When it comes to poetry, not everyone knows there are different types of poems or knows the difference between them.
Some poems have specific rules and others do not have any rules at all.
Whether you are trying to learn what makes them different for a class you are taking, or you want to start writing your own poems, you have we will be going over some major types of poems for you to learn the difference.
Keep in mind, there might be more poems out there than we can cover in this one article, but we will be going over most of the basic types so you know what they are.
What Defines Poetry?
According to the Dictionary, the actual definition of poetry is:
Literary work in which special intensity is given to the expression of feelings and ideas by the use of distinctive style and rhythm; poems collectively or as a genre of literature.
Definition of “poetry”
Poetry is one of the few types of writing that is truly free from rules, depending on the type of poem you are creating.
Yes, some have certain rhyming lines and meters, but some can have absolutely no structure at all.
Poetry is often also creative and sometimes uses dramatic language to get the point across. Some poems can sound exceptionally dramatic or expressive in order to convey an idea or mental image.
Many poems need to deliver a huge message in just a few lines. For the that reason, poets are extremely selective about the words and line structure they choose to put in their poems.
What Makes Poems Different?
While there can sometimes be a blurry line between poetry and prose, for the most part, poetry is an artistic way to express writing.
Prose is defined as, “Written or spoken language in its ordinary form, without metrical structure.”
With poetry, you will often find things like rhythm or sentence structure that makes it different from typical writing.
Poetry can also be more expressive and creative than prose. Think of the difference between reading Shakespeare with its dramatic lines compared to the average book you read recently.
Poetry Terms to Know
If you are not familiar with poetry, you might need to catch up (or get a refresher) on some of the terms used to describe poems.
Meter – This refers to the specific length and emphasis on a certain line of poetry.
Stanza – A group of lines forming the basic recurring metrical unit in a poem.
Rhyme scheme – This is referring to how poems rhyme compared to their lines.
Syllable – A single unit of speed sound as written or spoken.
Couplet – A two-line stanza.
How Many Types Of Poems Are There?
There are over 50 types of poems out there, but if you also include how many sub-categories of poems there are, there could technically be way more than 50.
Some are more popular than others, which we will get into below but just know there are many, many ways you can take the written word and creatively put it together.
Types Of Poems
If you want to get technical, there are more types of poetry than this article could cover. However, let’s dive into a few so you can get a good idea of the types of poems that are out there.
#1 – Haiku
Haiku’s are a type of poem from Japan that are short poems.
With a haiku, the first and third lines have five syllables where the second line has seven syllables.
None of the lines have to rhyme in any way to be considered a haiku.
It is a very specific type of poem that must fit within those rules to be considered a haiku.
It might sound easy, but as soon as you start to try to write one, you will understand why it is such a respected form of poetry, because it is certainly not easy.
#2 – Sonnets
If you ever took a Shakespeare class, you know what sonnets are.
For the most part, sonnets are made up of 14 lines and have a specific rhyming pattern.
From Penguin, the book publisher: “As a rule, Petrarchan (Italian) sonnets follow an ABBA ABBA CDE CDE rhyme scheme, whereas Shakespearean (English) sonnets are typically ABAB CDCD EFEF GG.”
There are some other rules that go along it, depending on the type of sonnet you are writing, so you might need to look them up if you want to start to write one.
For the romantics out there, sonnets are almost always about love, making them lovely to read and write.
#3 – Free verse poems
Free verse has a lot of creativity due to the fact that you can make it almost anything you want. They often follow natural rhythms of speech, which is why some spoken word poetry falls under this umbrella, but not all of it depending on how the author structures it.
You can choose your own stanzas, lines, length, rhyming, or anything else that fits in the poem you want to create.
#4 – Ekphrastic poems
Ekphrastic poems are poems that are created to describe something in detail, typically works of art, but it can include other things as well.
One example is On the Medusa of Leonardo Da Vinci in the Florentine Gallery, by Percy Bysshe Shelley which is about that literal specific piece of art and the impact of the piece on the narrator.
#5 – Limerick
A limerick is a funny (or sometimes slightly offensive) poem with a rhyming scheme of AABBA. The last one is “A” due to it often being seen as the “punchline” to the poem.
Edward Lear was one of the famous beginner composers of limericks. At the time, many people called his work “literary nonsense” which he embraced by publishing his book in 1846 titled A Book of Nonsense.
#6 – Ballads
A ballad is a poem that was traditionally paired with music. They have a rhyming rule of ABCB, similar to many songs today.
For the most part, they consist of three main stanzas and one concluding stanza. Ballads typically are used to tell a story and pull the reader in for the journey.
#7 – Epic Poems
Epic poems are the long poems that many of us read in school that tells and entire story. Some examples include The Iliad and The Odyssey. If you have read either of them, you know how long they are and how they are formed.
If you have not read them, they are lengthy narrative poems that typically have a story based around a character dealing with a god or superhuman force.
While there is no set length for epic poems, you can know the longest one, the Indian Mahabharata is 200,000 lines. For context, The Odyssey is 12,100 lines.
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