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Specific Kinds of PoetryAcrostic 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 writing).

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 following:

  • 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 it

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 "honesty")

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 - ABAB
  • 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 time)

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

Line 5: Why does this action happen? (a reason)

*The related link "Types of Poetry" is a great place to look for other types and forms of poetry.

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Q: What are the different kinds of poetry?
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