11 Types of Poetry to Know, With Examples

From The Grammarly Blog:

Poetry is a broad literary category that covers a variety of writing, including bawdy limericks, unforgettable song lyrics, and even the sentimental couplets inside greeting cards. Some kinds of poetry have few rules, while others have a rigid structure. That can make poetry feel hard to define, but the variety is also what makes it enjoyable. Through poetry, writers can express themselves in ways they can’t always through prose.

There are more than 150 types of poetry from cultures all over the world. Here, we’ll look at some of the key types of poetry to know, explain how they’re structured, and give plenty of examples.

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Key poetry terms

To better understand the differences between types of poetry, it’s important to know the following poetry terms:

Rhyme: Repeated sounds in two or more words. Usually, rhyming sounds are at the ends of words, but this is not always the case. A poem’s rhyme scheme is the pattern its rhymes follow.

Meter: A poem’s meter is its rhythmic structure. The number of syllables in a line and their emphasis compose a poem’s meter.

Form: The overall structure of a poem is known as its form. A poem’s form can determine its meter and rhyme scheme.

Stanza: A stanza is a section of a poem. Think of it like a verse in a song or a paragraph in an essay. Stanzas compose a poem’s form. In a poem, the stanzas can all fit the same meter, or they can vary.

Not all poems have a rhyme scheme, a form, or a meter. A poem might have one or two of these, or it could have all three. Many types of poetry are defined by a specific form, rhyme scheme, or meter. When you set out to write a poem, think about which form—if any—best suits your subject matter. Generally, poetic forms don’t include rules for using punctuation, such as periods and quotation marks, so you have some wiggle room with these.

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11 types of poems to know

1 Acrostic

You might remember writing acrostic poems in elementary school. In an acrostic poem, the lines are arranged so the first letter in each line helps to spell out a word. Here’s an example:

Perfect tool for writing on the fly Evolution from quills to fountains, ballpoints to rollerballs No touchscreen or keyboard can replicate the satisfaction of writing by hand

The lines in an acrostic poem can be full lines or single words. There is no required meter or rhyme scheme for acrostic poems; the only requirement is to form a word using the first letter of each line.

2 Ballad

There’s a reason so many songs are also called ballads—ballads are narrative poems characterized by their melodious rhyme scheme. A ballad can be any length, but it must be a series of rhyming quatrains. These quatrains, four-line stanzas, can follow any rhyme scheme. Commonly, the quatrains in a ballad follow an ABCB pattern, like this quatrain from Samuel Taylor Coleridge’s “The Rime of the Ancient Mariner”:

And through the drifts the snowy clifts 
Did send a dismal sheen 
Nor shapes of men nor beasts we ken— 
The ice was all between

An ABCB rhyme scheme refers to the order of the repeated sounds at the end of each line. Here’s a quick example:

A: I write every day B: Someday, I’ll finish my book C: But sometimes I get so immersed B: That I forget to cook!

ABCB isn’t the only acceptable rhyme scheme for ballads. Some follow an ABAB scheme, which means the first and third lines rhyme, and the second and fourth lines rhyme. Whichever rhyme scheme a ballad follows, the rhyme and meter give the poem a feeling of musicality.

3 Elegy

Unlike our previous entries, there are no length or form rules for elegies. However, there is a content requirement: Elegies are about death.

Generally, elegies are reflective and written to mourn an individual or group. They also frequently end with lines about hope and redemption. Elegies originated in ancient Greece, and over time, they morphed into the mourning poems we know them as today.

“Dirge Without Music” by Edna St. Vincent Millay is a well-known elegy. Take a look at this excerpt:

I am not resigned to the shutting away of loving hearts in the hard ground. So it is, and so it will be, for so it has been, time out of mind: Into the darkness they go, the wise and the lovely. Crowned With lilies and with laurel they go; but I am not resigned.

4 Epic

There’s a reason the adjective epic refers to things that are huge, complex, and/or over-the-top: Epics are long, detailed poems that tell fantastical stories of larger-than-life characters. These stories can be fictional, historical, or historical with a generous helping of fiction and drama to heighten the emotion.

Epics have a long history. In fact, The Epic of Gilgamesh, considered by many to be the oldest surviving piece of literature, is an epic poem. Here is a snippet from the epic’s more than 2,000 words:

When the gods created Gilgamesh they gave him a perfect body. Shamash the glorious sun endowed him with beauty, Adad the god of the storm endowed him with courage, the great gods made his beauty perfect, surpassing all others, terrifying like a great wild bull. Two thirds they made him god and one third man.

5 Free verse

Free verse poetry explicitly does away with a consistent rhyme scheme and meter. A free verse poem can be long or short, and it can cover any subject matter—as long as it doesn’t have a consistent rhyme scheme or meter, it’s a free verse poem!

“Autumn” by T.E. Hulme is example of a short free verse poem:

A touch of cold in the Autumn night— I walked abroad, 
And saw the ruddy moon lean over a hedge Like a red-faced farmer. 
I did not stop to speak, but nodded, 
And round about were the wistful stars With white faces like town children.

Free verse vs. blank verse

While their names are similar, free verse poetry is quite different from blank verse poetry. Blank verse poetry is poetry with a specific meter, but no rhyme scheme. Although many blank verse poems are written in iambic pentameter, this is not a requirement. The only requirements for blank verse poetry are that the poem not rhyme and that it adheres to a consistent meter.

Link to the rest at The Grammarly Blog