Poetry: Types and Parts

Acrostic
Poems structured so the beginning of all the lines or units are letters that collectively spell a word.

Telestich
Poem structured with the last letters of the lines spelling a word.

Mesostich
Poem structured with the middle letters of the lines spelling a word.

Abecedarian
Acrostic with lines in alphabetical order.

Alexandrine
Verse in iambic hexameter.

Aubade
A poem about dawn or morning, often featuring lovers parting ways. Ex: Ransom’s Parting at Dawn

Ballad
Meant for oral presentation and recounts and exciting tale. Arise in area where literature is not highly developed. Common elements and themes include the supernatural, great courage, love, commoners, heightened drama, and lots of action.

Blason
Poems of praise or blame that lays out its “case” in a very organized manner. Ex: Marvell’s To His Coy Mistress and Hopkin’s The Habit of Perfection

Boasting Poem
Common in the oral tradition, these feature the bravery and adventures of a person, told by that person. Ex: Beowulf

Canticle
Originally, a chant or song taken directly from the Bible; then it meant any chant; then it meant any poem with clear parallels to religious songs and poetry.

Canto
Division of a long poem. Ex: Dante’s The Diving Comedy

Carol (Carole)
Can mean various things such as: a dance in medieval France, the song accompanying that dance, a joyful song, a religious joyful song, a Christmas hymn.

Chain Verse
Poetry in which stanzas are connected together via rhyme scheme, word choice, or another king of repetition.

Chant Royal
One of the most complicated forms of poetry in French. The subject and structure is highly specific. Five 11-line stanzas with a 5 or 7 line envoy. Often used for stately or heroic subjects.

Cinquain
Originally a medieval form, it is now any five-lined stanza.

Companion Poems
Poems that are complete on their own, but written to complement on another.

Complaint
Popular in the Middle Ages and the Renaissance, it is a lyric that expressed disappointment and despair at the coldness of his mistress, complains generally about his life, or expresses sadness or disgust with the world around him.

Confessional Poetry
Verse with a very personal, often painful, expression. The subject matter can be very private, exposing the poet’s vulnerability. Because of the intimacy of such poetry, there is no persona, instead the poet seems to be talking directly to the reader.

Counting-Out Rhyme
Mainly used to teach children how to count, and often including some sort of hand motions.

Couplet
Two successive lines of poetry with end rhymes.

Closed Couplet
Two lines that rhyme and contain a complete thought or idea. In English, they are usually in iambic pentameter.

Distich-Couplet
Two successive lines with similar form.

Elegiac
Classically, a distich used to commemorate the dead. One line of dactylic hexameter and one of pentameter.

Heroic Couplet
Couplet in iambic pentameter. Important to Chaucer, Poe, Shakespeare, and Browning.

Open Couplet
Couplet in which the second line carries an incomplete thought and relies on the next line to finish it.

Doggerel
Bad attempt at poetry. Monotonous tone or rhythm, trite subjects, and badly expressed sentiment.

Dramatic Monologue
A poem that reveals “a soul in action” in a dramatic situation, addressed to someone who is silent, but identifiable. Robert Browning was a master and may have even created the form. Ex: My Last Duchess

Echo Verse
Poetry with lines that end in repeats.

Elegy
Sustained, formal poem with a serious tone, contemplating a theme like death. The occasion of the poem is often someone’s death. Milton’s Lycidas is the best example.

End-Stopped Lines
Lines that are complete at the end in both content and grammar.

Enjambment
What poets use in run-on lines; it continues the thought of a line into the next line.

Englyn
Welsh verse; quatrain with complicated rules.

Epic
Lengthy, lofty narrative poem of high-profiled people and adventure. Characteristics include: central hero, expansive setting, courageous deeds of valor, supernatural beings, objective poet.

Epithalamium (Epithalamion)
Poem to celebrate a wedding

Flyting
Lengthy, passionate discussion. Origins in Old English poetry in which warriors preparing for combat would have a boasting match. Has been strongly associated with Scottish writing.

Fourteener
Verse with 14 syllables in iambs, usually heptameter.

Free Verse
Verse without rhyme or meter.

Blank Verse
Unrhymed, usually in iambic pentameter.

Haiku
3-line formula of 5, 7, 5. A concise and detailed picture that carries an insight or emotional appeal.

Senryu
3-line formula of 5, 7, 5. Lighter, relies on humor or satire as opposed to the seasons.

Lament
Poem of grief, more personal and therefore more emotional than a complaint.

Monody
A lament expressed by a single mourner.

Light Verse
Humorous poems in such forms as parody, limerick, epigram, clerihew, and nonsense verse. Poets: Chaucer, Aristophanes, Shakespeare, Jonson, Milton, Swift, Pope, Byron, Carroll, Hardy, Eliot, Parker, Nash, Updike, and others.

Limerick
Light verse in the following pattern: five anapestic lines, of which the 1st, 2nd, and 5th are in trimeter, and the other two are in dimeter and rhyme with each other.

Lyric
Brief poem characterized by imagination, emotion, grace, and creating a single focused impression. The form possibly goes back to the very origins of literature. Variations: hymns, sonnets, ballads, odes, elegies, roundels, and more.

Meditative Poetry
Some Metaphysical Poetry in the 16th and 17th centuries combine religious meditation and Renaissance techniques. Themes usually center around self-knowledge or connection with the transcendental. Writers: Donne, Herbert, Crashaw, and Vaughan.

Metaphysical Poetry
17th century verse by poets reacting against conventions of Elizabethan love poetry, preferring instead psychological treatments of themes like love and religion.

Occasional Verse
A dignified poem written for a special occasion.

Ode
Sustained lyric on a single subject; praising, imaginative, exalted, and admiring.

Horatian Ode
Horace referred to informal poems in a single stanza as odes.

Irregular Ode
Cowley’s variation on the Pindaric ode, allowing for more flexibility.

Pindaric Ode
Form with strophe, antistrophe, and epode.

Pastoral
A poem about rustic life. Three kinds: a dialogue or singing match, monologue of a lovesick person, and the elegy or lament to mourn the passing of a friend.

Bucolic
Pastoral writing that is formal and fanciful; Theocritus and Virgil are associated with this style. Sometimes used in reference to any poetry with a rustic setting.

Eclogue
Greek, “selection.” Originally described a variety of poems, but is today understood as a formal pastoral poem. Conventional types: singing match, rustic dialogue, lament for dead shepherd, song of courtship, eulogy.

Refrain
One or more words repeated at intervals in a poem.

Repetend
Repetition of words or slightly altered words.

Sestina
Complex and difficult form, it has six 6-lined stanzas and a 3-lined envoy, all usually unrhymed. The structure is rigorous because of a specific pattern of end-words that are repeated and rearranged. The accomplishment is in the exercise itself. Poets: Sidney, Swinburne, Kipling, Auden, and a variant by Eliot

English/Shakespearian Sonnet
Three quatrains + couplet; abab cdcd efef gg

Italian/Petrarchan Sonnet
Octave + sestet; abbaabba cdecde (or abbaacca cdcdcd)

Spenserian Sonnet
Three quatrains + couplet; abab bcbc cdcd ee (linked rhyme scheme)

Anglo-Italian Sonnet
Combines English and Italian sonnets; usually with an English octave and and Italian sestet

Caudate Sonnet
Italian form with “tails” added to the traditional 14. 14 lines of iambic pentameter (abbaabbacdecde), then another six lines (cfffgg) with lines 15 and 18 in trimeter and the rest in pentameter. Ex: Milton’s On the New Forcers of Conscience under the Long Parliament

Curtal Sonnet
Shortened sonnet to a proportional 6 and 4.5 line formula. Ex: Hopkin’s Pied Beauty

Crown of Sonnets
A set of seven sonnets in which the last line of one sonnet is repeated as the first line of the next.

Sonnet Sequence
Connected group of sonnets, usually by a single poet.

Ballad Stanza
Familiar in folk ballads, usually has four lines abcb with the first and 3rd in tetrameter and the other two in trimeter.

Burns Stanza
Has six lines (aaabab) that use tetrameter in the a-lines and dimeter or trimeter in the b-lines.

Elegiac Stanza
Iambic pentameter quatrain, abab.

Hardy Stanza
Eight lines in a very specific pattern aaabcccb; tetrameter in lines 1, 3, 5-7; line 2 repeats the end of line one so you get dimeter; trimeter in lines 4 and 8.

In Memoriam Stanza
Quatrain in iambic pentameter, abba.

Long Measure
4-line stanza in iambic pentameter; abab or abcb

Ottava Rima
Stanza of 8 iambic pentameter lines, abababcc.

Rhyme Royal (Rime Royal)
7-lined iambic pentameter stanza, ababbcc.

Short Measure
4 lines, abab or abcb, with lines 1, 2, and 4 in iambic trimeter and line 3 in iambic tetrameter.

Spenserian Stanza
9 iambic lines, the first 8 in pentameter and the last in hexameter, ababbcbcc.

Yeats Stanza
8-lined stanza, iambic throughout, pentameter in all but lines 4, 6, and 7, which are shorter, aabbcddc.

Tristich
3-lined stanza

Tercet (Triplet)
3-lined stanza where all 3 lines rhyme

Terza Rima
3-lined stanzas with interlocking rhyme, so you get abs bcd cdc… This form is believed to have been created by Dante for The Divine Comedy.

Villanelle
French form, 19 lines with only two rhymes laid out according to a fixed pattern. Ex: Dylan’s Do No Go Gentle into That Good Night