A Quick Look at 23 Different Types of Poetry

poetry reading books on a table, tea cup flowers and poetry

No matter what your thoughts on “Instapoetry” are, it seems to have affected the way that society views poetry. Poetry is more than just rhyming words: it’s an expression of feelings and ideas crafted together using style and rhythm. But how many different types of poetry styles are there? Let’s take a look at a few of the different kinds.

Acrostic

Can be written using one word, name, or a phrase. The first letter of each line usually spells out the aforementioned word/name/phrase when read vertically.

Haiku

A style of Japanese poetry, typically about nature. Haikus are usually three lines long, with the first and third lines containing five syllables and the second line containing seven.

Free Verse

The name describes the form: a free verse poem is free of rules and patterns, and typically doesn’t rhyme.

Blackout

Based off a found text, blackout poetry usually begins with a print newspaper. Poets then cross out a majority of the existing text to draw attention to a few select words.

Open Field, or Open Space

This poetry form is distinguishable by the amount of white space it leaves on the page. The intent of each line is as a unit of breath and of utterance. Open field poetry (or open space poetry) are often considered avant-garde.

Ballad

A poem written to tell a story, often about a major event. In the English tradition, ballads are a popular narrative song that’s passed down orally, usually following a form of rhymed (ABCB) quatrains alternating four-stress and three-stress lines.

Ballade

An Old French verse form that usually consists of three eight-line stanzas and a four-line envoy, with a rhyme scheme of ababbcbcbcbc. The last line of the first stanza is repeated at the end of subsequent stanzas and the envoy.

Epic

A long, narrative poem where the heroic protagonist engages in an action of great mythic or historical significance.

Aubade

A love poem or song that welcomes or laments the arrival of dawn.

Canto

A long subsection of an epic or long narrative poem.

Epigram

A pithy, sometimes witty, poem.

Ode

An emotional lyric poem, often about a specific person, place, or object.

Limerick

A humorous five-line poem with an AABBA rhyme scheme.

Found Poem

A prose text or texts reshaped by a poet into quasi-metrical lines. Fragments of found poetry may appear within an original poem as well.

Shape

A poem that describes an object, written in the shape of that object.

Diamante

A poem with seven lines that uses nouns, verbs, and adjectives to contrast two topics.

Elegy

Often a melancholy poem that laments its subject’s death but ends in consolation, from traditional English poetry. The “elegiac stanza,” not exclusive to elegies, is a quatrain with the rhyme scheme ABAB written in iambic pentameter.

Dirge

Typically composed to be performed at a funeral, a dirge is a brief hymn or song of lamentation and grief. It tends to be shorter and less meditative than an elegy in lyric poetry.

Couplet

A pair of successive rhyming lines, usually of the same length. A couplet is “closed” when the lines form a bounded grammatical unit like a sentence. The “heroine couplet” is written in iambic pentameter and features prominently in the work of 17th- and 18th-century didactic and satirical poets.

Doggerel

Bad verse traditional characterized by cliches, clumsiness, and irregular meter; often unintentionally humorous.

Eclogue

A brief, dramatic pastoral poem, set in an idyllic rural place with contrasting subject matter (urban, legal, political, or social issues).

Envoi (or Envoy)

The brief stanza that ends French poetic forms such as the ballade or sestina. It usually serves as a summation or a dedication to a particular person.

Epistle

A letter in verse, usually addressed to a person close to the writer. Its themes may be moral and philosophical, or intimate and sentimental. The epistle peaked in popularity in the 18th century, though Lord Byron and Robert Browning composed several in the next century. Less formal, more conversational versions of the epistle can be found in contemporary lyric poetry.

What’s your favorite type of poetry?

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