Types of Poetry

  • There are many different types of poetry.  We won't cover them all in class this year, and it's very likely that you won't cover them all in your four years at MNHHS (yes, there are that many).  Here are just a few of the poetry "types," along with some terms you need to know to understand each.  This section may be expanded during the school year.


    Number of Lines

    A poem that's only two lines long is a couplet.  Some longer poems are composed of many rhyming couplets, as a matter of fact.  Other common "numerical" types include the quatrain and the cinquain (four and five lines, respectively).


    Style-Specific:  Blank vs. Free Verse

    Free verse is characterized by the absence of patterns (typically rhyme or meter).  Blank verse is more strict:  unrhymed iambic pentameter.

    Style-Specific:  Haiku

    A haiku is a nonrhymed, 17-syllable poem, typically about nature.  We present haiku in three lines (5, 7, 5), but in Japanese, they are on a single line.

    Style-Specific:  Limerick

    Limericks are lighthearted rhymes with anapestic meter and a strict rhyme scheme (AABBA).  Limericks are generally meant to be humorous (but are also often bawdy).  A common way to start limericks is with an introduction of your subject:  "There once was a young boy named Andy..."

    Style-Specific:  Sonnet

    A sonnet is a poem of fourteen lines.  Sonnets generally follow one of two styles:  Italian/Petrarchan or English/Shakespearean.  You'll hear me use those terms interchangeably, so please learn both terms for each style.

    Italian/Petrarchan sonnets have two stanzas (the poetic equivalent to a paragraph).  The first stanza is an octet (eight lines), and the second is composed of a six-line sestet.  The rhyme pattern is typically ABBAABBA CDECDE.  English/Shakespearean sonnets have three quatrains and one couplet: ABAB CDCD EFEF GG.