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Poetic Forms

A Handbook of Poetic Forms (in Verse, of Course!)


Play with words and play with me
Listen to the rushing from the sea
A poet’s heart is full and true
A poets hand brings wisdom to you

Abstract poems are patterns in sound
Allegory is a story in another round
A metaphor, a dream, a story with another mean (ing)

Alliteration repeats stressed word beginnings
Alphabet poems use letters like meanings
To start a line or as a focus
Apostrophe is a chat with a missing person – hocus pocus?

Assonance repeats vowels sounds, no rhyme
Ballad is a song with time
for stanzas each containing four line

Ballade is the French song, a rhyme, a dance
Eight line stanzas, three stanzas and an envoi
a summary best not left to chance

Blank verse lines do not end in rhyme
Blues poems do
and they pulse in rhythmic time

Bouts-Rimes are a collaborative work
and effort of many
Callilgrams set words in shapes new and many

Cantos are the divisions in a long work
Canzones sing of love and do not shirk

From questions of truth, grace and life.
Centos use bits from other poets,
combining in a patchwork without strife

Chants are repetitive and roll like waves on a beach
Cinquains have strict form:
5 lines, 5 stanzas, 2/4/6/8/2 syllables each

Collaboration is a group effort, the poets apart
Concrete poems use space and sound;
poetry as graphic art

Couplets are 2 line pairs:
Iambic, Enjambement, Closed and Open
With pauses called Caesuras where breath can sneak in

Eclogue is monologue of smooth emotion
Elegy is lamentation, death as devotion

Epics are long, adventurous tales
Dividing into Cantos as hero prevails

Epigrams are short:
2-6 lines of precision and wit
Epistle is in the form of a letter, poet writ

Epitaph inscribes on tomb with no form
Epithalamium celebrates bride,
sometimes sung under her window on her wedding morn!

Event poems describe Happenings, dramas not plays
Foot is a measure leading to meter
five different ways:

There’s Iamb and Trochee
Dactyl and Anapest
Spondee is the final, the meter described last

Found poems are cobbled from unexpected sources
Free verse is loose as runaway horses

Ghazal is mystical, 5-12 couplets in rhyme
Haiku patters of 5/7/5 date from early Japanese time

Imitation is mistranslation of foreign language poem
Insult Poetry bites; with it verbal wars are born

Light Verse is not a form but a style
Unstranable, acceptable, happy and mild

Limerick form is 3/3/2/3/2
the words are nonsense and end with a clever twist:
its true

Line is the look of a poem on paper
List Poetry is the delight of an organized list shaper

Lune is like haiku but with its own track,
A 5/3/5 thirteen line attack

Lyric poems are full of intimacies and devotion
Macaronic verse mix two languages with comic effect and motion

Madrigal love poems are oft set to music with Tercet and Couplet design
Metaphor is a figure of speech, linking unlike objects with equal sign

Nonsense verse doesn’t make sense, but is not gibberish
Occasional poems are written for an event, a happening not a fish

Ode is invocation, prayer, myth, moral and conclusion
Ottova Rima is rhyme in eights without any confusion

Pantoum is four repeating line chunks with echoes, rhyme and twist
Parody is exaggerated imitation, criticizing lit with grit and grist

Pastoral poetry is full of sweet country ideal
Performance poems are dramas with oral and stage appeal

Projective verse is all about the look
Prose poetry flows like a poem but looks like a book

Quatrain is poem or stanza all in 4 lines
Rap is rhythmic words, verbal warfare in rhymes

Renga is a group effort with alternating stanzas of two and three
Rhyme lends pattern and helps with memory

Rhythm in writing is musical beat
Ritual poem tells of ceremonies to turn fates and meet

Rondeau like a round has repetition and rhymes
5/3/5 stanzas split into 8 syllables and 15 lines

Satire sets a tone for critical mocking attack
Senryu is structured like haiku but gives nature the sack

Sestina is complicated, a pattern of sixes
It rolls through 6 line stanzas while rhythm it nixes

Skeltonic Verse tumbles, 3-6 word lines well met
Sonnet splits 14 lines into Octave of 8 and a 6 line Sextet

Spoonerism swaps sounds to make new words
Stanzas are line groupings, flying through space like birds

Syllabic verse repeats pattern of syllable count
Tanka is mood, life, love, death in a 5 line mount

Tercet means 3; rhyming stanzas that run
Terza Rima tumbles aba/bcb/cdc… rolling fun

Triolet is a pretty and of strict form
8 lines, 2 rhymes and 2 repeats the norm

Villanelle, once a bumbly country lad
now has repeats and 6 stanzas; a song to be had

Walk Poem can be chronicle, path or inspiration come to light
Word Play is fun, a language and sound delight

Forms and type abound by the score
Read and write one poem, then read and write more

Poems of all kinds develop and grow
There’s a poem for everyone; choose your style and go!


Works Cited

Drury, John. The Poetry Dictionary. 2nd ed. Cincinnati, OH: Writers Digest, 2006. Print.

Lipson, Greta B., and Leo Abbett. Poetry Writing Handbook: Definitions, Examples, Lessons. Carthage, IL: Teaching & Learning, 1998. Print.

Padgett, Ron. The Teachers & Writers Handbook of Poetic Forms. 2nd ed. New York: Teachers & Writers Collaborative, 2000. Print. The Poetry Handbook