Poetry Types for All Ages and Interests

poetry stylesWhen many of people think of poetry, they think of something like this:

Roses are red,
Violets are blue,
I don’t really like poetry,
I’m not sure why you do.

Because, let’s face it: poetry wasn’t everyone’s favorite subject in school. I’m certainly not speaking for the whole population, because I happen to love poetry! But then again, I’m a writer, so I suppose I’m a bit biased on the subject.

Unfortunately, many people couldn’t make it past the children’s rhymes in order to get to the really good stuff, such as modern poetry. Many others found it far too confusing, like the Romantic Period classics (I’m looking at you, Shakespeare). There are so many different poetry types out there, and many of them don’t rhyme at all! Some don’t even seem to have any sort of rhythm, and if I were to give you a few examples you wouldn’t believe they were even poetry.

But that’s the beauty of poetry – it has so many different forms. Ready to give poetry a second chance? There’s bound to be a type that you’ll grow to love.

Acrostic

If you ever went to elementary school, I’m sure you’ve created one of these in your life. An acrostic poem is where the first letter of each line spells out the title. More often than not, each line of the poem is related to the title, unless the child writing it was trying to be particularly abstract.

Epic

An epic poem is a long narrative, often describing the adventures and achievements of a hero. Did you ever read Beowulf? Yep, that’s an epic, if there ever was one. What about the Iliad or the Odyssey? Why yes, those are epics too. They tend to be dramatic, and don’t have much of a structure other than that they tell a story.

Haiku

A Haiku is a type of Japanese poetry that is three lines long. The lines do not have to rhyme with each other, but they do have to follow a specific structure. The first line must have 5 syllables, the second must have 7, and the third must have 5.

Limerick

I’m sure you are at least vaguely familiar with the first published limerick in the US:

There once was a man from Nantucket
Who kept all his cash in a bucket.
But his daughter, named Nan,
Ran away with a man
And as for the bucket, Nantucket.

Sound familiar? A limerick is often witty, humorous, and light-hearted with a strong beat. It consists of 5 lines, with the rhyme structure aabba – which means that the first, second and last lines rhyme with each other, while the third and fourth lines rhyme with each other. The first, second and last lines are also longer (7-10 syllables) than the third and fourth lines (5-7 syllables). In many cases, the end of a limerick is far-fetched.

Ballad

Not to be confused with a ballade (but seriously, I can see why you’d get confused), a ballad often tells a story through rhyme. Ballads are most often sung, originating in early European folk music. The stories are simple and told through short stanzas – often stanzas of four lines – with a rhyme structure of abab or abcb. 

Have you ever heard the song “Scarborough Fair” by Simon and Garfunkel? This is a very popular example of a ballad, instructing the listener to tell the singer’s former lover to complete a wide variety of impossible tasks in order to gain his love back. You may not have known that this song actually originated from an old ballad about the town of Scarborough in Great Britain – Simon and Garfunkel did not write the lyrics themselves!

Ballade

Yes, this type of poetry is different than a ballad (confusing, I know)! A ballade poem consists of three stanzas and an envoi – which is a shorter stanza at the end of the poem that makes a comment about the preceding stanzas or helps to create closure. The three stanzas follow the rhyme structure ababbcbC. Whew! The envoi follows the structure bcbC. What’s with the capital ‘c’ you ask? The C refers to the refrain, which means that it is the same every time.

Let’s say you wanted to write a ballade about what you’re going to do on vacation. The first seven lines of the first stanza would be what you’re going to do on vacation, and then the last line, or the C, would be something like “while I’m on vacation”. The other stanzas would continue the same way, following the original rules, all ending with “while I’m on vacation”.

Cinquain

A cinquain poem is five lines long. The first line is always the title (subject) of the poem, often one word or two syllables long. The following lines are up to creative discretion, but follow this pattern of syllables: 2,4,6,8,2.

You may already be familiar with this type of poem. They often go something like this:

Red Fox
Sly and sneaky
Slinking through the forest
Trying to capture its breakfast
Hungry

Free Verse

A free verse poem is one of the most fun poems to write because it is extremely open-ended. It doesn’t have to rhyme, there are no syllable requirements, no particular rhythm to follow, and the subject can virtually anything you can think of.

Doesn’t sound like a poem to you? It still has to be separated into different lines and different stanzas, allowing for more dramatic pauses than simple prose. If you have ever attended an open mic night where people recited poetry, chances are most of it was free verse. A poem with no rules! What’s better than that?

Still not interested?

This list isn’t even all-encompassing! Have you ever heard of a canzone, a diamante or a petrarchan? I swear I didn’t make any of those words up. And no, I don’t mean a calzone. It’s true that all types of poems aren’t for everyone, but with such a wide variety of poetry types, you’re bound to find one that suits your fancy. Who knows? Maybe you’ll become a poet yourself! Let’s get those creative juices flowing with this creative writing course.