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Poems can be constructed in either free verse or formal verse. This article explains the differences between the various types of poetry and lists types of poems.
What is free verse poetry? Most poets today write free verse, which is open to pattern and is recognized as nonconforming and rhymeless verse.
What is formal verse poetry? Formal poetry or metrical verse follows “rules” regarding stanza length and meter or rhyme patterns. There are several traditional, commonly-known types of formal poetry.
Editor’s note for writers publishing poetry: Most literary journals do not embrace traditional rhyme and form poetry, preferring the more commonly used free verse. Unless you’re the Earl of Rochester or Alexander Pope, it would be best to stick with free verse if you’re trying to get your poetry published in literary magazines and journals.
A List of Some Types of Formal Verse Poetry
Haiku, a form of Japanese descent, consists of three lines of five, seven, and five syllables respectively, and traditionally deals with nature subjects.
A sonnet, whether of English or Italian rhyming scheme, is a single- or two-stanza lyric poem containing 14 lines written in iambic pentameter. Shakespeare’s love sonnets are well-known.
The sestina is a six-line stanza followed by a three-line stanza. There is a predetermined pattern in that the same six words are repeated at the end of lines throughout the poem. The last word in the last line of one stanza becomes the last word of the first line in the next stanza. Then, rounding it off with the final three-line stanza, all six end words appear. You may want to read some of Sylvia Plath’s sestinas to familiarize yourself with this form.
The villanelle and the pantoum are two forms that are closely related to each other. The villanelle, a nineteen-line poem, is made up of five three-line stanzas and one four-line stanza (or quatrain) at the end of the poem. Alternating between the ends of each tercet (three-line stanza), there are two refrains that eventually end up forming the last two lines of the quatrain. Dylan Thomas’s “Do Not Go Gentle Into That Good Night” is an example of a villanelle. The pantoum is comprised totally of quatrains. In each stanza the second and fourth lines are repeated in the first and third lines of the following stanza until the final stanza, where the first line is the poem’s first and the second line is the poem’s third line. “Evening Harmony” by Charles Baudelaire is an example of a pantoum.
A List of Some Types of Free Verse Poetry
Free verse comes in various forms, the most common being driven by cadence, in which common language rhythm is substituted for regular metrical pattern. Strong cadences can be seen in the works of Walt Whitman and the King James Bible version of The Psalms and The Song of Solomon.
A second type of free verse is free iambic verse, which was used by such poets as T.S. Eliot and W.H. Auden.
A third form is the free verse proper, the most used form, where the inconsistency is at the center of the poem. There is no set metrical rhyme or patterns of meter and rhythm. Unlike traditional verse, free form is not constrained by the rules regulating syllables in stanzas.
There is often confusion as to what is meant by visual poetry. If you have written a very descriptive poem about a whale, it may be a wonderful free verse poem but not visual. If you have written the same poem and the presentation of the piece is in the shape of a whale, you have written a visual poem.
Other various forms of avant-garde poetry related to free verse are surrealism, concrete, and language poetry.
For more about poetry, read Free Verse: The Hidden Rules Of Free Verse Poetry or The Language Of Musicality In Poetry: Vocabulary For Poets.
Writer’s Relief helps poets publish all types of poetry, but mostly we work with free verse poems (since rhyming poetry is not readily accepted by most literary journals).