20 types of poetry

Do you ever experiment with different writing styles? Or do you always write the same types of poetry time? With over 100 styles to choose from, it’s high time you challenge yourself and spice things up! This article will explore the 20 most popular styles in today’s world. We’ll go over their origins, use cases, and look at some modern examples that will help you find your favourite.

Table of Contents

20 Types Of Poetry

Sonnet 

A sonnet has 14 lines, and each line consists of ten syllables with five stresses per verse (except for the last one). The first two verses are an introduction to the rest of the poem; they should include a general idea about love or romance – this sets up expectations as you read on through it!

"One foot down, then hop! It’s hot.
Good things for the ones that’s got.
Another jump, now to the left.
Everybody for hisself.
In the air, now both feet down.
Since you black, don’t stick around.
Food is gone, the rent is due,
Curse and cry and then jump two.
All the people out of work,
Hold for three, then twist and jerk.
Cross the line, they count you out.
That’s what hopping’s all about.
Both feet flat, the game is done.
They think I lost. I think I won."

Harlem Hopscotch by Maya Angelou, 1971

Free Verse

Free Verse Poetry has no set form but instead relies solely upon rhythmical patterns created by natural speech and any other devices such as repetition, which may be used freely within them without regard towards metre.

Free Verses can also have some kind of order: they might follow one speaker’s thoughts over time, explore different perspectives about something from many people, or be organised by images, sounds and other sensory impressions.

"Beautiful brown liquid steaming in my cup,
Becoming a muddy river as I stir in the cream.
The aroma that gives me courage,
The flavor that tastes like hope for a better day,
And the energy that renews my will to live.
Tomorrow morning we'll do it all again my friend."

An Ode to Coffee by Kelly Roper

Haiku

A Haiku is a poem with three lines with 17 syllables in the first line followed by five on each subsequent verse. It also usually contains some reference to nature as well an observation about life.

Haikus are often written without punctuation so that readers can interpret them differently depending on their moods at any given time, making for more personal readings.

"For love and for hate
I swat a fly and offer it
to an ant"

Masaoka Shiki

Limerick

A Limerick is a verse form with five lines with the first, second and fifth having three syllables, while; in contrast to this pattern of odd-numbered verses are even-numbered ones with two.

"His sister, called Lucy O’Finner,
Grew constantly thinner and thinner;
The reason was plain,
She slept out in the rain,
And was never allowed any dinner."

Lucy O’Finner by Lewis Carroll

Ode

An Ode is a form of poetry usually written to honour a person, place or event. Odes are often written in a grandiose and formal style.

“The untaught harmony of spring …
Still is the toiling hand of Care:
The panting herds repose:
Yet hark, how thro’ the peopled air
The busy murmur glows!
Some lightly o’er the current skim,
Some show their gaily-gilded trim
Quick-glancing to the sun.”

Ode to Spring By Thomas Gray

Narrative poetry

Narrative poetry is a style of poetry that tells a story. It is most common in children’s literature, but it is also prevalent in poems about historical events.

"Once upon a midnight dreary, while I pondered, weak and weary,
Over many a quaint and curious volume of forgotten lore-
While I nodded, nearly napping, suddenly there came a tapping,
As of some one gently rapping, rapping at my chamber door.
"'Tis some visitor," I muttered, "tapping at my chamber door-
Only this and nothing more."
Ah, distinctly I remember it was in the bleak December;
And each separate dying ember wrought its ghost upon the floor.
Eagerly I wished the morrow;-vainly I had sought to borrow
From my books surcease of sorrow-sorrow for the lost Lenore-
For the rare and radiant maiden whom the angels name Lenore-
Nameless here for evermore."

The Raven by Edgar Allan Poe

Epic poetry

Epic poetry is a grand or formal style of poetry. It usually tells an important story or event, such as the Iliad by Homer, which tells of Achilles’ anger at Agamemnon’s insult that led him into battle with Hector for his countrymen.

The term “epic” comes from Latin, meaning long poem about heroic deeds (from Greek ἐπίκομαι epikómai). Epic poems are often composed of themes like religion, mythology, romance or history. They can be either narrative poetry, lyric verse narratives set apart within larger prose works—such examples include Beowulf —or lyrical ballads-like compositions not part of any other work.

Balled

A ballad usually tells an epic story, but it can also speak of the author’s personal experience or feelings on any subject matter.  The term “ballads” comes from Middle English and Old French, meaning dance song (from Latin balare).

Balladeers are famous folk singers like Bob Dylan, who sang these types of songs when he was an up and coming performer.

“Balladesque”, meaning ‘something similar’, has become synonymous among some people when referring specifically to this type of poetry form; however, there isn’t one specific definition because different people have different interpretations of what it means.

The balladeers often used a form called “rhyme royal”, an English verse with four lines in iambic pentameter, each line having ten syllables and the rhyming pattern ABABBCBCC or sometimes AA’BB’. These poems are typically about love and tell stories from history and other specific events.

Turning and turning in the widening gyre
The falcon cannot hear the falconer;
Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;
Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world,
The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere
The ceremony of innocence is drowned;
The best lack all conviction, while the worst
Are full of passionate intensity.

Surely some revelation is at hand;
Surely the Second Coming is at hand.
The Second Coming! Hardly are those words out
When a vast image out of Spiritus Mundi
Troubles my sight: somewhere in sands of the desert
A shape with lion body and the head of a man,
A gaze blank and pitiless as the sun,
Is moving its slow thighs, while all about it
Reel shadows of the indignant desert birds.

The darkness drops again; but now I know
That twenty centuries of stony sleep
Were vexed to nightmare by a rocking cradle,
And what rough beast, its hour come round at last,
Slouches towards Bethlehem to be born?

The Second Coming By William Butler Yeats

Villanelle

A Villanelle is a style of poetry that originated in France and is typically about love. It has nineteen lines, with five tercets followed by a quatrain that repeats each stanza’s first line as its last two words (AABABCCDD).  Villanelles were made famous by the French poet Maurice Scève in 1553.

Villanelles have two refrains repeated at different points throughout each stanza, with one refrain usually occurring after every three lines. In contrast, another occurs only once per verse but before its last line, so they both end on identical words.

Do not go gentle into that good night,
Old age should burn and rave at close of day;
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.
Though wise men at their end know dark is right,
Because their words had forked no lightning they
Do not go gentle into that good night.
Good men, the last wave by, crying how bright
Their frail deeds might have danced in a green bay,
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

Do Not Go Gentle Into That Good Night by Dylan Thomas

Elegy

An Elegy often expresses a sense of loss and regret what might have been or could never be. It can also represent an unfulfilled desire, such as love which will not go away no matter how much time passes. (such is the case with many types). 

This form has two refrains repeated at different points throughout each stanza; one refrain usually occurs after every three lines while another only once per verse but before its last line, so they both end on identical words.

The following are examples: “The Waste Land”, written in 1922-1925) was T S Eliot’s elegy about World War I casualties. Another example would include John Keats’ 1818 work entitled ‘To Autumn.’.

My Captain does not answer, his lips are pale and still;
My father does not feel my arm, he has no pulse nor will;
The ship is anchor'd safe and sound, its voyage closed and done;
From fearful trip, the victor ship, comes in with object won;
Exult, O shores, and ring, O bells!
But I, with mournful tread,
Walk the deck my Captain lies,
Fallen cold and dead.

O Captain! My Captain By Walt Whitman

Ekphrastic poetry

Ekphrastic poetry is a style of poetry that involves a description of a work or scene in art. Ekphrastic poetry can be an analytical tool for understanding how different artists have interpreted particular artworks through their creative lens.

Ekphrastic Poetry involves describing artwork with words that may not necessarily rhyme but still make sense together; this style has been around since ancient times when people wrote poems praising gods like Zeus.

Vincent Van Gogh – “The Starry Night” (1889)
Vincent Van Gogh – “The Starry Night” (1889)

The town does not exist
except where one black-haired tree slips
up like a drowned woman into the hot sky.
The town is silent. The night boils with eleven stars.
Oh starry starry night! This is how
I want to die.

It moves. They are all alive.
Even the moon bulges in its orange irons
to push children, like a god, from its eye.
The old unseen serpent swallows up the stars.
Oh starry starry night! This is how
I want to die:

into that rushing beast of the night,
sucked up by that great dragon, to split
from my life with no flag,
no belly,
no cry.

The Starry Night By Anne Anne Sexton

Epigram

An Epigram is a short, witty poem that can be a single sentence. It often makes observations about life or death, and it may also have a satirical tone in nature.

"Mankind must put an end to war, or war will put an end to mankind."

Blank verse

Blank verse is a form of poetry that is written in unrhymed iambic pentameter.

The first two lines are the same, and then there’s an extra syllable on every line until we reach our final couplet where it just goes back to being regular again (inverted). This type can be found all over Europe where it’s still popular today

To be, or not to be, that is the question:
Whether ’tis nobler in the mind to suffer
The slings and arrows of outrageous fortune,
Or to take arms against a sea of troubles
And by opposing end them. To die—to sleep,
No more; and by a sleep to say we end
The heart-ache and the thousand natural shocks
That flesh is heir to: ’tis a consummation
Devoutly to be wish’d. To die, to sleep;
To sleep, perchance to dream—ay, there’s the rub:
For in that sleep of death what dreams may come,

To Be Or Not To Be By William Shakespeare

Acrostic poetry

Acrostic poetry is a form of poetry where the first letter in each line spells out another word or phrase. The spelt words are often significant to the writer, like “love” or “mother.”

Acrostics spell out names or phrases that mean something special for someone reading it, like their child in school (Mother). It may not seem poetic, but these poems do rhyme, making them sound better than just saying words one after another without any connection.

Sunshine warming my toes,
Underwater fun with my friends.
Making homemade ice cream on the porch,
Many long nights catching fireflies.
Early morning walks to the creek,
Reveling in the freedom of lazy days.

An Acrostic By Edgar Allan Poe

Pastoral poetry

Pastoral poetry is a form of poetry that describes the countryside or rural life. It’s a type where you can find lots and a lot about nature, animals like cows in fields etcetera. 

All pastoral poetry draws on the tradition of the ancient Greek poet Theocritus, who wrote about shepherds, goatherders and cow herding. Theocritus was an ancient Greek poet from Sicily whose influence remains strong today through later poets such as Virgil (70 BC), Horace(65BC), Ovid (~17 AD).

Praise poetry

Praise poetry is a style of poetry that praises someone or something. This type of poetry is often used in religious ceremonies and celebrations to praise God, Jesus Christ but is also prevalent in African tradition and culture. It may have originated on the African continent but that’s an article for another day.

It’s a form where you can find lots about praising somebody like the king or chief, for example, because he has done so many good things during his reign, which are essential not only from an economic point but also socially speaking.

African households use praise poetry to pass down generational information. It is also used to glorify royalty, breadwinners, warriors and champions.

Praise to James Earl Carter,
a plow horse, born to work the land,
a shark in wartime, deadly and swift,
a lion with a great mane, led our nation,
a giraffe standing tall, gentle inspiration
to a world in chaos.
He is an eagle who soars above
the rest of us.

Jimmy Carter: Eagle By Judi Van Gorder

Free verse

Free verse is a form of poetry that is not metered or rhymed. It’s also known as “free verse”, and it doesn’t have to follow any specific rules, such as the use of punctuation marks.

We can call it an open-ended style because there are no set guidelines for how long lines should last relative to one another, nor do they need to end on rhymes like traditional poems would require you to. Free verse poetry has been around for a long time but gained prominence in the 20th century.

“Like a skein of loose silk blown against a wall
She walks by the railing of a path in Kensington Gardens,
And she is dying piece-meal
of a sort of emotional anemia.

And round about there is a rabble
Of the filthy, sturdy, unkillable infants of the very poor.
They shall inherit the earth.

In her is the end of breeding.
Her boredom is exquisite and excessive…
will commit that indiscretion.”

The Garden By Ezra Pound

Pantoum

The Pantoum can be written with or without rhyme schemes. They are usually short poems because their purpose is not just entertainment like traditional forms would have you believe either- instead, many poets write them out of necessity when there’s something important on their minds, such an experience from wartime periods where words were limited so often due to unavailability of free speech at these times too.

Who is that stranger looking back at me
with head atilt and wonder in her eyes?
She mimics all my movements perfectly,
she's hard to recognize in her disguise.

With head atilt and wonder in her eyes,
she seems familiar in a strange, weird way.
She's hard to recognize in her disguise,
is she a friend I knew well yesterday?

She seems familiar in a strange, weird way.
She's older far than me, or so it seems.
Is she a friend I knew well yesterday?
Perhaps I met her somewhere in my dreams.

She's older far than me, or so it seems.
She mimics all my movements perfectly.
Perhaps I met her somewhere in my dreams,
who is that stranger looking back at me?

The Stranger By Whizpurr

Ghazal

In a Ghazal, the first line repeats at intervals throughout the poem. Ghazals are usually about love, or sometimes other topics too. They are not always easy to tell because there isn’t an obvious pattern like you might find elsewhere, such as sonnets, for example, which have set rhyme schemes. 

A Ghazel has no fixed length either; instead, poets often write them until their thoughts run out on this topic before moving onto something else entirely new again.

I spent youth’s dawn just searching for your love;
no idealist, it need not be pure love.
An Idealist in every other way
I wanted shared devotion from your love.
I tried other girls as I searched for you,
but none did cleave so well until your love.
Your mind captured my mind, your body sang
to mine. I was fulfilled by your love.
I let unimportant matters intrude!
Lawrencealot, neglect cost you your love!

Your Love By Lawrencealot 2012

Sestina

The Sestina was introduced by troubadours who would sing these poems to their ladies in medieval Europe’s courts, and it is still a popular form today. The Sestina has six stanzas, with each one containing three lines that repeat throughout: 

The first line appears as part of every other verse; then there’s another set that repeats after two verses have passed (the second being inverted); followed by a third group to be found at intervals until we reach our final couplet.

This type was initially used for love poems but can also cover any topic you want! They’re often written about people or places too- so they might not always sound like traditional poetry because sometimes poets will use different forms suchlike Freeverse where things don’t rhyme either – this means anyone could write a Sestina.

The form is often used in the modern-day too- for example, this poem by Sylvia Plath:  “Lady Lazarus” – which contemplates her death and rebirth like a phoenix… It’s also an excellent way to show how she felt after being reborn!

The first two stanzas repeat throughout the entire poem. Each verse contains three lines that rhyme until we reach our final couplet; then, there isn’t any more repetition but instead just one line of free verse poetry at intervals before finishing off on another set from earlier (inverted).

This type can be found throughout Europe and is still popular today

September rain falls on the house.
In the failing light, the old grandmother
sits in the kitchen with the child
beside the Little Marvel Stove,
reading the jokes from the almanac,
laughing and talking to hide her tears.

She thinks that her equinoctial tears
and the rain that beats on the roof of the house
were both foretold by the almanac,
but only known to a grandmother.
The iron kettle sings on the stove.
She cuts some bread and says to the child,

It's time for tea now; but the child.
is watching the teakettle's small hard tears
dance like mad on the hot black stove,
the way the rain must dance on the house.
Tidying up, the old grandmother
hangs up the clever almanac

on its string. Birdlike, the almanac
hovers half open above the child,
hovers above the old grandmother
and her teacup full of dark brown tears.
She shivers and says she thinks the house
feels chilly, and puts more wood in the stove.

It was to be, says the Marvel Stove.
I know what I know, says the almanac.
With crayons the child draws a rigid house
and a winding pathway. Then the child
puts in a man with buttons like tears
and shows it proudly to the grandmother.

But secretly, while the grandmother
busies herself about the stove,
the little moons fall down like tears
from between the pages of the almanac
into the flower bed the child
has carefully placed in the front of the house.

Time to plant tears, says the almanac
The grandmother sings to the marvelous stove
and the child draws another inscrutable house.

Sestina By Elizabeth Bishop

In closing, I hope you found this article helpful and that it’s given a little more insight into the different types of poetry. I recommend reading some examples or even writing your very own! Check out these poetry prompts and some poetry devices here to give your poetry a little flavour.

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