52 Types of Poems

These are the 52 types of poems.

From Abecedarian to Villanelle.

So if you want to learn all about the different types of poems, then this article is for you.

Let’s dig right in!

Table of Contents

21 Types of Poems (+ Vital Examples).

Different Poem Types and Examples?

An open book, a yellow quill pen, a bouquet of lilacs and lilies of the valley on wooden desk.

While the sheer variety of structures, rhyme schemes, meters, and traditional forms associated with poetry may intimidate you, I have some good news that might help you stay motivated. 

Every form, at its core, is just a superficial thing that someone at one point or another made up to challenge themselves.

You also do not need to memorize every single one of them to be a poet. 

The main reason to learn about all the forms out there isn’t so that you’ll remember every single one of them because you most likely won’t.

It’s because researching different forms may give you an idea for a poem that you wouldn’t have had otherwise.

Also, if you’re the pragmatic type, then there are some bragging rights associated with mastering a few different forms. 

Telling someone that you wrote a best-selling villanelle should fill you with a sense of pride because it’s brutally difficult to write a villanelle, much less a good one.

So with a quiet understanding that you’re probably not going to remember all of these (feel free to favorite the page), let’s discuss some of the many, many different types of poems.

Abecedarian

Letters of the alphabet scattered on pink surface, a clean notebook and a pencil below them.

Abecedarian poems consist of verses wherein the first letter of each line is a letter of the alphabet in succession.

Abecedarians are a form of acrostic poetry. They are also called “abecedarius” or an “abecedary.”

As the seasons change, the wind
Blows soft over shifting ocean
Currents, flowing freely
Down old and vacant streets

Early signs of tomorrow
Flowers and leaves, vibrant
Green, gorgeous, and glimmering
Havens of the new dawn

If ever the seasons did stall
Just imagine the chaos, the mourning
Kings and queens grieving
Lost in some eternal stagnation

Most fortunate, then, that such misfortune
Never could be so tightly wound
Obstinate seasons do eventually end
Pushed aside by time’s wheels

Quirky bugs come out of hiding
Released from wherever they were
Slithering snakes reappear from their dens
Tethered to their time

Unbind for me the next season
Virtuous in its brevity
Wise in its mysteries

Xenophobia may love winter
Yet it is spring for whom I pine
Zealous to explore anew

Acrostic

Alice Pleasance Liddell

Acrostic poems use the first letter of every line to spell out a word or phrase. 

The word used is often the subject being described by the remainder of the poem. Below is an example that utilizes “Cat” as the word spelled out.

Clawed and sassy
Awesome but nasty
Trying to be flashy

Anagrammatic

An old antique typewriter found in flowers.

Anagrammatic poetry is a very rare form of poetry in which every line of every stanza is an anagram of all other lines or stanzas in the poem.

An example of an anagram would be “seal” and “sale.” These two words are anagrams of each other because they contain the same four letters.

Below is David Shulman’s “Washington Crossing the Delaware”, a sonnet that is also written in anagrammatic style.

Washington Crossing the Delaware

A hard, howling, tossing water scene.
Strong tide was washing hero clean.
“How cold!” Weather stings as in anger.
O Silent night shows war ace danger!
The cold waters swashing on in rage.
Redcoats warn slow his hint engage.
When star general’s action wish’d “Go!”
He saw his ragged continentals row.
Ah, he stands – sailor crew went going.
And so this general watches rowing.
He hastens – winter again grows cold.
A wet crew gain Hessian stronghold.
George can’t lose war with’s hands in;
He’s astern – so go alight, crew, and win!

David Shulman

Ars Poetica

Tulip flowers and pink book on vintage wooden table.

Ars Poetica poems represent a declaration of the writer’s beliefs about poetry.

Ars Poetica remains one of the most influential poems in literary history, having been used as a metric by which to measure other poems since the Renaissance.

“Where Is the Poet” is a beautiful example of an ars poetica poem written by Yone Noguchi, the first Japanese poet to ever publish English poetry.

Where Is the Poet

The inky-garmented, truth-dead Cloud—woven by dumb ghost alone in the darkness of
phantasmal mountain-mouth—kidnapped the maiden Moon, silence-faced,
love-mannered, mirroring her golden breast in silvery rivulets:
The Wind, her lover, grey-haired in one moment, crazes around the Universe, hunting
her dewy love-letters, strewn secretly upon the oat-carpets of the open field.
O, drama! never performed, never gossiped, never rhymed!
Behold—to the blind beast, ever tearless, iron-hearted, the Heaven has no mouth to interpret these tidings!
Ah, where is the man who lives out of himself?—the poet inspired often to chronicle these
things?

Yone Noguchi

Ballad

Workspace with blank paper ,acoustic guitar and dried flowers

Ballads are narrative-driven poems, often written to be sung, usually but not always based on folklore. 

Not to be confused with a “ballade” because the English language needs to be confusing and inconvenient, as per usual.

Ballads often feature simple bouncy rhyme schemes.

He stepped upon the ship’s bow,
a feather in his weathered cap,
then danced for seven nights,
to the tune of ’80’s rap.
The kraken found it soothing
and laid down for a nap.

Ballade

Old written works, vintage feather pen, keys, and pocket watch.

A ballade is a French verse form usually consisting of three main stanzas with eight lines, and an envoi that consists of four lines.

This poem type has several variations including the double ballade, double-refrain, ballade supreme, and chant royal or grand ballade.

To Rosemounde by Geoffrey Chaucer is an excellent example of ballade poetry.

To Rosemounde

A Balade.

Ma dame, ye ben of al beaute shryne
As fer as cercled is the mapamonde;
For as the cristall glorious ye shyne,
And lyke ruby ben your chekys rounde.
Therwyth ye ben so mery and so iocunde
That at a reuell whan that I se you dance,
It is an oynement vnto my wounde,
Thoght ye to me ne do no daliance.

For thogh I wepe of teres ful a tyne,
Yet may that wo myn herte nat confounde;
Your semy voys that ye so small out twyne
Makyth my thoght in ioy and blys habounde.
So curtaysly I go, wyth loue bounde,
That to my self I sey, in my penaunce,
Suffyseth me to loue you, Rosemounde,
Thogh ye to me ne do no daliaunce.

Nas neuer pyk walwed in galauntyne
As I in loue am walwed and iwounde;
For whych ful ofte I of my self deuyne
That I am trew Tristam the secunde.
My loue may not refreyde nor affounde;
I brenne ay in an amorouse plesaunce.
Do what you lyst, I wyl your thral be founde,
Thogh ye to me ne do no daliance.

Geoffrey Chaucer

Barzelletta

Female quartet playing music in nature by the lake.

The Barzelletta was a prominent verse form used by Italian frottola composers (with a frottola being a genre of song that was popular in the late 15th and early 16th centuries).

It should be noted that a barzelletta is more closely related to music than to poetry since it was a form explicitly meant to be used for song lyrics.

Lass at the Bar

She rounds the corner four times more,
her heart to store a man within.
She finds each one to be a bore
and pours another round of gin.
What lucky gent can sway her core?
She goes through four and tries again.

Blank Verse

William Shakespeare

When a poem has a strong meter but no rhyme scheme, it’s considered a “blank verse.” This title especially applies to poems written in Iambic pentameter. 

William Shakespeare was accredited with waves upon waves of blank verse. Many of the best examples of blank verse come from Shakespeare’s works, especially Hamlet.

from Hamlet

But, woe is me, you are so sick of late,
So far from cheer and from your former state,
That I distrust you. Yet, though I distrust,
Discomfort you, my lord, it nothing must.

William Shakespeare

Blues

Afro-American man playing the piano.

The blues poem is one of the most popular American forms of poetry, with African-American blues tradition roots.

Blues poetry usually takes on darker themes such as despair, struggles, and sex. While those are seemingly “negative” topics, blues in fact talks about how to overcome struggles with a strong mind and spirit.

Langston Hughes is a big name when it comes to blues poetry, The Weary Blues being one of his notable works.

The Weary Blues

Droning a drowsy syncopated tune,
Rocking back and forth to a mellow croon,
I heard a Negro play.
Down on Lenox Avenue the other night
By the pale dull pallor of an old gas light
He did a lazy sway . . .
He did a lazy sway . . .
To the tune o’ those Weary Blues.
With his ebony hands on each ivory key
He made that poor piano moan with melody.
O Blues!
Swaying to and fro on his rickety stool
He played that sad raggy tune like a musical fool.
Sweet Blues!
Coming from a black man’s soul.
O Blues!
In a deep song voice with a melancholy tone
I heard that Negro sing, that old piano moan—
“Ain’t got nobody in all this world,
Ain’t got nobody but ma self.
I’s gwine to quit ma frownin’
And put ma troubles on the shelf.”

Thump, thump, thump, went his foot on the floor.
He played a few chords then he sang some more—
“I got the Weary Blues
And I can’t be satisfied.
Got the Weary Blues
And can’t be satisfied—
I ain’t happy no mo’
And I wish that I had died.”
And far into the night he crooned that tune.
The stars went out and so did the moon.
The singer stopped playing and went to bed
While the Weary Blues echoed through his head.
He slept like a rock or a man that’s dead.

Langston Hughes

Bop

Beautiful young female writer at a cafe in deep thought.

A bop is a 23-line simple poem form featuring refrains written to present a problem, expand on the problem, then offer a solution or failed solution to the problem.

The bop is a poem form that was developed by Afaa Michael Weaver during a poetry summer retreat at Cave Canem.

Below is a bop poem that shows an example of the expected problem, expansion, and solution structure, with this particular poem showcasing a failed solution.

The Grind Kills Me

The sun comes out like he always does
and I shudder in my bed like I always do
because I didn’t volunteer for this
didn’t sign up for waking up
but it never seems like it’s enough.
People always want more every day

and the grind kills me inside.

Get up, go to work, pay bills,
do what you’ve always done
with that plastic smile on your face
that you learned from mom and pop
and the hours roll by, over me,
while the coffee wears off again
but tomorrow’s already on the way
so I work, afraid of tomorrow

and the grind kills me inside.

Say it’s enough, quit your day job,
follow a dream because you can
and ride that rainbow for a while
but it always cycles back again
never makes enough money
because it’s all about the banks

and the grind kills me inside.

Cento

Old books and autumn leaves.

The cento, also known as patchwork poem, is one of the oldest forms of found poetry, tracing its origins all the way back to ancient Rome.

As a matter of fact, cento is from a Latin term that means “patchwork garment“.

Below is a cento sourced from Fire and Ice by Robert Frost, Annabel Lee by Edgar Allan Poe, Do not go gentle into that good night by Dylan Thomas, and They are all Gone into the World of Light by Henry Vaughan.

Some say the world will end in fire,
in a kingdom by the sea.
Rage, rage, against the dying of the light.
Their very memory is fair and bright.

Chance Operations

Woman spinning a coin to make decision.

Chance operations describe any method of creating poetry that is not dependent on the author’s own choices.

They generate poetry that is quite literally “left to chance” using methods like rolling dice or tossing a coin.

Chance operations poems use texts sourced from famous literary sources such as magazines and articles.

Here’s an example of a poem created using the chance operations technique, via a word generator.

An absurd haiku

wood edge crayon lick
eat fuzzy judge sisters ring
rough pleasure vex last

Chant Royal

Beautiful young womanin boho style at sunset

Chant royal is a fixed verse form that was developed in Medieval France.

The Chant Royal is one of many complex French fixed forms of poetry, consisting of a strict rhyme scheme and a refrain repeated at the end of every verse.

The following example showcases only the first verse of a Chant Royal. All verses aside from the envoi will follow the same rhyme scheme and structure.

First Verse of a Chant Royal

Beneath the skies
I wait, sleeping,
my weary eyes
only keeping
glimpses of gold,
glittering, cold,
addicting me
to what I see,
for somewhere here,
treasures may be.
I sense them near.

Cinquain

Reed in the wind in the winter landscape of the haiku.

A cinquain is a five-line poem, though it can also refer to a five-line stanza. There are many varieties of cinquain (crown cinquain, didactic cinquain, American cinquain). 

Still, the bottom line is that they’re all variations of a five-line poem. The form was initially inspired by Japanese haikus.

Crapsey’s November Night is a classic example of an American cinquain.

November Night

Listen…
With faint dry sound,
Like steps of passing ghosts,
The leaves, frost-crisp’d, break from the trees
And fall.

Adelaide Crapsey

Concrete

Vintage old books and aged black typewriter with paper blank on desk

Concrete poetry is an experimental type of poetry in which the words are arranged on the page so that they form a simple shape or image.

This may even involve tilting or resizing the words occasionally.

A square is perhaps,
I think, the most dull
example I could use,
yet here it is for you
to so quietly peruse,
if you do so choose.
A square is perhaps,
I think, the most dull
example I could use,
yet here it is for you
to so quietly peruse,
if you do so choose.

Contrapuntal

Girl reading a book on the grass by the river in summer.

Contrapuntal poetry explores the idea of combining two poems in some way to create a third poem out of their shared concepts or pieces.

While they are made up of two or more distinct poems, contrapuntal poetry is done by clever formatting so that they are in conversation with each other.

The word “contrapuntal” simply means counterpoint, speaking to the interactive nature of contrapuntal music and poetry.

Below is a contrapuntal that generates a “poetic duet” so that it creates a conversation between the two poems.

There was once a sort of logic to our lives
Logic never factored in for me
Everything was simple and we thrived
I was distracted by love, you see
Now a muddled chaos keeps us apart
At long last my voice is free
All because you voiced your heart
I shouted, hoping you’d find me
And now the logic is no longer alive
I await the answer that needs to be

Cut-Up

pair of scissors, newspaper clippings alphabet with letters

Cut-up poetry, also called découpé poems, is a poetic form that is literally constructed out of clippings that have been cut up and reassembled into a poem.

Cut-up poems are not especially common and rarely find mainstream success, but they can be a fun exercise for both new and experienced poets.

As an example, let’s assemble words pulled out from this description to create a poem.

découpé
constructed out of clippings
into a poem
rarely find
but they can be a fun exercise
experienced poets

Dada

Black frame hanging on white brick wall with word dadaism.

Dadaism was an artistic movement that cropped up around World War I as a rejection of the elitism, industrialism, and patriotism that Dadaists felt was responsible for the war.

Dada poetry is a poetic form that follows the traditions of the Dadaist movement, though modern Dadaist poetry has moved away from the original purpose of the movement as an anti-war statement.

These poems are usually made utilizing random chance, such as pulling words out of a sack, tossing a random assortment of newspaper clippings onto a table, etc.

Here’s an example of a dadaist poem.

hospitality burrito

gear shift, minister discreet
herd; aquarium complication reduction grass
sentiment pigeon smooth! bride

Dramatic Monologue

 Medieval woman in the autumn forest

A dramatic monologue is a poetic type that is in the form of a speech. It tends to be “dramatic” because of its theatrical feature.

Dramatic monologues are used by poets to express a point of view through the words of a solitary character.

Below is an excerpt from Robert Browning’s My Last Duchess, which is a perfect example of a dramatic monologue.

My Last Duchess

That’s my last Duchess painted on the wall,
Looking as if she were alive. I call
That piece a wonder, now: Frà Pandolf’s hands
Worked busily a day, and there she stands.
Will ‘t please you sit and look at her? I said
‘Frà Pandolf’ by design, for never read
Strangers like you that pictured countenance,
The depth and passion of its earnest glance,
But to myself they turned (since none puts by
The curtain I have drawn for you, but I)
And seemed as they would ask me, if they durst,
How such a glance came there; so, not the first
Are you to turn and ask thus. Sir, ‘t was not
Her husband’s presence only, called that spot
Of joy into the Duchess’ cheek: perhaps
Frà Pandolf chanced to say, ‘Her mantle laps
Over my lady’s wrist too much,’ or ‘Paint
Must never hope to reproduce the faint
Half-flush that dies along her throat:’ such stuff
Was courtesy, she thought, and cause enough
For calling up that spot of joy. She had
A heart—how shall I say?—too soon made glad,
Too easily impressed; she liked whate’er
She looked on, and her looks went everywhere.
Sir, ‘t was all one! My favour at her breast,
The dropping of the daylight in the West,
The bough of cherries some officious fool

Robert Browning

Ekphrastic

Quill pen and a stack of old books by candle light.

Ekphrastic poetry is a written expression of a visual form of art.

In ancient Greece, they use the ekphrasis technique to write about or verbalize momentous events, history, or a work of art.

Ekphrastic poems are quite vivid and imaginative, like “painting art with words”.

Robert Browning’s My Last Duchess is a perfect example of ekphrastic poetry. It’s a poem that is based on historical events involving the Duke of Ferrara.

from My Last Duchess

That’s my last Duchess painted on the wall,
Looking as if she were alive. I call
That piece a wonder, now: Frà Pandolf’s hands
Worked busily a day, and there she stands.
Will ‘t please you sit and look at her? I said
‘Frà Pandolf’ by design, for never read
Strangers like you that pictured countenance,
The depth and passion of its earnest glance,
But to myself they turned (since none puts by
The curtain I have drawn for you, but I)
And seemed as they would ask me, if they durst,
How such a glance came there; so, not the first
Are you to turn and ask thus. Sir, ‘t was not
Her husband’s presence only, called that spot
Of joy into the Duchess’ cheek: perhaps
Frà Pandolf chanced to say, ‘Her mantle laps
Over my lady’s wrist too much,’ or ‘Paint
Must never hope to reproduce the faint
Half-flush that dies along her throat:’ such stuff
Was courtesy, she thought, and cause enough
For calling up that spot of joy. She had
A heart—how shall I say?—too soon made glad,
Too easily impressed; she liked whate’er
She looked on, and her looks went everywhere.
Sir, ‘t was all one! My favour at her breast,
The dropping of the daylight in the West,
The bough of cherries some officious fool

Robert Browning

Elegy

beautiful sunset scenery, red flowers in the field.

An elegy doesn’t have particular rules, typically. It is written following a person’s death to honor them or the subject of loss of life itself.

Elegies often have a melancholic tone lamenting a deceased person’s life, usually ending in consolation. One of the more popular examples is Alfred Lord Tennyson’s In Memoriam.

excerpt from In Memoriam

Strong Son of God, immortal Love,
Whom we, that have not seen thy face,
By faith, and faith alone, embrace,
Believing where we cannot prove;

Thine are these orbs of light and shade;
Thou madest Life in man and brute;
Thou madest Death; and lo, thy foot
Is on the skull which thou hast made…

Alfred Lord Tennyson

Epic

Odyssey and the suitors of Penilope.

Epic poems are poems of monumental length and scope, often detailing lengthy narratives about ancient heroes as they fought against mythical creatures, enemy warriors, and impossible odds. 

Epic poems have a great many conventions unique to the form. Still, the central theme of the “hero’s journey” is the most defining feature of any epic. Examples include Gilgamesh and Homer’s Odyssey.

Epics were traditionally told orally and passed down from one poet to the next, rather than being penned out. 

While epic poetry is extremely important to the history of poetry as a form of public entertainment, it’s not nearly as popular in the modern era. Copies of Homer’s works are still sold regularly, of course, but largely for academic purposes.

excerpt from Iliad

Ye kings and warriors! may your vows be crown’d, And Troy’s proud walls lie level with the ground. May Jove restore you when your toils are o’er Safe to the pleasures of your native shore. But, oh! relieve a wretched parent’s pain, And give Chryseis to these arms again; If mercy fail, yet let my presents move, And dread avenging Phoebus, son of Jove.

Homer

Epigram

Chalk-written loudspeaker and inscription epigram on black chalkboard

An epigram is a very short poem, usually no longer than a quatrain, that often contains a witty little instance of rhyme.

They can even be as short as one line, such as “Let desire stoke your fire” or “I gladly invite all of your spite.” Yes, a poem can be a single line. Have I mentioned yet that poetry largely doesn’t really have clearly defined rules?

Oscar Wilde, for example, definitely made a brief yet memorable statement when he said:

I can resist everything but temptation.

Oscar Wilde

Epistolary

A letter and a rose

Epistolary poetry is a letter in either poem or prose form. These literary letters are addressed to a particular person or group.

Epistles date back to the Roman Empire and later on popularized by Horace and Ovid.

The Letter from Town: The Almond Tree by D. H. Lawrence is a beautiful epistolary poem.

Letter from Town: The Almond Tree

You promised to send me some violets. Did you forget?
White ones and blue ones from under the orchard hedge?
Sweet dark purple, and white ones mixed for a pledge
Of our early love that hardly has opened yet.

Here there’s an almond tree—you have never seen
Such a one in the north—it flowers on the street, and I stand
Every day by the fence to look up for the flowers that expand
At rest in the blue, and wonder at what they mean.

Under the almond tree, the happy lands
Provence, Japan, and Italy repose,
And passing feet are chatter and clapping of those
Who play around us, country girls clapping their hands.

You, my love, the foremost, in a flowered gown,
All your unbearable tenderness, you with the laughter
Startled upon your eyes now so wide with hereafter,
You with loose hands of abandonment hanging down.

D. H. Lawrence

Epitaph

White rose on grey granite tombstone.

An epitaph is a short poem specifically written to be placed on a gravestone. They can be respectful, like an elegy, or even humorous if it’s believed that that’s what the deceased would’ve wanted. 

Whether you believe humorous epitaphs to be uncalled for or not is naturally up to personal taste.

Walter de la Mare in “An Epitaph” speaks about life as a passing beauty that vanishes no matter how rare it may be.

An Epitaph

Here lies a most beautiful lady:
Light of step and heart was she;
I think she was the most beautiful lady
That ever was in the West Country.
But beauty vanishes; beauty passes;
However rare—rare it be;
And when I crumble, who will remember
This lady of the West Country?

Walter de la Mare

Formal

Opened book with flowers inserted in between pages outdoor in autumn.

“Formal” is a blanket description commonly applied to poems that follow a specific meter and/or rhyme scheme predetermined by a unique template. Common examples include sonnets and villanelles. 

Formal poetry has been losing popularity as writers move further away from strict rulesets. Still, it has an important place in the poetry world both historically and as a tool for poets to sharpen their skills and challenge themselves.

Sonnet 18

Shall I compare thee to a summer’s day?
Thou art more lovely and more temperate:
Rough winds do shake the darling buds of May,
And summer’s lease hath all too short a date:
Sometime too hot the eye of heaven shines,
And often is his gold complexion dimm’d;
And every fair from fair sometime declines,
By chance or nature’s changing course untrimm’d;
But thy eternal summer shall not fade
Nor lose possession of that fair thou owest;
Nor shall Death brag thou wander’st in his shade,
When in eternal lines to time thou growest:
So long as men can breathe or eyes can see,
So long lives this and this gives life to thee.

William Shakespeare

Found

words cut out from magazine

Found poetry is a “literary collage” where a writer takes existing texts from various sources such as news articles, letters, or even other poems, and reorganizes them into a whole new form of poetry.

Some believe that this poem type is a sheer act of plagiarism and that it’s not a respectable branch of poetry at all.

As an example, here is a short poem combining lines from four different works.

Some say the world will end in fire,
in a kingdom by the sea.
Rage, rage, against the dying of the light.
Their very memory is fair and bright.

Free Verse

 Feather in child's hands as a symbol of writing poetry.

Free verse poems don’t have rules whatsoever.

The lengths of each line rhyme that may or may not exist and individual details are all decided at the poet’s whim. This form isn’t without its pros and cons, though.

The upside is that a free verse poem has the potential to be unbelievably beautiful if written by an expert craftsman who gives every single word, pause, and punctuation mark a greater purpose within the poem. 

The downside, which can be huge, is that many hopefuls lack the necessary experience to imbue each line with a sense of purpose, leading to bland, empty poetry.

As a result, free verse has a mixed reputation in the poetry world. It’s a form that brings out the best of the world’s most experienced writers and brings out the worst in the world’s most inexperienced writers. 

Don’t let that scare you away but do study up on the inner mechanisms of poetry before blindly assuming “anyone can do it.”

Mirror by Sylvia Plath is one of the best classic examples of a free verse poem.

Mirror

I am silver and exact. I have no preconceptions.
Whatever I see I swallow immediately
Just as it is, unmisted by love or dislike.
I am not cruel, only truthful‚
The eye of a little god, four-cornered.
Most of the time I meditate on the opposite wall.
It is pink, with speckles. I have looked at it so long
I think it is part of my heart. But it flickers.
Faces and darkness separate us over and over.

Sylvia Plath

Ghazal

Night sky in Moroccan desert.

A ghazal is an ancient form of Arabic poetry.

Generally speaking, ghazals utilize a series of unconnected couplets that play with language and romantic themes, especially unrequited love.

Your eyes are the stars that dot my shining sky tonight.
Your lips, the subtle bliss of learning to fly tonight.

I see you in moonlight and stare like a fool,
unwilling to ask your secrets, to pry tonight.

All the things I cannot say well up over time.
You are both my despair and my high, tonight.

Yet you remain the treasure of a thousand nations,
with which a better man could surely buy tonight.

Oh but gather yourself up, Peter! Such beauty stings,
but I would gladly make this evening my tonight.

Haiku

Haiku written on a piece of white stone on the beach.

Haikus, in English, are poems that feature a 5-7-5 syllable structure. (Five lines on the first, seven on the second, five on the third.) 

The focus is typically on mundane moments of beauty in life.

Of course, many of the rules associated with haikus, including the syllable count, have been violated over time. That’s not unusual for popular forms.

In the original Japanese tradition, where haikus originated from, they were typically poems that focused on nature and the seasons.

Flower petals sink
as if to threaten softly
of a warm summer.

Inaugural

United States Capitol during Winter season.

Inaugural poems, as the name would suggest, are written to celebrate a presidential inauguration.

Only three American presidents have poets read an inaugural poem at their inaugurations thus far. Kennedy, Clinton, and Obama were leaders known to be appreciative of literature.

Praise Song for the Day is an inaugural written by Elizabeth Alexander for President Barack Obama in 2009.

from Praise Song for the Day

Some live by love thy neighbor as thyself,
others by first do no harm or take no more
than you need. What if the mightiest word is love?

Love beyond marital, filial, national,
love that casts a widening pool of light,
love with no need to pre-empt grievance.

In today’s sharp sparkle, this winter air,
anything can be made, any sentence begun.
On the brink, on the brim, on the cusp,
praise song for walking forward in that light.

Elizabeth Alexander

Limerick

dictionary definition of the word limerick

Limericks are examples of a poem written for humor, employing a simple AABBA rhyme scheme and an amusing anecdotal topic.

They’re written more for simple entertainment than to get at any greater purpose and are a nice reminder that poems don’t need to “mean” something to be well-liked.

I saw a lovely young lady from France
who quietly asked me to dance.
I tripped on my shoe,
became black and blue,
and may have just missed my chance.

Lyric

Open poetry book and flowers

Lyric poetry is completely unlike poetry focused on narratives or concrete subjects.

Lyric poetry is all about connecting with and expressing a feeling. These poems can be free or formal, depending on the writer’s preference. 

For example, many famous love poems that focus on explaining how it feels to love can be considered lyric poetry.

Not to be confused with song lyrics because, again, the English language is a charming mess.

Here’s a timeless lyrical style poem by W.H. Auden.

If I Could Tell You

Time will say nothing but I told you so,
Time only knows the price we have to pay;
If I could tell you I would let you know.
If we should weep when clowns put on their show,
If we should stumble when musicians play,
Time will say nothing but I told you so.
There are no fortunes to be told, although,
Because I love you more than I can say,
If I could tell you I would let you know.

W.H. Auden

Metered

Red rose on a poem

Metered poetry, which includes many formal poems and all blank verse, is poetry. A specific pattern of stressed and unstressed syllables is followed. 

Meter is measured in feet. An individual foot represents the specific pattern to be followed and is usually two or three syllables.

For example, an iambic foot (or iamb) is one unstressed syllable followed by a stressed syllable. 

The number of feet determines the length of the meter. A meter with five feet is a pentameter.

As such, a line of poetry with five iambs back-to-back is considered “iambic pentameter.” This also means that a line of iambic pentameter will always have exactly ten syllables total due to having five sets of two syllables.

Note that the stress of a syllable is based on vocalization and can vary slightly depending on dialect or even from person to person.

As such, many poets will gladly deviate from the meter for a foot or two, as long as the overarching poem maintains the proper rhythm.

Poe’s Annabel Lee is an example that uses the anapest meter.

from Annabel Lee

It was many and many a year ago,
In a kingdom by the sea,
That a maiden there lived whom you may know
By the name of Annabel Lee;
And this maiden she lived with no other thought
Than to love and be loved by me.

Edgar Allan Poe

Minimalism

Quill pen for writing poetry

Minimalism is more of a movement than a type of poem.

Still, it’s a term commonly used to refer to poems that stray away from classic techniques and even punctuation in extreme cases. 

Minimalist poetry has recently been popularized by the success of Rupi Kaur, whose writings are radically minimalistic.

This is one of the more controversial movements as of this moment. Many people applaud the lawless, avant-garde rawness of minimalist poems, while others argue that the lack of technique makes them feel hollow. 

Either way, they’re an example of just how far you can push free verse while still making something that is recognizably a poem.

i look to the window
sometimes weeping
never knowing why
even as the view beneath
escapes my sightless eyes

Monostich

Vintage burned paper and antique key surrounded by green jewelry and peacock feathers.

A monostich is a poem consisting of a single line.

Monostich poems are often fragmentary, offering only a peek into some image or feeling due to their brevity.

Due to their length (or lack thereof), a monostich is naturally incapable of many of the qualities that general readers associate with poetry, such as rhyme scheme.

A Lover, written by Amy Lowell, is an excellent example of a monostich poem.

If I could catch the green lantern of the firefly I could see to write you a letter.

Occasional

Decorated outdoor wedding table with flowers in rustic style

An occasional poem is written to comment on or commemorate some special event, especially regarding traditional events and large public gatherings.

Examples of occasions where a poem may be shared include weddings, parties, funerals, victory celebrations, and political speeches.

Priscilla Jane Thompson wrote a jubilant-sounding poem called Emancipation, which is an example of an occasional.

from Emancipation

‘Tis a time for much rejoicing;
Let each heart be lured away;
Let each tongue, its thanks be voicing
For Emancipation Day.
Day of victory, day of glory,
For thee, many a field was gory!

Many a time in days now ended,
Hath our fathers’ courage failed,
Patiently their tears they blended;
Ne’er they to their, Maker, railed,
Well we know their groans, He numbered,
When dominions fell, asundered.

As of old the Red Sea parted,
And oppressed passed safely through,
Back from the North, the bold South, started,
And a fissure wide she drew;
Drew a cleft of Liberty,
Through it, marched our people free.

Ode

A vintage pen sitting on top of the piano keys.

An ode is a poem that glorifies a specific subject. Odes can be written to people, places, events, or even random objects lying around the house. 

It is believed that odes were invented by the Greeks, who designed them to be sung. Modern odes lack any particular rules, aside from the theming.

Below is an excerpt from Ode on a Grecian Urn by John Keats.

Ode on a Grecian Urn

Thou still unravish’d bride of quietness,
Thou foster-child of silence and slow time,
Sylvan historian, who canst thus express
A flowery tale more sweetly than our rhyme:
What leaf-fring’d legend haunts about thy shape
Of deities or mortals, or of both,
In Tempe or the dales of Arcady?
What men or gods are these? What maidens loth?
What mad pursuit? What struggle to escape?
What pipes and timbrels? What wild ecstasy?

John Keats

Pantoum

Batu caves in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.

The pantoum is of Malay origin, specifically the Malay poetic verse form pantun berkait. It resembles French poetry forms villanelle and rondeau.

Pantoum poems consist of repeating quatrains, or four-line stanzas, which can be of any length. This poem type is introduced to the west by Victor Hugo.

One classic example of a pantoum written by the French poet Charles Baudelaire is the Evening Harmony (Harmonie du Soir)

Evening Harmony

The hour has come at last when, trembling to and fro,
Each flower is a censer sifting its perfume;
The scent and sounds all swirl in evening-s gentle fume;
A melancholy waltz, a languid vertigo!

Each flower is a censer sifting its perfume;
A violin-s vibrato wounds the heart of woe;
A melancholy waltz, a languid vertigo!
The sky, a lofty altar, lovely in the gloom,

A violin-s vibrato wounds the heart of woe,
A tender heart detests the black of nullity,
The sky, a lofty altar, lovely in the gloom;
The sun is drowning in the evening-s blood-red glow.

A tender heart detests the black of nullity,
And lovingly preserves each trace of long ago!
The sun is drowning in the evening-s blood-red glow …
Your memory shines through me like an ostensory!

Charles Baudelaire

Pastoral

Young woman stroking a brown sheep on a farm

A pastoral is a type of poem that focuses on rural life and the natural world. 

Generally, pastorals paint an idealistic country life away from the harshness of urban living. 

The underlying message of most pastorals is a desire to return to untainted settings surrounded by nature. Shepherds are common central figures in pastoral poems.

The Negro Speaks of Rivers by Langston Hughes is a beautiful example of pastoral poetry.

The Negro Speaks of Rivers

I’ve known rivers:
I’ve known rivers ancient as the world and older than the flow of human blood in human veins.

My soul has grown deep like the rivers.

I bathed in the Euphrates when dawns were young.
I built my hut near the Congo and it lulled me to sleep.
I looked upon the Nile and raised the pyramids above it.
I heard the singing of the Mississippi when Abe Lincoln went down to New Orleans, and I’ve seen its muddy bosom turn all golden in the sunset.

I’ve known rivers:
Ancient, dusky rivers.

My soul has grown deep like the rivers.

 Langston Hughes

Patchwork

Lily of the valley in cup and books on white table, green natural background.

A patchwork poem is a type of found poetry in which the lines each come from different pre-established works that the poet borrowed from.

Patchwork and cento are actually words used interchangeably when referring to this poem type. It’s just that patchwork poetry is essentially seen as the “modern” version.

Here’s an example of a patchwork poem, which is essentially borrowed from three well-known poets.

Some say the world will end in fire,
in a kingdom by the sea.
Rage, rage, against the dying of the light.
Their very memory is fair and bright.

Prose

Old book with cup of tea and cherry tree flowers on breakfast table in the garden.

A prose poem is a poetry type that combines both poem and prose writing style elements.

While prose poetry does not break lines into verses, it shows poetry characteristics such as figures of speech, metaphors, and symbolism, which are common to poetry.

A prose poem is commonly a free verse poem that commits itself to the format and general rules of prose.

One excellent example of a prose poem is Amy Lowell’s Spring Day. Below is an excerpt of this prose poem.

Breakfast Table

In the fresh-washed sunlight, the breakfast table is decked and white. It offers itself in flat surrender, tendering tastes, and smells, and colors, and metals, and grains, and the white cloth falls over its side, draped and wide. Wheels of white glitter in the silver coffee-pot, hot and spinning like catherine-wheels, they whirl, and twirl—and my eyes begin to smart, the little white, dazzling wheels prick them like darts. Placid and peaceful, the rolls of bread spread themselves in the sun to bask. A stack of butter-pats, pyramidal, shout orange through the white, scream, flutter, call: “Yellow! Yellow! Yellow!” Coffee steam rises in a stream, clouds the silver tea-service with mist, and twists up into the sunlight, revolved, involuted, suspiring higher and higher, fluting in a thin spiral up the high blue sky. A crow flies by and croaks at the coffee steam. The day is new and fair with good smells in the air.

Amy Lowell

Renga

notebook with white quill pen and yellow flowers on wooden rustic table

The renga, which literally means “linked verse,” is a form of Japanese poetry based on collaboration between multiple poets. Hence, deemed to be “communal poetry”.

The renga was developed after two people started writing a tanka (a traditional short Japanese poem) together, and it became a favorite pastime even in ancient rural Japan.

Rhyming

Black small letters on the blank pages of the book and surrounding space.

Spoiler alert: Some poems rhyme. These rhymes aren’t usually selected at random, though this can sometimes be the case. 

If you follow a poem along carefully, you’ll often find that rhyming poems will have a set pattern in which every other line rhymes or perhaps the last two lines of each stanza rhyme, etc.

These patterns are defined as rhyme schemes and are signified by a series of capital letters that represent the ending sounds of the lines. 

So a poem with a rhyme scheme of AABC AADE has the same ending sound on the 1st, 2nd, 5th, and 6th lines (signified by the “A”). 

None of the other letters match each other to signify that none of them rhyme with each other or with the sound used for “A.”

Even poems that don’t have a set rhyme scheme will often use rhyme as a means to draw the reader’s attention to a line that the writer felt was important. 

And yes, there are also times when a rhyme was just dropped in to make a line sound more fun. Poets are people too.

Romance by Edgar Allan Poe is a good example of a rhymed poem.

Romance

Romance, who loves to nod and sing
With drowsy head and folded wing
Among the green leaves as they shake
Far down within some shadowy lake,
To me a painted paroquet
Hath been—most familiar bird—
Taught me my alphabet to say,
To lisp my very earliest word
While in the wild wood I did lie,
A child—with a most knowing eye.

Of late, eternal condor years
So shake the very Heaven on high
With tumult as they thunder by,
I have no time for idle cares
Through gazing on the unquiet sky;
And when an hour with calmer wings
Its down upon my spirit flings,
That little time with lyre and rhyme
To while away—forbidden things—
My heart would feel to be a crime
Unless it trembled with the strings.

Edgar Allan Poe

Rondeau

Medieval Woman with Vintage Lantern Outside at Night

The Rondeau is a fixed poem type that originated in Medieval France. It is composed of 15 lines that are divided into three stanzas namely, a quintet, a quatrain, and a sestet.

The first and the last lines of a rondeau are identical and it follows the aabba aabR aabbaR rhyme scheme.

Below is an example of a rondeau written by the well-known African-American poet Paul Laurence Dunbar.

We Wear the Mask

We wear the mask that grins and lies,
It hides our cheeks and shades our eyes,—
This debt we pay to human guile;
With torn and bleeding hearts we smile
And mouth with myriad subtleties,

Why should the world be over-wise,
In counting all our tears and sighs?
Nay, let them only see us, while
We wear the mask.

We smile, but oh great Christ, our cries
To thee from tortured souls arise.
We sing, but oh the clay is vile
Beneath our feet, and long the mile,
But let the world dream otherwise,
We wear the mask!

Paul Laurence Dunbar

Sapphic

Open old book, feather, clock, ink and candle on dark wooden background.

The sapphic verse is a poem type consisting of four-line stanzas of any number. The term sapphic is derived from the name of the ancient Greek poet Sappho.

Sapphic verse is largely a form of the past and is significant for its place in human history, rather than for any usage in popular culture.

Ode to Solitude by Alexander Pope is an example of a sapphic poem.

Ode to Solitude

Happy the man, whose wish and care
A few paternal acres bound,
Content to breathe his native air,
In his own ground.

Whose herds with milk, whose fields with bread,
Whose flocks supply him with attire,
Whose trees in summer yield him shade,
In winter fire.

Blest, who can unconcernedly find
Hours, days, and years slide soft away,
In health of body, peace of mind,
Quiet by day,

Sound sleep by night; study and ease,
Together mixed; sweet recreation;
And innocence, which most does please,
With meditation.

Thus let me live, unseen, unknown;
Thus unlamented let me die;
Steal from the world, and not a stone
Tell where I lie.

Alexander Pope

Sestina

A renaissance guitar and old books on wooden platform

A sestina is a complicated poem type consisting of six sestets (six-line stanzas), usually followed by a three-line conclusion called an envoi.

Sestinas originated with the troubadour poets of medieval Southern France.

Unlike many forms, the sestina was not applauded for its ability to capture a certain feeling or range of topics, but chiefly for its complexity.

It was intentionally created to represent a level of difficulty that only talented poets could aspire to and the form actually has many critics, even in the modern-day.

One of the best sestinas of all time is Paysage Moralisé by W. H. Auden.

Paysage Moralisé

Hearing of harvests rotting in the valleys,
Seeing at end of street the barren mountains,
Round corners coming suddenly on water,
Knowing them shipwrecked who were launched for islands,
We honour founders of these starving cities
Whose honour is the image of our sorrow,

Which cannot see its likeness in their sorrow
That brought them desperate to the brink of valleys;
Dreaming of evening walks through learned cities
They reined their violent horses on the mountains,
Those fields like ships to castaways on islands,
Visions of green to them who craved for water.

They built by rivers and at night the water
Running past windows comforted their sorrow;
Each in his little bed conceived of islands
Where every day was dancing in the valleys
And all the green trees blossomed on the mountains,
Where love was innocent, being far from cities.

But dawn came back and they were still in cities;
No marvellous creature rose up from the water;
There was still gold and silver in the mountains
But hunger was a more immediate sorrow,
Although to moping villagers in valleys
Some waving pilgrims were describing islands …

‘The gods,’ they promised, ‘visit us from islands,
Are stalking, head-up, lovely, through our cities;
Now is the time to leave your wretched valleys
And sail with them across the lime-green water,
Sitting at their white sides, forget your sorrow,
The shadow cast across your lives by mountains.’

So many, doubtful, perished in the mountains,
Climbing up crags to get a view of islands,
So many, fearful, took with them their sorrow
Which stayed them when they reached unhappy cities,
So many, careless, dived and drowned in water,
So many, wretched, would not leave their valleys.

It is our sorrow. Shall it melt? Then water
Would gush, flush, green these mountains and these valleys,
And we rebuild our cities, not dream of islands.

W. H. Auden

Sonnet

 poetry books and decorative dried flowers in glass bottle

Sonnets are a type of formal poem consisting of 14 lines with a strict rhyme scheme and meter.

The most common forms of sonnets are the Petrarchan (aka Italian sonnet) and the Shakespearean (aka English sonnet).

Sonnets written in English are typically written in Iambic pentameter, traditionally, but this is a form that has gone through many permutations. 

Some poets would even go so far as to argue that any metered 14-line poem should be considered a sonnet. As with most forms, it’s really a matter of perspective.

Elizabeth Browning is one of the most famous sonnet poets in history.

How Do I Love Thee?

How do I love thee? Let me count the ways.
I love thee to the depth and breadth and height
My soul can reach, when feeling out of sight
For the ends of being and ideal grace.
I love thee to the level of every day’s
Most quiet need, by sun and candle-light.
I love thee freely, as men strive for right.
I love thee purely, as they turn from praise.
I love thee with the passion put to use
In my old griefs, and with my childhood’s faith.
I love thee with a love I seemed to lose
With my lost saints. I love thee with the breath,
Smiles, tears, of all my life; and, if God choose,
I shall but love thee better after death.

Elizabeth Browning

Tanka

Beautiful tree in the middle of snowy mountain

The poem tanka literally means “short poem or song”, with themes that are usually about nature, seasons, and desires. Hence, tankas tend to evoke strong and powerful imagery.

Tankas are a short Japanese poetic free verse that consists of 31 syllables. They don’t necessarily rhyme, tankas follow a specific syllable pattern.

Soft snow falls outside
whispering like new footsteps
on a hard window
mocking the silence of night
with its still blankets of frost

Terza Rima

Cozy desk setup, with open books, a cup of coffee, and flowers.

Terza rima is a unique poetic form consisting entirely of tercets (three-line stanzas), with a unique rhyme pattern that connects across the stanzas.

While there are many different forms of poetry out there, tercets remain a fairly uncommon length for a stanza, partially because they can be awkward if handled poorly.

A poem written in terza rima gets part of its character from facing this unusual stanza length head-on, demanding that the poet master tercets before they can utilize the form properly.

Robert Frost’s Acquainted with the Night is an example of a terza rima poem.

Acquainted with the Night

I have been one acquainted with the night.
I have walked out in rain—and back in rain.
I have outwalked the furthest city light.

I have looked down the saddest city lane.
I have passed by the watchman on his beat
And dropped my eyes, unwilling to explain.

I have stood still and stopped the sound of feet
When far away an interrupted cry
Came over houses from another street,

But not to call me back or say good-bye;
And further still at an unearthly height,
One luminary clock against the sky

Proclaimed the time was neither wrong nor right.
I have been one acquainted with the night.

Robert Frost

Triolet

Love letter with a pink flower

A triolet poem is a short, eight-line French verse that uses the ABaAabAB rhyming scheme.

The triolet is most closely related to the French rondeau and its relatives, French forms that heavily utilize refrains.

Thomas Hard’s How Great My Grief is a classic example of triolet poetry.

How Great My Grief

How great my grief, my joys how few,
Since first it was my fate to know thee!
Have the slow years not brought to view
How great my grief, my joys how few,
Nor memory shaped old times anew,
Nor loving-kindness helped to show thee
How great my grief, my joys how few,
Since first it was my fate to know thee?

Thomas Hardy

Villanelle

A lovely girl in red is walking on the street with a boquet of red roses in a romantic mood before the sunset

Villanelles have 5 3-line stanzas, followed by a single 4-line stanza, for a total of 19 lines.

They feature a strict, unforgiving rhyme scheme of ABA ABA ABA ABA ABA ABAA. Line 1 is repeated three more times, on lines 6, 12, and 18. Line 3 is similarly repeated on lines 9, 15, and 19.

Sounds oddly specific, right? That’s because it is. Writing a villanelle in English is a miserable experience and writing a GOOD villanelle is nearly impossible without witchcraft. 

A truly masterful villanelle will arrange the lines such that the repeated lines have a new meaning and fresh impact each time they’re read.

Do not go gentle into that good night” by Dylan Thomas is one excellent example of a top-tier villanelle that uses the form’s repetition to emphasize recurring thoughts.

Do Not Go Gentle Into That Good Night

Do not go gentle into that good night,
Old age should burn and rave at close of day;
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

Though wise men at their end know dark is right,
Because their words had forked no lightning they
Do not go gentle into that good night.

Good men, the last wave by, crying how bright
Their frail deeds might have danced in a green bay,
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

Wild men who caught and sang the sun in flight,
And learn, too late, they grieved it on its way,
Do not go gentle into that good night.

Grave men, near death, who see with blinding sight
Blind eyes could blaze like meteors and be gay,
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

And you, my father, there on the sad height,
Curse, bless, me now with your fierce tears, I pray.
Do not go gentle into that good night.
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

Dylan Thomas