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Poetic Forms

Learn about the various poetic forms.
a data set by ms.brown
created June 9, 2017
FormDefinitionRhyme and MeterExample Poem
BalladNarrates a story in short stanzas. Often passed on orally from one generation to the next.Four line stanzas rhyming abcb. First and third lines carry four accented syllables and the second and four carry three.The Lady of Shalott by Alfred, Lord Tennyson
HaikuJapanese poem of three lines that evoke images of nature.17 syllables, three lines of five, seven, and five.Old Pond by Basho
Found PoemFormed by taking words and phrases from other sources and creating poetry from them. A sort of literary collage.No definite form.The Man in the moon by Phil Rizzuto
AnaphoraThe repetition of a word or phrase at the beginning of successes lines or stanzas.No definite form.Some Feel Rain by Joanna Klink
PantoumA poem of interwoven quatrains derived from the Malay form pantun.A set of quatrains in which the second and fourth lines of each stanza are repeated as the first and third of the next. The final quatrain may have new lines as the second and fourth lines, or it may repeat the first and third lines of the first quatrain.Parent's Pantoum by Carolyn Kizer
Dramatic MonologueA speaker addresses a silent listener (not always the reader).No definite form.My Last Duchess by Robert Browning
AbecedarianGuided by alphabetical order, each line or stanza begins with consecutive letters of the alphabet.No definite form.Psalm 118
OdeA formal lyric poem that celebrates a person, place, thing, or idea. Varies by type.Horatian Ode upon Cromwell's Return from Ireland by Andrew Marvell
CinquainDating back to medieval France, poems of this form contain one stanza of five lines.Five lined stanza, with the common rhyme schemes of ababb, abaab, or abccb.The World by George Herbert
Terza RimaThree lined stanzas with an interwoven rhyme scheme.aba bcb cdc rhyme scheme.The Divine Comedy by Dante Alighieri.
Prose PoemWhile not written in verse form or with any rhyme scheme, this form still has poetic elements.Prose.Be Drunk by Charles Baudelaire
EpigramShort and witty poem with a satirical tone.Often a couplet or set of couplets with an aabb rhyme scheme.Fatigued by Hillaire Belloc
PastoralIdealization of rural life, with themes of love and shepherds.No definite form.The Passionate Shepherd to His Love by Christopher Marlowe
SonnetFourteen line poem, traditionally romantic in subject. A turn, or volta, is present between the eighth and ninth lines.Fourteen line poem written in iambic pentameter with a rhyme scheme.Sonnet 130 by William Shakespeare
CentoDerived from the Latin for "patchwork," this is a poetic form that borrows its lines from other sources.No definite form.Ode: Salute to the New York School by Peter Gizzi
ElegyA metrical poem written in response to a death or tragedy. Traditionally written with three stages: lament, praise, and solace.Traditionally written in quatrains with an abab rhyme scheme. Modern form varies.O Captain! My Captain! By Walt Whitman
GhazalThematically focused on love, loss, and longing.Between five and fifteen couplets, where each line must be the same length. Each couplet ends with a repeated refrain.Even the Rain by Agha Shahid Ali
SapphicA unique ode form. By beginning on an accented syllable, the poem is given a sense of urgency.A set of quatrains, the first three lines of each being eleven syllables, with the final line being five syllables. The first three lines follow this meter: trochee, trochee, dactyl, trochee. The last line: dactyl, trochee.The Anactoria Poem by Sappho
TrioletEight lined poem often with a humorous or light theme, but sometimes used as a vehicle for sorrow.Eight lines, with the first line repeated as the fourth and seventh lines, the second line repeated as the final line, and only two rhymes used. ABaAabAB (capital letters repeating lines).How Great My Grief by Thomas Hardy
Blues PoemA poem often about struggle, absence of hope, or sex. It often makes a statement, then a variation, then an ironic alternative.No definite form.The Weary Blues by Langston Hughes
EpistleA poem written and read as a letter.No definite form.Letter to N.Y. by Elizabeth Bishop
LimerickOften comical or senseless (or crude), these short poems only have five lines.Five lines, typically with an aabba pattern. The meter is made of iambs and anapests.Old Man of Nantucket by Anonymous
RengaA collaborative form of Japanese poetry. Each poet writes two or three lines, alternating with one or more other poets.The first three lines are written by one poet and are identical in form to a haiku. The second two lines are both seven syllables long and written by the next poet. These two forms are repeated until the poem is complete.A Hundred Stanzas by Three Poets at Minase
TankaTraditional Japanese song verse, its name translates as "short song." Using a "pivotal image," this form move from the central image to personal response.Five lines made up of thirty-one syllables. 5/7/5/7/7. The Tale of Genji by Lady Murasaki Shikibu
EpicA long, narrative poem that tells about heroic feats or adventures. These poems often feature stylized language, superhuman deeds, and may be centered around a war.No definite form.Gilgamesh
AcrosticLetters in a line (first, last, or somewhere in the middle) spell out a word.No definite form.An Acrostic by Edgar Allan Poe
Blank VerseVerse with no rhyme scheme.No rhyme scheme, often uses iambic pentameter.Mending Walls by Robert Frost
CanzoneLiterally "song," this is a lyric, rhyming poem.Eleven syllable lines with a rhyme scheme.Sonnet XIII by Petrarch
ConcreteAlso known as shape poetry, this form uses its words to create a picture that relates to the poem's subject.No definite form.The Alter by George Herbert
CoupletA poem (or part of a poem) that is two lines united in meter and rhyme.Usually an aa rhyme scheme.True Wit by Alexander Pope
IdyllA short poem about rustic life. The British form of the Pastoral.No definite form.Idyll 1 by Theocritus
VillanelleNineteen line poem with interlocking lines.Nineteen lines, two repeating rhymes, and two refrains. The first and last lines of the opening tercet (three line stanza) are repeated as the last line in alternating stanzas, and then together at the end of the final quatrain (four lined stanza). A1 b A2 / a b A1 / a b A2 / a b A1 / a b A2 / a b A1 A2.Do not go gentle into that good night by Dylan Thomas
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