The Best 7 Types of Poetry

There are more types of poetry forms than you might expect. Most people believe that a necessary part of poetry is rhyming, but this is not always the case. Sometimes there is no rhyming at all in poetry. Poetry is not just a single expression of the written word. It can come in a variety of different formats which often add to the impact of the poem itself. More likely than not, if there was only one type of poem, poetry wouldn’t have been such an important art form throughout history.

1. Types of Poetry: Haiku

Most people are familiar with the haiku because they are short, easy, and fun to write. Haiku originated in Japan during the 13th century and were used as a brief opening into a much longer poem that would be performed orally. Only in the 16th century did the haiku exist as its own form of poetry. Traditionally, haiku focus on nature, but today, it’s generally accepted that they can be about anything. Their structure is as follows: 3 lines, the first and third lines containing 5 syllables, the second line containing 7 syllables.

One of the most famous haiku is by Matsuo Basho (it does not follow the haiku structure when translated into English):

The old pond;
A frog jumps in —
The sound of the water.

types of poetry
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2. Sonnet

Many people may also be familiar with the sonnet since Shakespeare wrote quite a few of them. However, there is not just one kind of sonnet. There are also Petrarchan sonnets, named after the Renaissance Italian poet Petrarch, which are formatted differently. Petrarchan sonnets are formatted with the rhyme scheme ABBA, ABBA, CDECDE. The sonnet is composed of 2 stanzas, the first containing 8 lines which poses an argument, with the second answering or concluding the argument in 6 lines.

The Shakespearian sonnet is formatted with the rhyme scheme ABAB, CDCD, EFEF, GG, the first 12 lines (or 3 quatrains) forming an observation or argument, and the last 2 lines (a doublet) acting as the conclusion. I personally love Petrarchan sonnets because they’re fun and sometimes challenging to write. The following is a Petrarchan sonnet, “A Convoluted Thought,” which is part of a larger poetry book of mine called Dissociation:

To the man with skin speckled by the sun
And a mind of pearl: you're so beautiful.
Though your hair is grey, it flashes, zestful,
Like a wave of ivory scales. Undone
Am I when you smile like a child that's won.
Blossom of joy you bring unwinds soft wool.
Pale buds I wish to comb through your hair, full
Of gentle words to show you all I've spun.
Kind moon traces the creases of your eyes,
Doe-like, life-brimmed, I cry: carissimo.
Can't hide this cotton I've on the inside.
I've seen a tender soul beneath the pines
Who'd grow tearful to eclipse the stars' glow.
Is this all too vile a thought to confide?

3. Limerick

Limericks are familiar in the mind of most people, but what is it actually? Limericks are always comical, sometimes crude, and very rhythmic. Surprisingly, limericks are not very old, originating only in the 19th century in England. They consist of 5 lines, 2 of them being long, 2 of them being short, and one to conclude the joke at the end. The rhyme scheme is AABBA. The first 2 lines have 7-10 syllables along with the last line while the middle 2 lines have 5-7 syllables.

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4. Epic Poetry

Epic poetry is perhaps one of the most ancient forms of poetry. You’re sure to be familiar with the ever-famous examples of The Iliad and The Odyssey. These poems are usually extremely long and tell an entire story of a hero and his adventure. The word “epic” originally comes from the ancient Greek term “epos,” which translates to, “story, poem.”

5. Types of Poetry: Acrostic

Acrostic poems are particularly interesting because the first letter of each line spells out a name. However, these special letters can technically appear anywhere in the poem, such as in the middle or at the end of words. Generally, these poems describe someone they respect or hold some kind of affection for.

6. Free Verse

Free verse poetry is the most, unsurprisingly, freeing kind of poetry because there is no structure at all, and that’s the point. Instead of counting syllables and remembering which lines rhyme with which, you can do whatever you want with free verse. However, that does not mean free verse poetry is easy. Instead, the responsibility of creating poetic flow and impact falls on the poet personally. There’s no relying on pre-made structure to create good poems when writing free verse poetry.

7. Types of Poetry: Ballad

A ballad, like an epic poem, sets out to tell a story. However, instead of telling the tale of an epic adventure, ballads usually focus on folklore or legends in some way. Traditionally, ballads used to be songs passed down through the generations. Ballads have a relatively flexible structure, but following their rules strictly, they follow the rhyme scheme ABAB or ABCB and are written in quatrains (four lines). One of my favorite ballads is The Ballad of Reading Gaol by Oscar Wilde. Wilde wrote it after being released from the prison, Reading Gaol, where he was imprisoned for homosexuality:

“He did not wear his scarlet coat,
For blood and wine are red,
And blood and wine were on his hands
When they found him with the dead,
The poor dead woman whom he loved,
And murdered in her bed.

He walked amongst the Trial Men
In a suit of shabby grey;
A cricket cap was on his head,
And his step seemed light and gay;
But I never saw a man who looked
So wistfully at the day.

I never saw a man who looked
With such a wistful eye
Upon that little tent of blue
Which prisoners call the sky,
And at every drifting cloud that went
With sails of silver by.”

Now, you should know all about the basic types of poetry.

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