhyme.

Cinquain - a syllable-count poem with a pattern of 2-4-6-8-2 syllables per line.

Clerihew - a whimsical and short biographical poem with four lines of unequal length. The first line is the subject's name. These are not intended to be satirical, obscene or abusive. Usually rhymed.

Concrete - a poem in the shape of its subject.

Epigram - a short, ironic and witty poem, generally written as a couplet or quatrain.

Etheree - a syllable count poem of ten lines where each line has it's number of syllables, the first line, one; the second, two; etc.

Haibun - a Japanese form pioneered by Basho, a haibun is prose followed by a haiku.

Haiku - 5-7-5 syllable pattern, about nature. Haiku are associated with a season by the inclusion of a "kigo" or season-word. Also, traditionally the third line is a break from the first two similar to a "volta" in a sonnet.

Heroic Couplets - a poem composed of couplets of rhyming iambic pentameter.

Italian Sonnet - (see "sonnet") A sonnet with two stanzas the first rhymed abbaabba and the second either cdcdcd or cdecde.

Kyrielle - rhyming couplets or quatrains where the last line of each stanza is a refrain asking for God's mercy.

Lanterne - a syllable count poem. The lines are 1-2-3-4-1 syllables. Usually a sentence or complete thought.

Limerick - five line poem, often humorous or bawdy. Lines 1, 2 and 5 have between seven and ten syllables (three metric feet) and rhyme with each other. Lines 3 and 4 have five to seven syllables (two metrical feet) and rhyme. The rhyme scheme is aabba.

Lune - an English variant of haiku having either a 3-5-3 or 5-3-5 syllable pattern.

Name - an acrostic poem about what the acrostic spells.

Ninette - a syllable count form, the lines have 1-2-3-4-5-4-3-2-1 syllables.

Nonet - a nine-line poem where the first line has nine syllables and each line has one fewer syllable, thus 9-8-7-6-5-4-3-2-1 syllables.

Ottava Rima - eight iambic lines, usually iambic pentameter. The rhyme pattern is abababcc.

Pantoum - a series of quatrains where the second and fourth lines of one stanza are repeated as the first and third lines of the next. The last stanza is comprised as follows: the second line of the penultimate stanza, the third line of the first stanza, the fourth line of the penultimate stanza and the opening line of the poem.

Prose Poetry - poetry written in a prose form.

Senryu - a Japanese form of 5-7-5 syllables, it is similar to a haiku but is about humans or human nature and is often dark or satirical, whereas haiku are serious.

Sestina - consists of six, six-line stanzas and a three-line stanza. The end-words of the first stanza are the endwords of the other six-line stanzas, only used in a different order in each one. The three line stanz incorporates all six end-words. The established pattern of repetition for the six stanzas is as follows: 1 ABCDEF, 2 FAEBDC, 3 CFDABE, 4 ECBFAD, 5 DEACFB, 6 BDFECA.

Shakespearean Sonnet - (see sonnet) a sonnet of three quatrains and a couplet, with the volta coming at the third quatrain or the couplet.

Shape Poetry - a poem where the words form a shape that is not the subject of the poem (see "concrete" for poetry that is the shape of its subject).

Sonnet - 14 line poem using a consistent meter and a standard rhyme scheme. There are two main variants, Italian and Shakespearean. The sonnet usually has a "volta" or "turn" in it; in the Italian form coming between the octet and the sestet and in Shakespearean, coming at either the third stanza or closing couplet.

Tanka - a Japanese form of 31 syllables arranged 5-7-5-7-7.

Terza Rima - a set of interlinked tercets. The rhyme pattern is aba bcb cdc ... yzy z (z).

Terzanelle - a nineteen line combination of terza rima and villanelle, containing 5 triplets and a quatrain.

Triolet - a French form using rhyme and repeated lines. The scheme is ABaAabAB where A and B are repeated lines and a and b are rhymed with A and B. WF Example: New World (http://www.writingforums.com/threads/157645-New-World).

Villanelle - a 19-line poem of five tercets and a quatrain with two end-rhymes and some lines repeated. The first and third lines of the first tercet alternate as refrain lines for the remaining tercets and are the two closing lines of the quatrain.

September 1st, 2014, 12:08 AM
I love the two quotes Knowledge comes, but wisdom lingers and mistakes are the portals of discovery. I have attempted to learn about poetry for 11 years and have been writing since age 14. It's a challenge but the mastery of a craft requires hard work and dedication and learning the foundational pieces and fundamentals. Thank you for providing this information. Blank verse and prose poetry have been my favorites. It gets hard and trying attempting to gain a grasp of the different aspects but thank you for the help!!!!

E. Zamora
September 1st, 2014, 04:40 PM
Check out The Ode Less Traveled, by Stephen Fry. A really fun and witty book, with explanations of the technical jargon and various forms, including exercises. I think it's a worthwhile read for any aspiring poet.

September 2nd, 2014, 12:19 AM
Esteban--I want to check that out also, Thanks! Peace...Jul