Curious about the different types of poems? Check out this list to discover the type that speaks to your soul.
Poetry is a literary device that conveys a thought using lyrical word arrangement. This often includes meter and rhyming words, but it can also be freeform without structure.
Poems are built with verses called “stanzas.” A stanza will group similar ideas into grouped lines with breaks between.
Good writers should be able to recognize and write poetry. When done well, poetry can be a powerful way to convey meaning. To help you understand this form of literature better, here are examples of 15 common types of poems.
15 Types of Poems You Should Know
Poetry structures vary by poet, genre, subject matter and style. Here are some of the most memorable types of poems. (If you disagree with our selection of genres of poetry, check out our guide to the best poetry books for more).
1. Blank Verse
Blank verse is a type of poem without rhyming words but with a strong meter. The words flow well and feel verse-like, even though they don’t rhyme.
William Shakespeare was a master of blank verse. He wrote almost exclusively in a form called iambic pentameter. In this form, each line is ten syllables, with every other syllable emphasized, as in:
“But soft! What light through yonder window breaks?
It is the East and Juliet is the sun!”
This famous line from one of his most famous plays perfectly showcases iambic pentameter, making it a great example of blank verse.
Haiku is another type of poem that does not rhyme. This Japanese poetry form has three lines, with five syllables in the first line, seven in the second line, and five in the third. Here is a famous example of a 3 line poem by Matsuo Basho:
An old silent pond
A frog jumps into the pond—
Splash! Silence again.
This famous haiku uses a cutting word (splash) to cut the third line slightly. Sometimes haiku poems translated from Japanese do not follow the 5-7-5 rule in English, but they still produce vivid images and make them worth studying.
3. Rhymed Poetry
Rhymed poetry focuses on rhyming words at the end of each line or couplet. It also will have meter, but the primary focus is on rhyming. Here is an example, again from William Shakespeare and his “Sonnet 14.”
“Not from the stars do I my judgment pluck
And yet methinks I have astronomy
But not to tell of good or evil luck
Of plagues, of dearths, or seasons’ quality”
Every other line in this Shakespearean sonnet stanza rhymes. Sonnets are a special category of rhymed poetry. Rhymed poetry is one of the more traditional forms of poetry
5. Epic Poem
An epic poem is a long poem that tells a story. Typically, epics are written about great heroes, either real or fiction, who perform impressive feats or have big adventures. In fact, the term”epic” is derived from the type of adventures in these poems.
Epic poems may not rhyme, though they can. Some examples of epics include Homer’s “The Iliad” and “The Odyssey.”
6. Free Verse
Free verse is a type of poetry that does not rhyme or have a strong meter. It is identified by the short lines and stanzas used to write it. Walt Whitman’s “A Noisy, Patient Spider” is an example of free verse.
” A noiseless patient spider,
I mark’d where on a little promontory it stood isolated,
Mark’d how to explore the vacant vast surrounding,
It launch’d forth filament, filament, filament, out of itself,
Ever unreeling them, ever tirelessly speeding them.”
Sonnets are poems with 14 lines that contain a specific rhyme scheme and meter. There are various types of rhyming schemes that can be used in sonnets, and typically sonnets have ten syllables per line.
One of the most famous sonnet writers was Shakespeare, but Italian poet Francesco Petrarch, creator of the Petrarchan sonnet, and English poet Elizabeth Barret Browning. A famous example of rhymed poetry or a sonnet is Browning’s “Sonnet Number 43” which begins:
“How do I love thee? Let me count the ways.
I love thee to the depth and breadth and height
My soul can reach, when feeling out of sight
For the ends of being and ideal grace.”
The rhyming pattern of a sonnet is called its form. An ABAB, CDCD, EFEF, GG sonnet would have every-other line rhyming in the first three stanzas, then the final couplet rhyming. Browning’s “Sonnet Number 43” follows this form: ADDA ADDA CDECDE.
8. Narrative Poems
Narrative poems are similar to epics in that they tell a story, but they are not as long and often not as heroic. The famous “The Road Not Taken” by Robert Frost is an example of a short narrative poem.
Its famous line: “Two roads diverged in a wood and I, I took the one less traveled by, and that has made all the difference” has been the subject of much literary study over the years, but the full poem tells the story of a person’s choice at a fork in the road.
When a poem has themes of mourning and loss, it is known as an elegy. Walt Whitman’s “O Captain! My Captain!” is a famous example of an elegy mourning the death of Abraham Lincoln. The poem says:
“My Captain does not answer, his lips are pale and still;
My father does not feel my arm, he has no pulse nor will;”
As the poem continues, Whitman beautifully describes the painful emotions brought on by the president’s murder.
An ode pays homage or tribute to a subject, but it may be less serious than an elegy. One of the most famous odes is John Keats’ “Ode on a Grecian Urn.” In this poem, Keats pays respects to the artwork on an urn from ancient Greece.
Traditionally a song, a ballad is a type of poem that uses rhymed quatrains, or four lines grouped together, to tell a story. Bob Dylan is a modern example of a ballad writer.
Many of Dylan’s songs, such as “The Ballad of Frankie Lee and Judas Priest” and “Hurricane,” tell stories in verse. Though originally written as songs, the lyrics serve as examples of ballad poetry.
The Villanelle is a highly specific type of poetry. This 19-line poem has five tercets, or groups of five lines, and a quatrain. The famous Dylan Thomas poem, “Do Not Go Gentle Into That Good Night” shows the Villanelle type of poetry.
13. Lyric Poetry
A Lyric poem shows feelings and emotion. It may use rhyming verse or free form, but it is distinct from epic and narrative poetry because the focus is not on a story, but on a feeling. Most Shakespearean sonnets are examples of lyric poetry.
A limerick is typically a humerus five-line poem. It uses an AABBA rhyming pattern. The first line, second line and fifth line of a limerick have seven to ten syllables and rhyme, while the third and fourth lines have five to seven syllables and rhyme. Here is an example:
There was an Old Man with a beard, Who said, “It is just as I feared! Two Owls and a Hen, Four Larks and a Wren, Have all built their nests in my beard!”
An epigram is a short and sweet, usually whity, poem that is nothing more than a couplet or quatrain. Benjamin Franklin’s phrase “Little strokes fell great oaks.” is an example of an epigram.
The Final Word on Types of Poems
Poetry can tell a story or convey meaning. Understanding the different types of poetry will help you not only identify it when reading but also write it for yourself. This powerful literary form has a great role to play in the writing world.
If you’d like to learn more about forms in poetry, read our guide how to analyze a poem.
FAQs on Types of Poems
Can a poem have more than one type?
Yes, a sonnet is a type of rhyming verse, and it may also be a lyric poem.
Do all poems have to rhyme?
No, free verse is an example of a type of poetry that does not rhyme.
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