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What are the different kinds of poetry?

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2014-03-12 21:36:46

Specific Kinds of Poetry

Acrostic or "ABC" Poems: poems where a word or

phrase is written vertically (down the page with one letter per

line), and each letter is used to begin a descriptive phrase.

Usually, the subject of the poem is whatever word or phrase is

spelled out vertically.

Blank Verse Poems: poems that do not rhyme, and

which are "free," and thus not tied to a specific form or phyme

scheme. Some still have a specific rhythm or meter, but that is not

required. Some blank verse poems are written in iambic pentameter

(the kind of rhythm that Shakespeare used in much of his


Cinquain Poems: rigidly structured, unrhymed

poems containing five lines, each with a specific number of words

or syllables. There are three basic formats for a cinquain:

Cinquain Format A

  • Line 1: one word
  • Line 2: two words
  • Line 3: three words
  • Line 4: four words
  • Line 5: one word

Cinquain Format B

  • Line 1: one noun
  • Line 2: two adjectives describing the noun
  • Line 3: three "-ing" words about the noun
  • Line 4: a phrase about the noun
  • Line 5: another word meaning the same as the noun

Cinquain Format C

  • Line 1: two syllables
  • Line 2: four syllables
  • Line 3: six syllables
  • Line 4: eight syllables
  • Line 5: two syllables

Circle Poems: usually poems where each word

triggers the next, almost like word association, but (hopefully)

more thought-through than that. It can be written in an actual

circle using word processing programs that allow that, but on the

internet you see them mostly as lists of words. When written in a

circle, the reader can start anywhere and read through, but when in

a list, the first word is chosen by the author... but the last word

still relates to the first.

And sometimes a circle poem is just a poem written in a circle

(see next category). My personal favorite of this type is by Jack

Prelutsky, and the poem is called "I was walking in a circle." My

family read this poem one night and started chanting it... then I

started singing it to a tune by Suzanne Vega, and now my friend who

is a Choir teacher uses it for warm-up exercises with her students.

It's definitely a catchy one. You can write that type using any

words you want, but traditionally, the ending should lead back into

the beginning, so you can keep reading at the end and it still

makes sense.

Concrete Poems: poems in which the words form a

shape that suggests or enhances the poem. "I was walking in a

circle" forms a circle (you can find this and other poems by

Prelutsky in the book "A Pizza The Size of the Sun") - you can

write a poem about an animal and make the words fill in the shape

of the animal, or write a poem about a rainbow and have the words

curve in a rainbow-shaped arc.

Couplet Poems: these are very short (and

simple) poems that have just two lines - the final word of each

line rhymes.

Diamante: unrhyming seven-line poems that

compare and contrast two opposites using the following format: Line

1: a one-word subject

Line 2: two adjectives describing the subject

Line 3: three "-ing" words about the subject

Line 4: four words - the first two describe the subject of Line

1, and the last two describe the subject of Line 7 (the opposite of

Line 1

Line 5: three "-ing" words about the subject of Line 7

Line 6: two adjectives describing the subject of Line 7

Line 7: a one-word antonym (opposite) of Line 1

Haiku: Japanese in origin, Haikus are

structured unrhymed poems typically with the following format,

although there are variations that some people say are truer to the

original Japanese form: First Line: 5 syllables

Second Line: 7 syllables

Third Line: 5 syllables

Limerick: humorous 5-line poems that follow a

rigid format.

The first, second, and fifth lines rhyme - rhyme pattern is

AABBA.The syllable pattern must be the


  • Line 1: da DUM da da DUM da da DUM
  • Line 2: da DUM da da DUM da da DUM
  • Line 3: da da DUM da da DUM
  • Line 4: da da DUM da da DUM
  • Line 5: da DUM da da DUM da da DUM

Name Poems: a kind of poetic questionnaire

where you fill in the blanks with your own ideas to make a blank

verse poem. Here's one form of this poem, but there are many: Line

1 - your first name

Line 2 - "It means" then 3 adjectives that describe you

Line 3 - "It is the number" then any number you choose

Line 4 - "It is like" describe a color but

don't name it

Line 5 - "It is " then name something you remember experiencing

with family or friends - something that makes you smile to recall


Line 6 - "It is the memory of" then name a person who is or has

been significant to you

Line 7 - "Who taught me" then 2 abstract concepts (such as


Line 8 - "When he/she" then refer to something that person did

that displayed the qualities in line 7

Line 9 - "My name is" your first name again

Line 10 - "It means" and in 1-2 brief sentences state something

important you believe about life.

Ode: very formal poems written in iambic

pentameter. Traditional odes are written for a chorus (or at least,

the idea of a chorus), and are broken down into three 10-line

stanzas - one half of the chorus reads the first set of lines, the

other half reads the middle set, and both together read the end,

which ties everything together. Traditional odes celebrate or

praise more abstract topics, such as cities, concepts, and famous

events or people. English odes (also called homostrophic or

homerian odes) are more structured, but written about more personal

topics. English odes also have ten lines to each stanza, and are

written in iambic pentameter. One typical rhyme format for an

English ode is ABABCDECE

Parody Poems: A parody is a humorous copy of an

existing work. If you write a parody of a poem, you will write a

poem that looks and sounds like the original, but is humorous -

either making fun of the original, or making fun of something else.

One thing, you need to be totally familiar with the original poem

so that you can mimic it with humorous alterations.

Quatrains: four-line stanzas with specific

rhyme formats. There are several kinds of quintain poem.

  • Alternating Quatrain - ABAB
  • Common Measure Quatrain - the same as Alternating - ABAB
  • Envelope Quatrain - ABBA
  • Heroic Stanza - quatrains written in iambic pentameter. There

    are two basic forms, Italian Stanza - ABBA and Sicilian Stanza -


  • Hymnal Stanza - an alternating quatrain where Line 1 and Line 3

    are iambic pentameter; and Line 2 and Line 4 are iambic trimeter.

    The rhyme format is ABCB

  • In Memoriam Stanza - popularized by Tennyson and named from his

    quatrain titled "In Memoriam," this is written in iambic tetrameter

    and has a rhyme format of ABAB

  • Redondilla - a Spanish iambic tetrameter quatrain with one of

    three rhyme formats: ABAB, ABBA, or AABB

Sonnets: a 14-line poem with a very specific

rhyme and rhythm format. Sonnets are written in iambic pentameter.

Shakespearian sonnets have 10 syllables to each of the 14 lines,

with a rhyme format of ABAB, CDCD, EFEF, GG - the last two lines

are a couplet.

Tanka Poems: another form of Japanese poetry,

Tanka poems are rigidly written. The theme must be either Nature,

Seasons, Love, or Friendships. Each poem consists of 31 total

syllables in the following pattern:

  • Line 1: five syllables
  • Line 2: seven syllables
  • Line 3: five syllables
  • Line 4: seven syllables
  • Line 5: seven syllables

Who-What-When-Where-Why Poems: exactly what

they sound like.

Line 1: Who or what is the poem about?

Line 2: What action is happening?

Line 3: When does the action take place? (a


Line 4: Where does the action take place? (a


Line 5: Why does this action happen? (a


*The related link "Types of Poetry" is a great place to look for

other types and forms of poetry.

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