Poetic Forms

A poetic form is the structure of the poem. This includes how long it is, how many lines or words it uses, and the writer’s use of meter and rhyme. There are many different types of form used in poetry, defined below.

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  • a

  • Acrostic
    An acrostic is a piece of writing in which letters form words or messages. The “acrostic” is most commonly associated with poetry.
  • Anacreontic
    Anacreontics are metered verses in the style of the Greek poet Anacreon. His poetry often dealt with themes of love and wine.
  • Arte Mayor
    Arte mayor is a term used to describe a type of Spanish verse. It uses lines ranging in length between eight and fourteen syllables. Some sources describe arte major poetry as only that which has more than nine syllables per line. 
  • b

  • Ballad
    A ballad is a kind of verse, sometimes narrative in nature, often set to music and developed from 14th and 15th-century minstrelsy.
  • Ballade
    A ballade is a medieval and Renaissance verse form that is distinct from the far more common “ballad.” It was commonly used in France during the 13th-15th centuries. 
  • Blank Verse
    Blank verse is a kind of poetry that is written in unrhymed lines but with a regular metrical pattern.
  • Block Form
    The term “block form” is used to describe a poem that is not separated into stanzas or verse paragraphs. These poems are contained within one “block” of text. 
  • Burns Stanza
    The Burns stanza is named for Scottish poet Robert Burns who popularized its use. It is a six-line stanza form that uses a rhyme scheme of AAABAB, and lines of tetrameter and dimeter.
  • c

  • Canto
    A canto is a subsection of a long narrative or epic poem. It is made up of at least five lines but it is normally much longer.
  • Canzone
    The word “canzone” means “song” in Italian and first used to refer to a verse form in Italy and France in the medieval period.
  • Chaucerian Stanza
    The Chaucerian stanza, also known as rhyme royal, is a stanza form introduced by English poet Geoffrey Chaucer. It's seven lines long and uses the rhyme scheme ABABBCC.
  • Cinquain
    A cinquain is a poetic form that makes use of a pattern of five lines.
  • Closed Form
    The term “closed form” in literature refers to poems that use a closed, specific structure or pattern. This includes poems written in the form of a sonnet, villanelle, haiku, limerick, and more.
  • Concrete Poem
    Concrete poetry, also sometimes known as visual poetry or shape poetry, is focused on the visual effect that linguistic elements have when they’re arranged in a certain way.
  • Country House Poem
    A country house poem is a piece of poetry that praises another person’s property. They were usually written for wealthy friends or patrons in order to gain favor. 
  • Curtal Sonnet
    The curtal sonnet, or the contracted sonnet, is an eleven-line sonnet that follows a pattern of either ABCABCDCBDC or ABCABCDBCDC. 
  • d

  • Diamante Poetry
    Diamonte is a popular poetic form that is made up of seven lines. They are formatted into the shape of a diamond and used to compare two opposites.
  • Dirge
    A dirge is a song or poem composed after someone's death. These songs are usually shorter and more concise than elegies.
  • Double Dactyl
    A double dactyl is a form of verse that uses eight lines, each of which contains two dactyls. These are arranged into two stanzas. 
  • Dramatic Monologue
    A dramatic monologue is a conversation a speaker has with themselves, or which is directed at a listen or reader who does not respond.
  • e

  • Epistle
    An epistle is a letter that comes in the form of either prose or poetry.
  • Epitaph
    An epitaph is a short lyric written in memory of someone who has died. Sometimes, epitaphs serve as elegies.
  • Epode
    The epode is the third part of an ode. It follows the strophe and antistrophe in traditional ode-writing. It is also considered its own branch of poetry.
  • f

  • Found Poetry
    Found poetry is a type of poem that’s created using someone else’s words, phrases, or structure.
  • Fourteener
    A fourteener is a line of poetry that contains fourteen syllables. They are usually composed of seven iambs. 
  • Free Verse
    In free verse, lines are unrhymed and there are no consistent metrical patterns. But, that doesn't mean it is entirely without structure.
  • g

  • Ghazal
    A ghazal is a type of poem that is constructed with couplets, repeated words, and rhyming words.
  • Golden Shovel Poetic Form
    The golden shovel poetic form uses lines from another author's poetry. Each word of those lines ends one line of a new poem.
  • h

  • Haiku Poem
    A haiku is a three-line Japanese poem that follows a syllable pattern of 5-7-5.
  • Heptastich
    A heptastich is a stanza that contains seven lines in poetry. These lines can be written in any rhyme scheme or metrical pattern.
  • Heterometric
    The term “heterometric” is used to describe stanzas that use lines of different lengths and/or employ more than one meter. Today, heterometric stanzas are far more common that their opposite: isometric stanzas. 
  • Horatian Ode
    A Horatian ode is one of three common ode forms. It is a simple stanza form in which all stanzas use the same pattern, chosen by the poet.
  • Hymn Stanza
    A hymn stanza uses a rhyme scheme of ABCB and alternates between iambic trimeter and iambic tetrameter.
  • i

  • Irregular Ode
    An irregular ode is a common ode form that does not conform to the characteristics of the Pindaric or Horatian ode forms.
  • l

  • Lai (Lay)
    A lai, or lay, is a medieval lyric poem written in France in octosyllabic couplets. There are a few examples of this specific poetic form in English. 
  • Lament
    A lament is an expression of grief. They appear as poems and songs about death, loss, and general suffering. Laments can be seen in songs, poetry, and more.
  • Limerick
    A limerick is a humorous poem that follows a fixed structure of five lines and a rhyme scheme of AABBA.
  • Litany
    A litany is a poetic form. It is a prayer that contains a series of invocations much of the time including repetition.
  • m

  • Miltonic Sonnet
    The Miltonic Sonnet is one of the main sonnet forms and was popularized by the poet John Milton who was born in 1609 in London, England.
  • n

  • Narrative Poem
    Narrative poems contain all the elements of a story and are normally longer than average.
  • o

  • Octastich
    An octastich is a stanza with eight lines. These lines might be written in free verse or conform to a specific rhyme scheme or metrical pattern. 
  • Octave
    The word “octave” comes from the Latin word meaning “eighth part”. It is an eight-line stanza or poem.
  • Ode
    An ode is a formal lyric poem that is written in celebration or dedication. They are generally directed with specific intent.
  • Onegin Stanza
    The Onegin stanza, or Pushkin sonnet, is a stanza form invented and popularized by Alexander Pushkin in his 1825-1832 novel, Eugene Onegin. 
  • Open Couplet
    An open couplet is a pair of lines in poetry, the first of which is enjambed. The first line does not conclude, running into the second line.
  • Open Form
    An open form poem does not follow traditional patterns or structures. These poems are more commonly known as free verse poems. 
  • Ottava Rima
    The phrase “ottava rima” is used to describe a particular type of stanza in poetry. It uses eight iambic lines and follows a rhyme scheme of ABABABCC.
  • p

  • Palinode
    A palinode, or palinody, is an ode in which the author expresses an opinion opposite to that which they included in another, earlier poem. 
  • Parable
    A parable is a short fictional story that speaks on a religious attitude or moral belief.
  • Pattern Poetry
    Pattern poetry is a type of poetry that depends on the shape the text makes. The visual image of the lines is an integral part of the work. 
  • Petrarchan/Italian Sonnet
    Petrarchan/Italian sonnets are fourteen lines long, follow an initial rhyme scheme of ABBAABBA, and use iambic pentameter.
  • Pindaric Ode
    The term “Pindaric” refers to the body of work, and style, of the Greek poet Pindar. It is used to refer, specifically, to his odes and those written in his traditional style. 
  • q

  • Quatrain
    A quatrain is a verse form that is made up of four lines with fifteen different possible rhyme schemes.
  • Quintain
    The term “quintain” is used to describe a stanza that has five lines. It is one of several stanza forms that a poet might choose from. 
  • r

  • Rhyme Scheme of Sonnets
    Sonnets usually conform to one of two different rhyme schemes, those connected to the Shakespearean and the Petrarchan sonnet forms.
  • Rondel
    The rondel has two quatrains that are followed by a quintet, a set of five lines. The verse form has its origins in lyrical poetry of 14th-century France.
  • Roundelay 
    The roundelay is a complex, less-commonly used form of poetry that follows a strict pattern. 
  • s

  • Sapphics
    The term “Sapphics” refers to poems written in the style of Sappho, a classical Greek poet. These poems are often composed of four-line stanzas, sometimes use quantitive meter but more commonly use accentual meter (mostly using dactyls and trochees). 
  • Septet
    A septet is any seven-line stanza in poetry. These stanzas are uncommon and sometimes associated with the work of Geoffrey Chaucer, who pioneered a pattern and structure known as rhyme royal. 
  • Sestet
    A sestet is a six-line stanza or poem, or the second half or a sonnet. It does not require a specific rhyme scheme or metrical pattern.
  • Shakespearean Sonnet
    The Shakespearean sonnet follows a rhyme scheme of ABABCDCDEFEFGG and uses iambic pentameter.
  • Slam Poetry
    Slam poetry, also known as spoken word poetry, is typically performed at what is known as a “poetry slam”.
  • Sonnet
    Traditionally, sonnets are fourteen-line poems that follow a strict rhyme scheme and conform to the metrical pattern of iambic pentameter.
  • Spenserian Sonnet
    The Spenserian sonnet was invented by the famous sixteenth-century poet Edmund Spenser and uses a rhyme scheme of ABAB BCBC CDCD EE.
  • Strophe
    The term “strophe” refers to a group of verses within a poem that forms a unit as well as the first part of the ode in Greek tragedies.
  • Structure of Sonnets
    A sonnet is a fourteen-line poem that usually makes use of the metrical pattern of iambic pentameter.
  • t

  • Tail Rhyme
    A tail rhyme refers to a specific pattern of end-rhymes and repetition used in poetry. For example, AABCCB or AABCCCB.
  • Tail Rhyme Stanza
    A tail rhyme stanza refers to a stanza where the poet repeats a rhyme intermittently. It usually occurs in between rhyming couplets. 
  • Tanka Poetry
    A tanka poem is an important form in Japanese poetry that follows a syllable pattern of 5-7-5-7-7.
  • Tercet
    A tercet is a three-line stanza. It is a common stanza form, although not as common as the couplet and quatrain.
  • Terza Rima
    Terza rima refers to a very specific rhyme scheme that follows the rhyming pattern of ABA BCB DED.
  • v

  • Villanelle
    A villanelle is a nineteen-line poem that is divided into five tercets or sets of three lines, and one concluding quatrain, or set of four lines.