So how many different forms of poetry could there possibly be? Turns out a lot! If you try to find a definitive list of all forms of poetry it would take up considerable time and space as it appears there are forms of poetry from A to Z. What’s more, the recognition offorms is ongoing so the list continues to become ever more expansive. However, there are some poetry forms that are more familiar to more people, so as a place to start let’s look at those forms most easily understood. Suffice to say the wonderful thing about literature and poetry in particular is that whilst there are rules within certain formats the writer is the captain of the ship, so he or she can determine the course and that can be as unique as they are!
Essentially the difference between the various types of poems is based on things like the subject material, rhyme scheme and general format or layout of the poem. One of the simplest formats that most people have seen or even written is known as Haiku.This form of poetry is from Japan and the poem must conform to a three line format which are non-rhyming. There are five syllables in each of the first and third lines and seven in the second line. Often centering on subjects like nature the Haiku can in fact reflect any emotions and tackle any subject matter.
Similarly simple in it’s concept is the Limerick, a poem that is often whimsical in nature. Using a rhyme scheme where the first two lines rhyme followed by another two rhyming lines and a final line, the Limerick is an amusing little story. This format dates back to the 1800s and was particularly well done by the British poet Edward Lear.
At the opposite end of the scale the Epic poem takes, as its name suggests, a much longer format. This form has been around for centuries and uses its length to narrate some suitably epic story! Traditionally the epic form had its origins in folklore passed along through storytelling, that later became the written form we know today as the epic poem. It is thought that the oldest form of epic poetry predates Christ by some 1800 years! The sonnet too has an established history being one of the more famous formats popularized of course by William Shakespeare. The sonnet contains 14 lines and usually has a rhyming couplet at the end. Within this format there can be found variations but the Shakespearean sonnet no doubt remains the most familiar and recognizable. Whilst the sonnet relies upon a given format for success Free Verse as the name suggests does not! It may be surprising to note that this poetic form has existed for hundreds of years but really became popular and more recognized in the early 1900s. The free verse allows the poet total control of the poem and thus the consideration given to such things as rhythm, rhyme and overall expression, lay completely in his hands. It would seem that this rebel technique ,that promotes a more individualized method, succeeds because it breaks all the rules! However even without constraints the poems written in this freeform often use other recognizable techniques such as assonance where vowel sounds are repeated or alliteration, the use of words with the same sound.
Finally the Imagery poetic form is worth noting because it is far reaching and can encompass poems across different subject matters. The power of the format is in its ability to conjure up a picture in the reader’s mind and create a vivid image. Thus the the choice of words is paramount so that the clarity and depth of the image are evident and powerful. Some of the best imagery poems are very succinct and produce an instant visual impression of immense power and clarity.
Many more poetic forms exist and continue to offer an opportunity for writers of all ages and abilities to experience the joy and satisfaction of sharing in this wonderful creative process.