Types of Poems, A Running List

There are a million different ways to write, especially when it comes to poetry. This is a running list of styles to advance your poetic experimentation!
(Also: ‘Stanzas’ are similar to paragraphs in stories, and are made up of ‘lines’ which are similar to sentences, but don’t have to be grammatically constructed as one.)

Free Verse, is a poem without specific rhyme or rhythm, and lets the words flow as the author intends them to. A super-long famous example of free verse is Walt Whitman’s Song of Myself, found in his book Leaves of Grass. A shorter read is White Eyes by Mary Oliver.

Haikou poetry is short and sweet, but often very tricky to write to one’s satisfaction. The first line must contain only five syllables, the second line must have seven syllables, and the third and final line must have five syllables. Some famous examples such as In Kyoto were written by the Japanese poet Basho, but remember the English translations might not add up to the correct number of syllables!
Haibue: A modern spin on the traditional Haikou form, where a 3 line Haikou with various adjustments to the syllable structure is written at the end of a poetic paragraph.

Sonnets: Below are two classical sonnet versions, but
Petrarchan = The first stanza (section) is called an 8-line octave, and the second stanza is called a 6-line sestet, making for 14 lines. These stanzas don’t have to be separate, it’s just fancy terminology. The octave usually poses a poetically phrased question, and the sestet usually answers it. The rhyme theme is either CDCDCD (in which the final word of every other line rhymes) or CDEEDE (a more complicated pattern.) Altered for exemplary purposes below is one of John Donne’s ‘Holy Sonnets:’

If poisonous minerals, and if that tree
Whose fruit threw death on else immortal
If lecherous goats, if serpents envio
Cannot be damn’d, alas, why should I b
Why should intent or reason, born in m
Make sins, else equal, in me more heino
And mercy being easy, and glorio
To God, in his stern wrath why threatens h
But who am I, that dare dispute with th
O God? Oh, of thine only worthy bl
And my tears, make a heavenly Lethean fl
And drown in it my sins’ black memory.
That thou remember them, some claim as debt; ()
I think it mercy, if thou wilt forget.

Shakespearian = Shakespeare made things complicated! The sonnets and the poems modeled after them are composed with an ABAB, CDCD, EFEF, and GG rhyme theme. For ABAB, the first two lines follow that CDCD theme discussed in the Petrarchan sonnet. Then instead of continuing that every-other-line-rhymes shtick, a new rhyme is picked up with CDCD. (Ex: if the ABAB rhymes were initially ending in ‘t’ and ‘ing,’ now they end with ‘ie’ and ‘ly.’) This change happens twice, making EFEF. Instead of ending on EFEF, the last two lines end the same way, making GG. This all adds up to 14 lines. Below is John Keats’s poem, written in 1818 and published after he died, altered to exemplify this poetic form. (It doesn’t have a name, because he didn’t name it before he died.)

When I have fears that I may cease to be
Before my pen has glean’d my teeming brain,
Before high-piled books, in charact‘ry
Hold like rich garners the full-ripen’d grain
When I behold, upon the night’s starr’d face,
Huge cloudy symbols of a high romANCE
And think that I may never live to trace,
Their shadows, with the magic hand of chANCE,

And when I feel, fair creature of an hour,*
That I shall never look upon thee more,~
Never have relish in the faery power*
Of unreflecting love!—then on the shore ~
Of the wide world I stand alone, and think <-
Till Love and Fame to nothingness do sink. <-

Sonnet Sequences = Written a little like collaborative Haikou- one sonnet after another.

Limericks are comical poems that can have PG13 or very juvenile topics and usually follow a rhyme theme. Best exemplified by Shel Silverstein’s Boa Constrictor, or any kind of song you sing while jumping rope and playing handshake games.

A Pantoum is a repetitive poem made up of two or more stanzas with four lines each. The second line of the first stanza is repeated (with slight variations at the writer’s discretion) as the first line in the second stanza. The last line of the first stanza is also repeated as the third line of the second stanza. When adding a third stanza, use the second line of the second stanza as the first line of the third stanza, and the third line of the second stanza as the last line of the third stanza. It’s fun to try and make these rhyme, but rhyming is not required in a Pantoum. It’s hard to understand this without seeing it, so below is the first three stanzas of Sandra Lim’s ‘Pantoum,’ structured for explanatory purposes:

Taking on an aspect of the Orient,
* Skies full of hatchets and oranges
Love, uninvited, hangs in the blood:
<> But what is a kingdom to a dying emperor?

* Skies full of hatchets and oranges
🙂 Keep the birds singing, sorrows fresh—
<> But what is a kingdom to a dying emperor,
^0^ As the nights grow steadily into mountains.

🙂 Keep the birds singing, sorrows fresh—
The princess braids these into a necklace
^0^ As the nights grow steadily into mountains,
Why, even regrets recede unexpectedly.

The Burmese Climbing Rhyme, or Than- Bauk involves an internal rhyme scheme based upon the Burmese language, which does not pair well with last-word-in-the-line rhyming seen in English poetry. The only way to explain this one is with an example, shown in Jacquii Cooke’s ‘Free Thank-Bauk’ :

where the rain falls
the wind calls for
hail balls and rest
and the zest of
lights’ best lit <way>.
s(om)e kind slave runs
a<way> fr(om) deep chains

Notice how this poem features no strict rhyme but still has a rhythmic presence.

Ghazal format originates from the Middle East, and it is constructed in two-line stanzas ending in the same word or phrase. This repetitive effect is said to pair well wit mystical or metaphoric themes and Eastern musicians have used this style to write songs. Take a look at Agha Shalid Ali’s poem ‘Even the Rain‘ for inspiration:

Drought was over. Where was I? Drinks were on the house.
For mixers, my love, you’d poured—what?—even the rain.

Of this pear-shaped orange’s perfumed twist, I will say: Extract Vermouth from the bergamot, even the rain.

How did the Enemy love you—with earth? air? and fire?
He held just one thing back till he got even: the rain.

This is a short list that is constantly being extended!
Let us know if there’s a certain style of poetry added you’d like added, and to have your own poems published submit to inspiredinkpwpl@gmail.com

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