Kinds of Poetry

10 Types of Poems

Poetry is a literary form that uses rhythm and imagery to convey meaning. Unlike fiction or prose, poetry is not direct. It relies on things such as symbolism, meter, and metaphor to deliver a message in an artful way.

When we think about poetry, we often think of verses that rhyme, of inanimate objects being personified, and of something meaning one thing instead of another. But poetry is so much more than that. Depending on where you are, what language you speak, or what message you want to convey, poetry can adapt to it. Here are some forms of poetry that you may or may not have encountered yet.

  1. Haiku
    The winter is cold
    I sit in front of the fire
    Again I am warm

You’ve probably encountered this type of poem in school. Haiku is a Japanese form of poetry that is composed of three lines per verse. It follows a five-seven-five syllable pattern, and the lines don’t rhyme. Haikus often use nature or emotion as a subject matter.

  1. Ballad
    Light do I see within my Lady’s eyes
    And loving spirits in its plenisphere
    Which bear in strange delight on my heart’s care
    Till Joy’s awakened from that sepulchre.
    —"Ballata 5,” Guido Cavalcanti

One may see the word ballad and think of slow songs played on guitar to make people swoon. Ballads are actually poems that are meant to be sung. Often, ballads are romantic and are about love.

  1. Imagery
    First was I to e’er spot land,
    My voice the first to yell,
    Aye, first to sight the skull and bone,
    And raise the warning bell.
    —"A Crow’s Command,” Gregory R Barden

As the name suggests, imagery poetry aims to paint a picture on the reader’s mind. Moreover, it intends to trigger the senses of the reader by using only words.

  1. Limerick
    The lion is wondrous strong
    And full of the wiles of wo;
    And whether he pleye
    Or take his preye
    He cannot do but slo (slay)

A limerick is a short and often humorous story told in five lines. The poem often follows the AABBA rhyme scheme, which means the first two and the last lines rhyme with each other, while the third and fourth rhyme with each other.

  1. Epic
    Anu granted him the totality of knowledge of all.
    He saw the Secret, discovered the Hidden,
    he brought information of (the time) before the Flood.
    He went on a distant journey, pushing himself to exhaustion,
    but then was brought to peace.
    He carved on a stone stela all of his toils, and built the wall of Uruk-Haven,
    the wall of the sacred Eanna Temple, the holy sanctuary.
    —Epic of Gilgamesh

An epic is a long narrative poem that tells a story. Epics are known to be of oral tradition, which means that they have been passed down from generation to generation without being written down. Epics often tell tales of brave warriors and their journeys. Two of the most popular epics are Homer’s The Odyssey and The Iliad.

  1. Elegy
    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;
    —"In Memoriam A.H.H.,” Lord Alfred Tennyson

Often confused with eulogy, an elegy is a poem that is written in tribute to a person who has recently passed. Elegies take on a very mournful tone and intend to lament the deceased. Elegies may be performed at funerals as eulogies, but not all elegies are eulogies, and vice versa.

  1. Free verse
    Let us go, through certain half-deserted streets,
    The muttering retreats
    Of restless nights in one-night cheap hotels
    And sawdust restaurants with oyster-shells:
    —"The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock,” T. S. Eliot

Free verse is a type of poetry that doesn’t have to rhyme. Instead of rhymes, the beat depends on alliteration or assonance. Alliteration is the use of words that have the same beginning sounds, while assonance is the repetition of vowel sounds. Free verse is a more contemporary form of poetry and was created with the intention of making poetry less restrictive.

  1. Sonnet
    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:
    —"Sonnet 18,” William Shakespeare

The sonnet is Shakespeare’s poetry of choice. Its form originated in Italy and was also used by Dante Alighieri. Sonnets come in various forms, but the Shakespearean sonnet has 14 lines, which starts with alternating rhymes and ends with two rhyming lines, known as a rhyming couplet. Like ballads, sonnets often deal with love but tell the tale of the lover’s suffering.

  1. Didactic
    If neither foes nor loving friends can hurt you,
    If all men count with you, but none too much;
    If you can fill the unforgiving minute
    With sixty seconds’ worth of distance run,
    Yours is the Earth and everything that’s in it,
    And—which is more—you’ll be a Man, my son!
    —"If,” Rudyard Kipling

A didactic poem is meant to teach. It may come in the form of general instructions, but other forms of didactic are a lot more specific and explicit.

  1. Spoken Word
    Let the young men be just young men, and not my heart forever swinging
    Let the water be just water and not the vast loneliness
    Let the driftwood be driftwood
    Let the bay be unnamed
    Let the sunset not be my time running out
    But only the hour of the day
    Only an indication that the bugs will soon be out
    That the young men will pull on their sweatshirts
    That I . . .
    Should be heading home.
    —"Useless Bay,” Sarah Kay

Spoken word poetry is more of a performance art rather than a poetry form, in its strictest sense. Any poem delivered orally, with emphasis on voice inflection, intonation, and word play, may be considered spoken word.


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