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        15 Types of Poems Everyone Should Know About

        • calenderApr 05, 2024
        • calender 8 min read

        Poetry is as old as human civilization, so there are innumerable types of poetry around the world. But what are the different types of poems that are well-known in English? That’s what we’ve listed here: From free verse and spoken word to the kinds of poems that have an almost mathematical structure!

        We’ve arranged this list of the different types of poetry alphabetically since no other method would be nearly as clean! Here, you’ll find every type of poetry you’ve ever heard about and more. So, let’s dive into the different types of poems and examples.

        Transform your poems into masterpieces!

        Here are the 15 types of poems you should know (and try to write in):

        It’s time for a closer look at the different types of poetry. Let’s get started!

        1. Acrostic

        An acrostic poem is one in which the first letters of all its lines spell out a name or a phrase. This can be any word but is usually related to the poem’s theme and may even be the title. The lines don’t have to follow a specific meter or rhyme scheme. Let’s try making one:

        Pen to paper, the magic flows,

        Opening gates for imagination,

        Emotion and thought, well it knows

        Transcending the older, frozen tradition.a

        Rumbling and roaring in every heart

        Yours to master, this sacred art.

        Simple and creative, this is one of the ideal types of poems for kids. You’re free to experiment with this form. You can have the end letters of the lines form your message or organize your poem around the letters that do. A popular example of acrostic poetry is John Keat’s Acrostic: Georgiana Augusta Keats, which spells out the name of Keats’ sister-in-law, Georgiana.

        2. Ballad

        A ballad is a form of narrative poetry that tells a story in simple and direct language. Since ballad is a traditional form of folk poetry, its composers are often unknown. It typically features bold themes such as love, tragedy, folklore, and historical events. 

        Ballads often use quatrains with a refrain, making them easy to remember and pass down orally. They use dialogue to carry the story forward and are often emotionally charged. Here are some examples of ballads:

        • The Rime of the Ancient Mariner by S. T. Coleridge
        • The Ballad of John Henry
        • Lord Randall

        3. Concrete poem

        A concrete poem is one in which words are formatted to create a shape that is central to its meaning. The shape and the words create a visual impact, thus mixing poetry with the visual arts. Concrete poetry dates back to Alexandria and has evolved through the ages via religious texts.

        how does one quite


        this spilling verse into a vase,

        then fill it to the brim, a spill-short volume

        of drenching rhyme. Impossible to gather close,

        unthinkable to scatter, morose, only allowing

        glimpse after glimpse of a quiet world within.

        a subtle invitation then to descend, but

        not a drop here spilled, only wild,

        sweet flowers enchanting

        the gray world above.

        Here are some well-known examples of a concrete poem:

        • Easter Wings by George Herbert
        • Sonnet in the Shape of a Potted Christmas Tree by George Starbuck
        • The Loophole of Retreat, or The Love Below, as Above by Alison C. Rollins

        4. Elegy

        An elegy is a serious poem that’s often mournful and expresses lament over death. This may be a person’s death, the end of something significant, or just death in general. The original Greek elegiac couplet was a poetic form used to talk about subjects like war, death, and love. Its evolution in English, however, has made it a death poem.

        “I sometimes hold it half a sin

           To put in words the grief I feel;

           For words, like Nature, half reveal

        And half conceal the Soul within.” —In Memoriam A. H. H. by Alfred, Lord Tennyson

        The poem is long and written in a grand style as the poet mourns his close friend, Arthur Henry Hallam. Elegies in English, however, don’t have a specific form: They only have to be about death! Here are some popular examples of an elegy:

        • Dirge Without Music by Edna St. Vincent Millay
        • When Lilacs Last in the Dooryard Bloom’d by Walt Whitman
        • Lycidas by John Milton

        5. Epic

        An epic is a long narrative poem that tells the story of legendary heroes or mythological figures. One of the earliest forms of literature, epics are typically written in an elevated style. They explore themes of heroism, adventure, and the fate of nations.

        An epic usually places its protagonist amid vast and changing settings as he goes on a hero’s journey. This adventure is often episodic and involves supernatural intervention. Epics usually begin with an invocation to the muse, where the poet calls upon the deity for inspirati

        Here are some examples of epics:

        • The Iliad and The Odyssey by Homer
        • The Aeneid by Virgil
        • Paradise Lost by John Milton

        6. Found poem

        A found poem combines words and phrases from other sources by adding or removing text from the original pieces. These sources can range from other religious texts to emails, but the poet creates a new work out of them. It’s like making a collage with words!

        Poets black out certain passages to reveal the poem within, or cut up lines and arrange them differently. A pure found poem consists only of found pieces and no text is added by the poet. It has evolved in the late 20th century, making it a modern poetic form.

        Here are some examples of a found poem:

        • Cantos by Ezra Pound (not purely a found poem)
        • The Man in the Moon by Phil Rizzuto
        • The Unknown by Hart Seely

        7. Free verse

        Free verse is one of the most popular types of poems that have no rhyme scheme or meter. This structure allows poets to experiment with language and rhythm, emphasizing natural speech patterns. The rise of free verse has allowed poems to become more introspective, which is often complemented with stunning imagery.

        Here are some examples of free verse poems:

        • Song of Myself by Walt Whitman
        • The Waste Land by T.S. Eliot
        • Howl by Allen Ginsberg

        8. Ghazal

        A ghazal is a poem consisting of ten to fifteen couplets, often dealing with spiritual and romantic love. These themes are usually accompanied by the pain of separation or beauty among hardship. Originating in the 7th century, the ghazal was adapted from Arabic to Persian, and then to Urdu and other South Asian languages.

        A ghazal usually has a rhyme scheme of AA BA CA DA EA, and so on. Every couplet ends with the same word, called radif, which appears twice in the first couplet. The meter set in the first couplet is followed in all others. The English ghazal, however, doesn’t always follow these rules. 

        “Where are you now? Who lies beneath your spell tonight?

        Whom else from rapture’s road will you expel tonight?

        I beg for haven: Prisons, let open your gates—

        A refugee from Belief seeks a cell tonight.” —Tonight by Agha Shahid Ali

        Here are some other examples of a ghazal:

        • Ghazal: With Prayer by Zeina Hashem Beck
        • Points of Contact by Kyle Dargan
        • Ghazal for White Hen Pantry by Jamila Woods

        9. Haiku

        Haiku is a traditional Japanese form characterized by three lines with a 5-7-5 syllable count. Perhaps the shortest of the different kinds of poems in this list, it captures a moment in nature. A haiku conveys a sense of simplicity, beauty, and impermanence. The form rose in popularity in English literature during the early to mid-20th century and was embraced by the Imagist and Beat Generation poets.

        “After the shower,

         among the drenched roses,

        the bird thrashing in the bath” —Jack Kerouac

        Note that English haiku may not always adhere to the 5-7-5 syllable structure. They do, however, capture the contemplative spirit and brevity of the traditional form.

        Here are some examples of haiku:

        • The Old Pond by Matsuo Basho
        • In a Station of the Metro by Ezra Pound
        • Haiku [for you] by Sonia Sanchez

        10. Limerick

        A limerick is a short poem that’s often humorous, obscene, or nonsense. It has five lines, with a rhyme scheme of AABBA. It’s written in the anapestic trimeter (three feet per line, each with two unstressed syllables followed by a stressed one). It emerged in 18th-century England and was popularized by Edward Lear in the 19th century.

        “There was an Old Lady of Chertsey,

        Who made a remarkable curtsey;

        She twirled round and round,

        Till she sunk underground,

        Which distressed all the people of Chertsey.” —Edward Lear

        Lear wrote about 212 limericks and published them with cartoons in A Book of Nonsense. The limerick isn’t widely used today and is more popular as one of the types of poems for kids!

        11. Ode

        An ode is a type of lyrical poetry characterized by its formal and ceremonious style. It is typically written in a serious tone and dedicated to a particular subject. Subjects for an ode are often grand, such as love, nature, or an idea. There are three major types of odes:

        Pindaric ode:

        • Named after ancient Greek poet Pindar
        • Formal and elaborate, with specific meter and rhyme
        • Three-part structure: strophe, antistrophe, and epode
        • Celebrates heroic achievements or events

        Horatian ode:

        • Named after Roman poet Horace
        • More relaxed and less formal than the Pindaric Ode
        • Varied stanza structure, often regular
        • Explores themes of love, friendship, or daily life 

        Irregular or free ode:

        • Allows structural flexibility
        • Varied meter, rhyme, and stanza form
        • Emphasizes creativity and individual expression

        Here are some more examples of an ode:

        • Olympian Ode 1 by Pindar
        • Maecenas atavis edite regibus by Horace
        • Ode to a Nightingale by John Keats.

        12. Sestina

        A sestina is an intricately structured poem with six sestets (six-line stanzas) and a three-line envoi (concluding stanza). It’s unrhymed and the end words of all six lines are repeated throughout the poem in a fixed pattern. Each stanza flips the structure of the previous stanza in a cyclical manner:

        Sestina's stanza structure

        You can observe that the first and last lines, second and second-last lines, and third and third-last lines are connected in this pattern. The end words for these lines flip around to precede the other. Needless to say, this is the most complex out of all the different types of poems listed here!

        Here are some examples of a sestina:

        • Beautiful Poetry by Camille Guthrie
        • The Complaint of Lisa by Algernon Charles Swinburne
        • A sestina for a black girl who does not know how to braid hair by Taych Jackson

        13. Sonnet

        A sonnet is a 14-line poem often written in iambic pentameter. It traditionally explores themes of love, beauty, and nature. Shakespeare popularized the form by writing 154 sonnets, some addressing a grey lady and others, a fair youth. There are two types of sonnets.

        Petrarchan sonnet:

        • An octave followed by a sestet
        • Rhyme schemes: ABBA ABBA CDCDCD or ABBA ABBA CDECDE
        • Popularized by the Italian poet Petrarch in the 14th century.

        Elizabethan sonnet:

        • Three quatrains followed by a couplet
        • Rhyme scheme: ABAB CDCD EFEF GG
        • Most prominently used by Shakespeare in the 16th century

        Here are some popular examples of the sonnet:

        • How Do I Love Thee? by Elizabeth Barrett Browning
        • On His Blindness by John Milton
        • Sonnet 18 by William Shakespeare.

        14. Spoken word

        A spoken word poem is written to be performed by the poet and uses rhythm and vocal expression to achieve its full effect. Spoken word is a broad umbrella ranging from poetry recitation to jazz, rap, and hip-hop. Some spoken word poems are published, but their key characteristic is vocal aesthetics.

        Since they’re meant to be performed in a social setting, spoken word poems often engage in wordplay and satire. Their themes predominantly revolve around identity and social issues. Going back to the roots of poetry itself, spoken word is hugely popular around the world.

        Here are some popular examples of a spoken word poem:

        • To This Day by Shane Koyczan
        • Accents by Denice Frohman
        • What Teachers Make by Taylor Mali

        15. Villanelle

        No, we’re not talking about the fictional character from Killing Eve! A villanelle is a highly structured 19-line poem with five tercets (three-line stanzas) and a final quatrain (four-line stanza). The rhyme scheme is ABA ABA ABA ABA ABA ABAA, with the first and third lines appearing as alternating refrains throughout the poem. Confused? Take a look:

        Do not go gentle into that good night,

        Old age should burn and rave at the close of day;

        Rage, rage against the dying of the light.


        Though wise men at their end know dark is right,

        Because their words had forked no lightning they

        Do not go gentle into that good night.


        Good men, the last wave by, crying how bright

        Their frail deeds might have danced in a green bay,

        Rage, rage against the dying of the light.” 

        Do Not Go Gentle into That Good Night    by Dylan Thomas

        Although the form originated in France, the majority of villanelles have been written in English. Here are some popular examples of a villanelle:

        • Mad Girl’s Love Song by Sylvia Plath
        • One Art by Elizabeth Bishop
        • The Waking by Theodore Roethke

        Now that you know all about the major types of poetry, you’ll probably start writing your own poems soon. If you need a second opinion, make sure to use our poetry editing services!

        If you’d like to keep reading, here are some more resources:

        Frequently Asked Questions

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        Prasanna Linkedin

        Prasanna is on a little break from academia and spends his time compiling fiction writing tips. He enjoys poetry, mythology, and drawing lotuses on any surface he can find.

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