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The Most Popular Poem Structures

Poetry is a fascinating form of literature that many people enjoy reading. It uses an interplay of words and rhythmic qualities of poetic language to evoke a specific emotional response. But do you know that there are more than 50 various poem structures? Wondering what are they? Here you’ll find a short list of the common poem forms with definitions and explanations. Some of the types are basic and simple and others have very complex structures.

What Are Poem Structures?

Speaking about different poem structures involves using a lot of different terms that you may not know. Let’s start with a definition of basic poetry structure terms.
In prose, the basic building block is the sentence but poetry consists of poetic lines. The length of poetic lines is determined by the rules of specific poetry forms and structure. The poetic structure definition includes its building blocks: stanzas, line length, rhyme, and rhythm.

  • Stanza is a series of poetic lines grouped together. They are separated from other stanzas by an empty line. Stanzas are similar to a paragraph in a story and can be classified by a number of lines.
  • Rhyme is based on the repetition of similar sounds. Speaking about poetic rhyming, we must admit that the most common type is the end rhyme when similar sounds occur at the end of the line.
  • Rhythm in the poetry is made by the patterns of stressed and unstressed syllables in a line.
  • Meter is the basic rhythmic structure of lines in a verse.

If poems have a set metrical pattern but don’t have rhyme, they are called blank verse. The lines can be composed in any meter. Shakespeare used blank verse to write his plays. This form was especially popular during the Renaissance because it has much resemblance to classical poetry.

There are also free verse poems that mimic natural speech patterns and have no consistent meter patterns or rhyme. They have no formula and don’t follow specific guidelines like other types of structure. Writers can do whatever they want. It’s a common form in contemporary poetry.

We can identify 3 most common types of poems based on the styles or forms:

  • Narrative poems tell stories just like prose and have a plot. Their tradition can be traced back thousands of years.
  • Lyric poems express strong thoughts and feelings.
  • Descriptive poems describe the world around the poet.

These three basic styles have different subtypes and will discuss them further.

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Common Types of Poem Structures

The world of poetry is vast and varied so there are a lot of types of poem structures. Some of them are very old like haiku, epic, ode, villanelle, elegy, pantoum, sonnet, limerick, Ozymandias, and more. At the same time, there are new forms of poem structure as well. For example, nucleus poems mimic the structure of an atom. This form was invented only some years ago but you can find many examples of such poetry on the web.

Slam poetry is a new form as well. It appeared as a concept in 1980. Anyone can participate in these poetry contests that take place in bars, coffeehouses, bookstores, and parks. Today, slam is considered a genre of poetry and an artistic movement that is gaining popularity all around the world.

Now let’s talk about the most popular types of poetry structure. They were created in different cultures, and their purpose was to created specific emotions so these structures are arranged in a standardized way.

Epic or epos is a lengthy narrative poem that tells about heroic adventures and deeds of a legendary or conventional hero. The famous examples include the Old English Beowulf, the Ancient Greek Odyssey, Dante’s Divine Comedy, and more.

Sonnet is a very old lyric form that originated in 13th century Italy. The original sonnet poem structure was invented by Dante and Petrarch. This is a short form that consists of 14 lines and has a specific rhyme scheme. It is rather complicated and doesn’t work well in the English language. It was further developed by Shakespeare who wrote famous sonnets about love and friendship. Now the form has numerous structural variants.

Limerick is a funny poem that consists of 5 different lines. 2 longer lines are followed by 2 short ones, and then there is a closing line that is typically a joke. Limerick poem structure is characterized by a distinctive rhythm. The origin of this nonsense poetic form is a mystery. However, it became popular in the 19th century. These poems are designed to offer laughs.

Ozymandias structure was invented by Percy Bysshe Shelley. Actually, it’s the name of his poems that were written in the form of a political sonnet.

Pantoum originated in the 15th century in Malay and was adopted by French poets. Pantoum structure consists of 4-line stanzas. Lines can be of different lengths and the last line of this poetic form is often similar to the first one. Such poems can be both long and short. This form is all about a repetition that is powerful for emphasis.

Haiku Structure

Haiku structure was invented in Japan in the 17th century. It’s a very short, beautifully descriptive form of poetry. Haiku poem structure includes 3 lines that consist of 17 syllables and can include repetition of words and sounds. Haiku focuses on the beauty of nature, simple life moments, and other abstract subjects. The most famous poet who used this form is Matsuo Bashō. Haiku is well known for its small size and very precise punctuation. The task of the poet is to create a memorable image using just a few words.

Ode Structure

Ode form was invented for flattery in ancient Greece and Rome. Ode structure can be of 3 types: the Irregular, the Pindaric, and the Horation. This lengthy lyric poem is characterized by serious nature. It also features a formal ode poem structure and an elevated style. The poem addresses a specific person, event or a thing and gives them praise.

Villanelle Structure

Villanelle structure is very old, just like the sonnet and has a lot of rules. Villanelle poem structure is very specific as it is characterized by repetition. It’s a very old form that originated from France but some people think that it was actually adapted from Italian folk songs. This fixed form has 2 rhymes and 19 lines. The rhyming scheme of the villanelle is very sophisticated.

Elegy Structure

Elegy structure is not defined by the form in terms of meter or rhyme. Actually, an elegy is defined by its subject – death. Its theme is mourning about a certain person who died or even about a group of people. Elegies typically consist of 3 parts like sorrow, admiration, and solace. It began as an ancient Greek metrical form and the modern form of elegy was introduced in the 16th century.

We have explained the common poetry terms and the most popular structures. However, this article is too short to speak about all poem structure types. Therefore, it’s actually a basic guide. But if you want to get a better idea of structural differences between different forms and types, the best approach is to read and analyze different poem structure examples. With the rapid development of digital technologies and the internet, it’s not a problem.