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Different Forms of Poetry

Poetry is sometimes hard to define. It can be a song or lyrically composed prose. Mostly, it is all about the aesthetics and lyrical composition of language. The world of poetry is vast and full of variety. Still, most people think poetry is about rhyming lines. That is far from the truth. Poetry encompasses much more than that. There are different forms for everyone to enjoy. Below are a few most common types of poems that you might enjoy.


Sonnets, today, are fourteen-line poems in iambic pentameter. Originally it was a stanza in Italian, used by the Sicilian school of court poets in the 13th century. The word sonnet originated from the Italian sonetto, meaning a little song. Generally, sonnets fall into three categories, Petrarchan, Shakespearean, and Spenserian. 

The Petrarchan sonnets have a rhyme scheme of cdc cdc or cde cde. The Shakespearean has a scheme abab cdcd efef gg. And, Spencerian has a scheme of Abab bcbc cdcd ee. A few examples of sonnets are Death Be Not Proud by John Donne and Shall I Compare Thee to a Summer's Day? by William Shakespeare.


A haiku is a form of short poetry generated in Japan. It has three lines, each having 5, 7, and 5 syllables, respectively. Haiku is primarily about nature. Originally it was part of a longer poem called renga. Renga had small opening lines called hokku, and later they were written as a separate poem. This is known as Haiku. Below is an example of Haiku written by the great master Matsuo Basho:

On a withered branch

A crow has alighted;

Nightfall in autumn.


An acrostic poem is a composition in which the first letter of every line spells out a word or a message. This form was used prominently in medieval literature to write religious scriptures. Acrostic poems are fun and entertaining to read. Here's an example by Edger Allen Poe:

 Elizabeth it is in vain you say

"Love not"-thou sayest it in so sweet a way:

In vain those words from thee or L.E.L.

Zantippe's talents had enforced so well:

Ah! if that language from thy heart arise,

Breath it less gently forth-and veil thine eyes.

Endymion, recollect, when Luna tried

To cure his love-was cured of all beside-

His follie - pride and passion - for he died.


A limerick is a form of poetry with a strict composition rule. Written in a single stanza, it consists of exactly five lines and has an AABBC rhyme scheme. Limericks are funny and often trivial. Here's an example of a limerick, composed by Dixon Lanier Merritt.

A wonderful bird is the pelican,

His bill holds more than his belican.

He can take in his beak,

Enough food for a week,

But I'm damned if I see how the helican.


A ballad is a narrative verse accompanied by music. Being a narrative verse, they have a plot, characters, and a climactic ending. They were originally known as 'dance songs'. They are written in thirteen lines and have a rhyme scheme of ABABBCBC. A few examples of ballads are La Belle Dame Sans Merci by John Keats and Ballad on the American War by Robert Burns.


The word ode comes from the Greek word aeidein, which means to singOdes are composed as the praise of an individual or an event. They are lyrical but solemn and have a formal tone. Even if odes have a uniform metric system, most poets deviate from it. A few of my favorite odes are Ode to a Grecian Urn by John Keats and Ode to the West Wind by Percy Bysshe Shelley.

The world of poetry is enchanting. Each of these forms, with its distinctive beauty, satiates the reader's hunger for lyrical words.


Written by Readers’ Favorite Reviewer Manik Chaturmutha