Forms of Poetry

open-form
developed from vers libre (free verse) which suggests little skills or craft went into the poem, frees the poet from having to adhere to any specific rules. Emily Dickinson.

closed-form
recognizable because the poet adheres to the form, number of lines, rhyme scheme, meter, and/or shape.

sonnet
a closed form pooem of 14 lines. There are two types: Petrarchan (Italian) and Shakespearean (English).

petrarchan sonnet
has two groups, the octave of eight lines and the sestet of six lines. The rhyme scheme is abbaabba-cdecde

Shakespearean sonnet
organizes the lines into 3 groups of four line (quatrains) and two rhyming lines (a couplet). The rhyme scheme is always abab cdecd efef gg

couplet
is a closed form of poetry with a two-line stanza that usually has an end rhyme.

heroic couplet
a couplet that is end-stopped, written in iambic pentameter

epic
is vast in length, written with dignified langauge, and celebrates the achievements of a hero. Often laid out in couplet form, the meter regular with equal line lengths. Paradise Lost (John Milton) tells the story of Adam and Eve. Iliad., Beowulf, Don Quixote

ballads
stories in song. The stanza has four lines with a rhyme scheme of ab cb. Lines 1 and 3 have 8 syllables; lines 2 and 4 have 6 syllables.

literary ballads
the composition of later poets rather than the results of oral tradition. Used to tell stories, The Rime of the Ancient Mariner.” Example: Water, water everywhere…

lyric
Comes from the Greek word lyre. Coleridge and Wordsworth. The poet seems to be musing aloud in a lyric.

elegy
a type of lyric. A lament for someone or something, such as love or an idea. Thomas Gray: Mourns the passing of individuals.

ode
a type of lyric. Longer than an elegy and explores topics other than death. The ___ on a Grecian Urn (Keats) gives praise to figures captured forever on the vase.

villanelle
is courtly love poem from medieval times. It has five 3-line stanzas (tercet) with a rhyme scheme of aba then a 4-line stanza (quatrain) with the rhyme scheme abaa ends the poem. “Do Not go gentle into that Good Night” Dylan Thomas.

sestina
French form: James Joyce: A portrait of the artist as a young man. Six stanzas of six lines.

epigram
a short poem with a clever twist at the end. Example: Little strokes fell great oaks. A stitch in time saves nine.

limericks
five lines and a rhyme scheme of aabba.

haiku
a specific type of Japanese poetry that expresses one thought written in 17 syllables.

slant rhyme
aka half, off, near, or approximate rhyme. The audience expects a perfect rhyme but it does not come.

masculine/feminine rhyme
one-syllable rhymes to give a feeling of strength or impact and stress falls on the final syllable. Or rhymes of 2 or more syllables and stress does not fall on the final syllable for softness or lightness.

unrhymed verse
free verse, ver libre. without rhyme and rhythm.

blank verse
an unrhymed verse but has a strict rhythm. (Shakespeare, Milton). A closed form of poetry, unrhymed and written in iambic pentameter.

iambic pentameter
Each line contains five measures of one unstressed and one stressed syllable. That time of year thou mayst in me behold

foot
a basic measuring unit in a line of poetry. Monometer, dimeter (2 feet), trimeter, tetrameter (four feet), iambic pentameter (5 feet), hepta (seven), octa (8)

anapest
a foot with 3 syllables, short, short, long. (Clement Moore):twas the NIGHT before CHRISTMAS, when all THROUGH the HOUSE…

trochee
a foot with 2 syllables, long/short. DOUble, DOUble, TOIL and TROUble.

dactyl
a foot of 3 syllables long, short, short: BASketball. The Charge of the Light Bridgade (Tennyson).