Even if you spent most of high school English class staring out the window or at the clock, you’ve probably heard of haiku. And quatrains. And sonnets. Of course, the sonnets.
But there’s more to poetry than free verse and couplets. In fact, there are almost as many forms of poetry as there are actual poems!
How many of the poetry terms on this list have you heard of? Leave a note in our comments section.
11 Obscure Or Little-Known Types Of Poetry Forms
1. Aubade: A poem that ponders lovers separating at dawn. Example: John Donne’s “The Sun Rising”
2. Concrete: Poems that form shapes with words. Example: George Herbert’s “Easter Wings”
3. Didactic: Poems meant to instruct. Example: Alexander Pope’s “The Rape of the Lock”
4. Eclogue: A poem set in a bucolic place (that often discusses urban, social, or political issues). Example: Louis MacNeice’s “Eclogue by a Five-Barred Gate”
5. Ekphrasis: Poetry that echoes specific artwork in another medium (poems about paintings or music, etc.). Example: An excerpt from Homer’s The Iliad
6. Found: A poem created from existing text. See many examples at The Found Poetry Review
7. Ghazal: Carefully rhymed couplets musing on erotic/mystic longing. Example: Patricia Smith’s “Hip-Hop Ghazal”
8. Gnomic: Poetry that embraces aphorisms, proverbs, and maxims. Example: Robert Creeley’s “Gnomic Verses”
9. Occasional: Poem written to commemorate an event or moment in time. Example: Emily Dickinson’s “The Birds begun at Four o’clock”
10. Palinode: A poem that retracts something said in a previous poem. Example: Chaucer’s “Retraction”
11. Sestina: Six stanzas consisting of six lines each, composed in fixed verse form. A repeating set of six words ends the lines of each of the six-line stanzas, but in a different order with each repetition. Example: Elizabeth Bishop’s “Sestina”
Want to learn more about obscure poetry forms? Visit this fantastic website curated by The Poetry Foundation.
QUESTION: What poetry forms have we left off this list? Please comment and let us know below!
Funny we just called you “concrete” poems “shaped verse.” And where are the acrostics? And its close cousin, the quotella? Are they too well known for the list?
Not that knowing obscure forms is necessarily helpful. Was it a response to this site or another where an author commented that an editor rejected a villanelle as “too repetitious,” not realizing the repetition was mandated by the form? In this day and age of upstart on-lines magazines and green editors fresh out of dumbed-down curriculums, spending the time to learn a rules-heavy poetry form could and up working against you.
Thanks for this! I’ll play with some of the ones I’m not familiar with. 🙂
My poetry mentors tell me it’s important to understand, break down and experiment with these older forms to build a foundation.
I agree. I teach kids creative writing and use some of the older forms.
The cinquain is always a favourite as well as diamante.
For my own work, I’ve had success with ekphrasis and concrete as well.
I’ll be sure to reference this sometime as a curated post and/or on my blog, Seawoman’s Caribbean Writing.