• September 2009
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Ten Main Forms of Poetry

poetry 3The beauty of poetry is that it has no definition. Each poet has defined it differently, but I personally find Samuel Taylor Coleridge’s definition most apt – “Poetry is the best words in the best order”.  As to what this best order is, again differs from poet to poet. Each poet puts his best words in the order that he feels will best communicate his feelings and moods to the reader. These different ways of expressing feelings has given rise to different forms of poetry. What are these different forms?

There are in all 51 different forms of poetry. It’s a little difficult to give all the forms here, so I’ll just give ten. The ten main forms of poetry in alphabetical order are:

1. Acrostic: A simple poetic form in which the first letter of each line spells out a related word. In other words, if you read down the first letters of each line, you will see that it forms a word that is usually the subject of the poem.

2. Ballad: A poem that tells a story, usually a folk tale or a legend. A ballad usually has seven, eight, or ten line stanzas; with last stanza being shorter with just four or five lines. Each stanza ends with the same line, called a refrain, which gives the effect of a song.

3. Blank verse: A poem written in unrhymed iambic pentameter. It is often unobtrusive and resembles the rhythm of speech.

4. Couplet: A poem with stanzas of two lines each, with each of the two lines ending with rhyming words.

5. Elegy: A sad and thoughtful poem about the death of a person.

6. Free verse: A poem with no pattern or style. This form allows the poet to express his feelings freely with no restriction of any kind.

7. Haiku: A three line poem with a set pattern – the three lines having five, seven, and five syllables each. Although a Haiku must essentially be about Nature, some poets tend to expand the subject area.

8. Limerick: A short five line witty and humorous poem with a set pattern – lines 1, 2, and 5 have seven to ten syllables, rhyme, and have the same rhythm; lines 3 and 4 have five to seven syllables, rhyme, and have the same rhythm.

9. Ode: A lengthy lyric poem of a serious and meditative nature, with an intricate formal structure and a dignified tone. An ode generally celebrates an occasion, something or someone.

10. Sonnet: A lyric poem consisting of 14 lines that follow a strict rhyming pattern. There are two types of sonnets :– a) Shakespearean – 12 lines in three alternating rhymes and the last two as a rhyming couplet, i.e. ABABCDCDEFEFGG; and b) Italian – 8 lines rhyming ABBAABBA, and 6 rhyming CDECDE.

Would you have chosen these ten as the main forms of poetry, or would have selected other forms?

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