Poems are collections of words that express an idea or emotion that often use imagery and metaphor. As you are studying literature, you will likely notice that poems come in many, many different forms. Explore definitions and famous examples of several different types of poems. See excerpts of poems from famous poets around the world.
There are many different types of poems. The difference between each type is based on the format, rhyme scheme and subject matter. Explore the different types of poems along with examples of each.
- acrostic - uses the letters of a name for lines ("Nicky" by Marie Hughes)
- ballad - poetic narrative verse ("As You Came from the Holy Land" by Sir Walter Raleigh)
- blank verse - a non-rhyming poem with a specific meter ("The Princess" by Alfred, Lord Tennyson)
- burlesque - satiric poem ("Hudibras" by Samuel Butler)
- canzone - Italian lyrical poem ("A Lady Asks Me" by Guido Cavalcanti)
- elegy - poem expressing grief or sadness ("Elegy Written in a Country Courtyard" by Thomas Gray)
- epic - long, narrative poem ("The Odyssey" by Homer)
- epitaph - a short poem for griefing or death, typically on grave stones ("An Epitaph" by Walter de la Mare)
- free verse - artistic poem without boundaries ( "The Waste-Land" by TS Eliot)
- haiku - short structured Japanese poem ("How Many Gallons" by Issa)
- imagery - poems that invoke the senses ("In a Station of the Metro" by Ezra Pound)
- limerick - comedic, 5-line poem with AABBA rhyme scheme ("There Was a Young Lady of Dorking" by Edward Lear)
- lyric - short, emotionally powerful poem ("When I Have Fears" by John Keats)
- narrative - a poem that tells a story ( "The Raven" by Edgar Allen Poe)
- ode - a poem that celebrates, praises or glorifies ( "Ode to a Nightingale" by Percy Bysshe Shelley)
- pastoral - short poem describing rural life ("To a Mouse" by Robert Burns)
- Petrarchan sonnet - Italian sonnet that follows specific rhyme scheme ("London, 1802" by William Wordsworth)
- quatrain - four-line stanza with specific rhyme scheme ("The Tyger" by William Blake)
- senryu - three-line Japanese poem ("Hide and Seek" by Shuji Terayama)
- Shakespearean sonnet - specific sonnet using three quatrains and a couplet ("Sonnet 116" by Shakespeare)
- sonnet - contains 14 lines, typically with two rhyming stanzas known as a rhyming couplet at the end ("Leda and the Swan" by William Butler Yeats)
- tanka - 31 syllable poem ("A Photo" by Alexis Rotella)
- terza rima - Italian verse with three stanzas and a specific rhyme scheme ("Acquainted with the Night" by Robert Frost)
There are a lot of poets out there. However, a few names have become synonymous with spectacular work, like William Shakespeare. Explore different types of poems by famous poets.
Alfred Tennyson's "In Memoriam" is an elegy to a close friend, Arthur Henry Hallam, and was written over 20 years. Elegies express a lament, often over the death of a loved one. Watch this in action in this excerpt.
"Strong Son of God, immortal Love,
Whom we, that have not seen thy face,
By faith, and faith alone, embrace,
Believing where we cannot prove;
Thine are these orbs of light and shade;
Thou madest Life in man and brute;
Thou madest Death; and lo, thy foot
Is on the skull which thou hast made."
William Carlos Williams' short poem "The Red Wheelbarrow" is a famous example of a short imagery poem. These types of poems work to draw a picture in the mind of the reader, in order to give an extremely powerful image of what the writer is talking about. They can also intensify the senses of the reader.
"so much depends
glazed with rain
beside the white
A limerick is a poem that is often silly or whimsical, written in five lines with an AABBA rhyme scheme. Often, limericks tell a short, humorous story. The form of the limerick was made popular by a British poet named Edward Lear in the 1800s. Explore a limerick in action through “There was a Young Lady of Dorking.”
"There was a Young Lady of Dorking,
Who bought a large bonnet for walking;
But its colour and size,
So bedazzled her eyes,
That she very soon went back to Dorking."
One of the poetic favorites is pastoral poetry because it elicits such wonderful senses of peace and harmony. Examples of this form include Keats' "Ode on a Grecian Urn," which is also a type of ode. In general, pastoral poetry will focus on describing a rural place, but the terms will be peaceful and endearing. You will feel at ease after reading these types of poems.
"Thou still unravish'd bride of quietness,
Thou foster-child of Silence and slow Time,
Sylvan historian, who canst thus express
A flowery tale more sweetly than our rhyme:
What leaf-fringed legend haunts about thy shape
Of deities or mortals, or of both,
In Tempe or the dales of Arcady?
What men or gods are these? What maidens loth?
What mad pursuit? What struggle to escape?
What pipes and timbrels? What wild ecstasy?"
An epitaph poem is typically a short poem of remembrance typically used on a tombstone of a loved one. See this epitaph by Robert Herrick about a child.
"Here she lies, a pretty bud,
Lately made of flesh and blood,
Who as soon fell fast asleep
As her little eyes did peep.
Give her strewings, but not stir
The earth that lightly covers her."
The Italian poet Dante created the terza rima, and his Divine Comedy is one of the best-known examples of the form. See how a terza rima works through this famous poem.
"His glory, by whose might all things are mov'd,
Pierces the universe, and in one part
Sheds more resplendence, elsewhere less. In heav'n,
That largeliest of his light partakes, was I,
Witness of things, which to relate again
Surpasseth power of him who comes from thence;
For that, so near approaching its desire
Our intellect is to such depth absorb'd,
That memory cannot follow. Nathless all,
That in my thoughts I of that sacred realm
Could store, shall now be matter of my song."