Block form poems are common within English-language verse, as well as in poetry worldwide. Although traditionally, most poems are divided into stanzas, it is very common to find block verse-style poems in classical, modern, and contemporary verse.
Explore Block Form Poetry
Block Form in Poetry Definition
Block form poems are contained within one stanza of verse. These poems do not use stanzas or verse paragraphs.
These poems can range in length, from a few up to fifty or more lines contained in one single block of text. But, the most common block form poems are between four and thirty lines. Most poets choose to divide their verse into stanzas in order to make the reader’s experience more pleasurable. The longer poems become, the harder it is to read them within a block form.
Examples of Block Form Poems
There are innumerable examples of block form poems. A few of these can be explored below.
One of the Lives by W. S. Merwin
‘One of the Lives’ is a twenty-nine-line block form poem. This means that the twenty-nine lines, which engage with themes that include life and destiny, as well as identity, are contained within one stanza. There are no stanzas. Here are the first few lines:
If I had not met the red-haired boy whose father
had broken a leg parachuting into Provence
to join the resistance in the final stage of the war
and so had been killed there as the Germans were moving north
out of Italy and if the friend who was with him
as he was dying had not had an elder brother
The poem is also written in free verse, as many block form poems are. By choosing not to divide the poem into stanzas, the poet allows one line to run into the other. He uses examples of alliteration, enjambment, and imagery in order to bring the reader into his verse and keep them there for the entirety of the poem. His sporadic use of line breaks and punctuation makes this poem interesting to read.
Read more W. S. Merwin poems.
The One Girl at the Boy’s Party by Sharon Olds
‘The One Girl at the Boy’s Party’ is a contemporary, free verse poem that is contained within a single stanza of text (making it a block form poem). It contains a total of twenty-two lines that are about a young girl who attends a boy’s pool party. The poem begins with the lines:
When I take my girl to the swimming party
I set her down among the boys. They tower and
bristle, she stands there smooth and sleek,
her math scores unfolding in the air around her.
They will strip to their suits, her body hard and
indivisible as a prime number,
As readers make their way through the twenty-two lines of the poem, they are likely to note that the lines are visually similar, but the number of syllables varies throughout.
Discover more Sharon Olds poems.
In order to write a block form poem, pick a subject, decide if you want to use a rhyme scheme or metrical pattern, and when composing the lines, do not divide them into stanzas or verse paragraphs. As long as all the lines are contained in one large stanza, you have written a block form poem.
‘As froth on the face of the deep’ by Christina Rossetti is an example of a block form poem. It contains eight lines in a single stanza, with no line breaks. There are many examples of block form poems that have been written throughout the history of English-language poetry.
There is no required pattern of rhyme or metrical pattern in order to classify a poem as block form. This means that any poem, no matter if it uses a rhyme scheme or metrical pattern, can be block form.
Although sonnets are rarely referred to as block form poems, they do exhibit the one required characteristic to be categorized in this way. The fourteen lines of a sonnet are, nearly universally, contained within one stanza.
A block of text is known as a stanza. In other instances, when the poem exhibits some of the characteristics of prose, the stanzas may be known as verse paragraphs. These are often longer and are written in free verse (but not exclusively).
Related Literary Terms
- Blank Verse: a kind of poetry that is written in unrhymed lines but with a regular metrical pattern.
- Free Verse: poems that are unrhymed and there are no consistent metrical patterns. But, that doesn’t mean it is entirely without structure.
- Heptastich: a stanza that contains seven lines in poetry. These lines can be written in any rhyme scheme or metrical pattern.
- Canto: a subsection of a long narrative or epic poem. It is made up of at least five lines, but it is normally much longer.
- Tail Rhyme Stanza: refers to a stanza where the poet repeats a rhyme intermittently. It usually occurs in between rhyming couplets.
- Hymn Stanza: uses a rhyme scheme of ABCB and alternates between iambic trimeter and iambic tetrameter.
- Listen: What is a Stanza?
- Listen: Stanzas, Lines, and Rhyme Schemes
- Read: Everything You Need to Know about Rhyme Schemes in Poetry