TYPES OF POETRY
The goal of this page is to serve as a handy reference for the various types of poems, forms of poetry, styles of verse, etc.
Each kind of poetry is briefly defined, and an example is provided to illustrate that form. Click a link to view the example poem.
If you have a poem that features a different form, style, etc., or exemplifies a different poetry term, please let us know. Use the Contact Us button at the top of the Read Tuesday website.
All of these poems are copyright © by their respective poets. In many cases, you can find the copyright notice on their websites after clicking on the link.
Some poems follow a structure where pairs of words rhyme.
Words that rhyme sound the same at the end, such as:
- flower and power
- through and true
- college and knowledge
Poems don’t necessarily involve rhyme, but they can.
Here is an example of a rhyming poem:
- Ode to Nurses by Edwina
In the above example, each pair of even lines rhyme (lines 2 and 4, lines 6 and 8, etc.).
A traditional haiku is a Japanese poem written in three lines. Traditionally, this would feature imagery from the natural world.
- The first line has 5 syllables.
- The middle line has 7 syllables.
- The last line has 5 syllables.
Here are a few examples of haiku:
The following haiku have somewhat different structure (compared to the traditional 5-7-5):
The numbers in parentheses indicate the number of syllables per line. A traditional haiku is 5-7-5.
A tritina is a poem with 10 lines, divided into 3 tercets plus a single line at the end.
Each tercet (set of 3 lines) ends with the same 3 words, though the 3 end words change order from one tercet to the next (as in the example below).
The meaning of the 3 end words and the division into 3 tercets plus a signle end line are easiest to understand by reading an example.
The tritina may extend longer than 10 lines, repeating the same structure (though the 3 end words may change from one set of 10 lines to the next).
For example, it might have 50 lines divided into 5 sets of 10 lines.
Here is an example of a tritina:
- Appetite and What Comes First by Toni
A villanelle is a poem with 19 lines, with 5 tercets and a quatrain.
Each tercet consists of 3 lines. The quattrain consists of 4 lines.
The 1st and 3rd lines of the opening tercet are repeated (alternately) at the end of the other tercets, and both are repeated at the end of the quattrain.
So a villanelle has the following structure:
- A1 = 1st tercet, 1st line
- A2 = 1st tercet, 2nd line
- A3 = 1st tercet, 3rd line
- B1 = 2nd tercet, 1st line
- B2 = 2nd tercet, 2nd line
- A1 = 1st tercet, 1st line = 2nd tercet, 3rd line
- C1 = 3rd tercet, 1st line
- C2 = 3rd tercet, 3rd line
- A3 = 1st tercet, 3rd line = 3rd tercet, 3rd line
- D1 = 4th tercet, 1st line
- D2 = 4th tercet, 2nd line
- A1 = 1st tercet, 1st line = 4th tercet, 3rd line
- E1 = 5th tercet, 1st line
- E2 = 5th tercet, 2nd line
- A3 = 1st tercet, 3rd line = 5th tercet, 3rd line
- G1 = quattrain, 1st line
- G2 = quattrain, 2nd line
- A1 = 1st tercet, 1st line = quattrain, 3rd line
- A3 = 1st tercet, 3rd line = quattrain, 4th line
Here is an example of a villanelle:
- Down by the Rushing River by Francis James Franklin
The following form starts out as a villenelle, but ends with a slightly different structure (it ends with a quintain instead, a stanza with 5 lines).
- Petals Soft as Flame by Francis James Franklin
The above poem combines the villanelle structure with a 5-7-5 haiku and a 5-7-5-7-7 tanka.
Poems are broken down into stanzas. A stanza is a group of lines that go together.
A stanza has a different name depending on the number of lines in the stanza:
- A couplet is a set of 2 lines (these usually rhyme).
- A tercet is a set of 3 lines.
- A quatrain is a set of 4 lines.
- A quintain is a set of 5 lines. Different kinds have different names, such as the cinquain.
- A sestet is a set of 6 lines. A sestina is a specific form.
- A septet is a set of 7 lines.
- An octet is a set of 8 lines.
- A nonet is a set of 9 lines. A popular variation is the Spenserian stanza, which
A poem can have rhyme, it can have rhythm, it can have both, or neither.
Iambic pentameter is a form of rhythm. The basic rhythm structure of a poem is called meter.
Many Shakespearean sonnets, for example, follow the iambic pentameter.
Traditionally, each line of an iambic pentameter consists of 5 pairs of words, where each pair consists of a short/long or stressed/unstressed syllable.
But it doesn’t have to strictly follow the structure of U-S / U-S / U-S / U-S/ U-S (where S = stressed and U = unstressed).
It could have the structure S-U / U-S / U-S / U-S / U-S, for example.
Here is an example of an iambic pentameter:
- Mara (Sea) Sonnet by Clarissa Simmens
This iambic pentameter follows the rhyme scheme abab, cdcd, efef, gg.
Poems can arouse the 5 senses:
Here is a puzzle for you: Can you explain the order of the 5 senses listed above? See below for the answer.
The following poem includes imagery that triggers a variety of senses.
- Hats by Barbara Pyett
The above poem also serves another purpose. It’s designed to spread awareness of cultures and careers to children, as well as to expand their vocabulary.
The poets idea is that after reading the poem, children could play a game (with parents or teachers, perhaps in a group of other children) called Hats, where everyone takes turns thinking of a different kind of hat (for which there are many: you can help kids think of different kinds by getting them to think about sports, careers, different cultures, safety, etc.).
Spoiler alert: Here is the answer to the puzzle, ready or not. They are ordered based on distance, from far to near. For example, you have to be extremely close to taste something, but can see it from a long distance.
Poets can write freely. They don’t have to adopt any prescribed form to write poetry.
Here are a couple of examples:
READ TUESDAY POEMS
These poems relate to Read Tuesday in some way, such as reading, literacy, or books.
Click the link to view the poem.
Use the Contact Us button to submit a poem, play, or short story that relates to Read Tuesday.