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The Word: Types of Poetry w/Examples & Explanations

Acrostic – The simplest poem one can attempt. It uses the ups and downs of piece to spell out a world of phrase. Often found useful in codes and code-breaking.

Examples of this poetry type: William Blake’s poem London. Edgar Allan Poe’s poem Elizabeth. 

Blank Verse – This type of poetry is confused with freestyle/free verse, but differs as it follows a iambic pentameter and rhymes.

Examples of this poetry type: John Milton’s piece Paradise Lost. William Wordsworth poem Tintern Abbey.

Cinquain – Considered a difficult type of poetry to write. Tanka poems falls into this type of poetry as well. This poetry is made of a build of 5 lines. Generally made of a rhyme of sequence of ababb, abaab, or abccb (the a’s rhyming or b’s rhyming or the c’s rhyming).

Examples of this poetry type: Adelaide Crapsey’s poem November Night.

Free Verse/Freestyle – Confused with blank verse, but differs because it doesn’t follow any type or technique. It’s a unconventional style.

Examples of this poetry type: E.E. Cummings poem L(A. Walt Whitman’s poem When Lilacs Last in the Dooryard Bloom’d.

Haiku/Tanka – Haiku is a 3 line poem where the first and last line are five syllables. Tanka, a type of Haiku, builds with the form of 5,7,5,7,7 syllable lines. It’s Haiku with two additional 7 syllable lines.

Examples of this poetry type: For Haiku example – Matsuo Basho’s poem A Bee. For Tanka example – Mokichi Saito’s work Red Lights.

Limerick – Is a form of verse, usually humorous and frequently rude, in five-line, predominantly anapestic meter with a strict rhyme scheme of AABBA (meaning the a’s rhyme and the b’s rhyme), in which the first, second and fifth line rhyme, while the third and fourth lines are shorter and share a different rhyme.

Examples of this poetry type: Lewis Carroll’s work To Miss Vera Beringer. William Shakespeare’s piece Othello.

Sestina – Is a fixed verse form consisting of six stanzas of six lines each, normally followed by a three-line envoi (a short stanza concluding a ballade). The words that end each line of the first stanza are used as line endings in each of the following stanzas, rotated in a set pattern

Examples of this poetry type: Ezra Pound’s poem Altaforte. Elizabeth Bishop’s poem A Miracle for Breakfast.

Sonnet/Narrative – Poetry built of fourteen lines that follows a strict rhyme scheme and specific structure. Each line contains ten syllables.

Example of this poetry type: William Shakespeare’s Shakespeare’s Sonnets. Edgar Allen Poe’s poem The Raven. The poem Epic of Gilgamesh by an Anonymous poet.

Villanelle – Like Cinquain, it’s another difficult type of poetry to write. Also known as villanesque, is a nineteen-line poetic form consisting of five tercets (a set or group of three lines of verse rhyming together or connected by rhyme with an adjacent tercet) followed by a quatrain

Example of this poetry type: Dylan Thomas poem Do Not Go Gentle Into That Good Night.

Was this helpful? Did you learn something new? Want me to post more about poetry styles or sub-categories of poetry? Thinking of trying poetry or a new style? Want me to go in more depth about each type of poem? Let’s have a conversation about it.

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