Glossary Home Genre

What is a Poem?

A poem can be written down or spoken aloud. It is a collection of ideas and emotions in a creative way.

Traditionally, poems were defined by their use of rhyme schemes and metrical patterns, but this is not always the case. Contemporary poets often choose to exclude rhyme and rhythm from their verse, opting to write in free verse. 

Poem pronunciation: pohem

Poem definition, types, and examples

 

Definition of a Poem 

A poem is a piece of writing, usually using some kind of rhyme scheme or metrical pattern, that expresses a writer’s feelings (or the feelings of a persona). They can tell stories, record memories, express desire, and share information. The best poems are those that tap into the universality of human experience and appeal to a wide variety of readers. While today most poems are written without a set form, below, readers can explore a few formal possibilities. 

 

Types of Poems 

There are numerous types of poems that readers may or may not be familiar with. Some are listed below: 

 

Examples of Poems 

Renascence by Edna St. Vincent Millay

Edna St. Vincent Millay’s ‘Renascence’ is a moving poem and the one that brought her writing into the public spotlight. It follows a speaker as she lives, dies, and then is reborn in a newly faithful form. There are powerful images used throughout the lines, despite the fact that Millay wrote this poem when she was only nineteen. The poet explores themes of suffering, time, rebirth, and spirituality. Here are a few lines from the first stanza: 

All I could see from where I stood

Was three long mountains and a wood;

I turned and looked another way,

And saw three islands in a bay.

So with my eyes I traced the line 

Of the horizon, thin and fine,

Straight around till I was come

Back to where I’d started from; 

And all I saw from where I stood

Was three long mountains and a wood.

In this stanza, she demonstrates several poetic techniques, like enjambment, imagery, rhyme, and more. She describes what she sees when she looks around her, eventually settling on the mountains, keeping her from seeing any farther than what was directly in her line of sight. 

Read more of Edna St. Vincent Millay’s poetry. 

 

The Raven by Edgar Allan Poe 

In ‘The Raven,’ Poe’s most famous poem, the speaker details a harrowing night in his life that includes incessant knocking and a talking raven that only says one word – “Nevermore.” It is a popular narrative poem written in the first person (perspective and point of view are other important elements of poems). This allows the poet to emphasizes the main character’s grief and loss. The famous opening lines read: 

Once upon a midnight dreary, while I pondered, weak and weary,

Over many a quaint and curious volume of forgotten lore—

While I nodded, nearly napping, suddenly there came a tapping,

As of some one gently rapping, rapping at my chamber door.

“’Tis some visitor,” I muttered, “tapping at my chamber door—

Only this and nothing more.”

These are dramatic and theatrical lines, setting up a fairly long poem filled with dark images and strange occurrences. It is a great representation of how poets achieve darker atmospheres in their work. 

Explore Edgar Allan Poe’s poetry. 

 

The Truth the Dead Know by Anne Sexton

This is one of Sexton’s best poems. In it, she elegizes her parents, both of whom died a few months apart. Her mother from cancer and her father due to alcoholism. She speaks about her feelings and beliefs about death and describes the poet’s own emotions in reaction to the death of her parents and the actions she chose to take afterward. She begins the poem at a funeral she has no desire to participate in. Here are the last lines of the poem: 

And what of the dead? They lie without shoes

in their stone boats. They are more like stone

than the sea would be if it stopped. They refuse

to be blessed, throat, eye and knucklebone.

Sexton is famous for poems like this one and her role as a confessional poet within the Modernist movement.

Discover more Anne Sexton poems.

 

Related Literary Terms 

  • Connotation: the feeling a writer creates through their word choice. It’s the idea a specific word or set of words evokes. 
  • Denotation: the literal definition of a word. It is the meaning that’s most commonly found in dictionaries and other academic sources. 
  • Intertextuality: a feature of a text that references another text. It reflects upon the latter and uses it as a reference for the new written work.

 

Other Resources 

Discover the Essential Secrets

of Poetry

Sign up to unveil the best kept secrets in poetry,

brought to you by the experts

>

Ad blocker detected

To create the home of poetry, we fund this through advertising

Please help us help you by disabling your ad blocker

 

We appreciate your support

The Best-Kept Secrets of Poetry

Discover and learn about the greatest poetry ever straight to your inbox

Discover and learn about the greatest poetry ever straight to your inbox

Start Your Perfect Poetry Journey

Send this to a friend