Comprehensive List of Poetry Types

Types of PoemsAre you looking for new poetry types to try out? Everyone knows the most common types of poetry like haiku, sonnet, ballad, and free verse. But what about the others?

In this article, you’ll discover a comprehensive list of different types of poetry with easy to understand explanations along with some examples. Some of these styles will have strict rhythm while others will use repetition or other techniques. Whether you are searching for new poetry styles to write or doing research for a critique, you will surely find this list useful and informative.

The Three Genres of Poetry

A few thousand years ago, the great philosopher Aristotle divided poetry into three genres: comedy, tragedy, and epic. He said comedy was an imitation of something inferior in a humorous way, while both tragedies and epics are ways of displaying suffering. The main differences he saw between tragedies and epics are that epics are told as narratives in heroic meter and epics are longer with the ability to jump back and forth to different events happening at the same time. Tragedies, on the other hand, are written in iambic meter and should be able to be read in only one hearing.

Today, most literature enthusiasts agree that poetry is divided into three parts: dramatic, lyric, and narrative.

  1. Dramatic
    Dramatic poetry is a drama written in verse and meant to be spoken. This type of writing is usually written as a story or portrays a situation. The majority of dramatic poetry is written in blank verse. The most famous authors of dramatic poetry are Shakespeare, Jonson, and Marlowe.
  2. Lyric
    Lyric poetry expresses the thoughts and feelings of the writer and is often written with a song-like quality. Common types of lyrics include odes, elegies, and sonnets.
  3. Narrative
    Narratives tell stories. Common types of narratives are ballads and epics.

Nonetheless, these three genres can easily be divided into more exact categories of poetry types.

Specific Poetry Types


Consists of five lines. Lines from 1 to 4 are made up of words, phrases, or clauses with the first letter of each line in alphabetical order. Line 5 is one sentence long and may start with any letter.


Consists of any number of lines which spell a word or message. Usually, the message is formed from the first letter of the phrase but may be any letter.

Example: Edgar Allan Poe’s “A Valentine”.


Tells a story similar to a folk tale or legend which may often include a refrain.


Made up of three stanzas of seven, eight, or ten lines with a shorter final stanza consisting of four or five lines. All the stanzas end with the same one-line refrain.

Blank Verse

Similar to the sonnet but is unrhymed. This poetry type still uses the famous iambic-pentameter and is still often fourteen lines and includes a “turn.” However, longer or shorter versions also exist.

Example: Alfred Tennyson’s “Ulysses”.


Similar to a biography but written as a poem and about a specific event or trait.

Example: Jean Ingelow’s “One Morning, Oh! So Early”.


Usually created by marking out words in a newspaper, book, or magazine until only words forming the poem remain. Also, see “found” poetry.


Treats a serious subject as humor. Example: E. E. Cummings “O Distinct”.


Medieval Italian lyric with five or six stanzas and a shorter ending stanza.

Carpe diem

Has a theme of living for today.


Describes a subject matter within five lines. Line 1 has one word (the title). The next line has two words that describe the title. Line 3 has three words that tell an action. The following has four words that express the feeling, and line 5 has one word which recalls the title using the same word or a synonym (concrete, abstract, or metaphorically).


Has the principles and ideals of beauty that are characteristic of Greek and Roman art, architecture, and literature.


Four lines consisting of two rhyming couplets. The poem’s topic is always a well-known individual or historical figure and is written in a comical way.

Example: “Governor Sam Brownback” by Gary R. Hess


Also known as “size poetry”. It uses typographical arrangements to display an element of the poem. It may be done through rearrangement of letters of a word or by arranging the words as a shape. Also, see “shape” and “visual” poetry.


Two rhymed or unrhymed lines which may or may not form a complete poem.

Dramatic monologue

Spoken to a listener. The speaker addresses a topic while the listener unwittingly reveals details about themselves.


Written about the death of an individual in a sad or thoughtful way.

Example: Gary R. Hess’s “1983”.


A long and serious poem about a heroic figure.


A very short, satiric, and witty poem usually written as a couplet or quatrain. The term is derived from the Greek epigramma meaning “inscription”.


A commemorative inscription on a tomb or mortuary monument such as a gravestone in order to praise the deceased.

Example: Ben Jonson’s “On My First Sonne”.

Epithalamium (Epithalamion)

This poetry type is written in honor of newlyweds (or for before the wedding).

Free Verse (vers libre)

Rhymed or unrhymed lines that have no set metrical pattern.


Created by taking words, phrases, and passages from other sources and re-framing them by adding spaces, lines, or by altering the text with additions or subtractions.


A lyric which arose in Urdu. It contains between 5 and 15 couplets. Each couplet makes up its own poetic thought but is linked in rhyme that is established in the first couplet and continued in the second line of each pair. The lines of each couplet are equal in length. Themes are usually connected to love and romance but not necessarily. The closing signature often includes the poet’s name or allusion to it.


A Japanese poem composed of three unrhymed lines of five, seven, and five morae (but today it is often written in English as syllables), usually containing a word which displays the season. The subject matter must be related to nature.

Idyll (Idyl)

Depicts a peaceful, idealized country scene or could be a long poem telling a story about heroes of a bye-gone era.


A long narrative poem, especially one sung by medieval minstrels.


A short and sometimes vulgar but humorous poem that consists of five anapestic lines (but often sways from this). Lines 1, 2, and 5 have seven to ten syllables, rhyme and have the same verbal rhythm. The 3rd and 4th lines have five to seven syllables, rhyme and have the same rhythm.


Made up of a list of items or events. It may be any length and rhymed or unrhymed.


Tells about a word of the author’s choosing. It uses the letters of the word for the first letter of each line. This is commonly used for names of people, products, or organizations.

A lengthy lyric that is typical of a serious or meditative nature and has an elevated style and formal stanza structure. Example: Sappho’s “Ode to a Loved One”.

Horatian Ode

Written in two or four-line stanzas, each with the same metrical pattern often addressed to a friend and deals with friendship, love, and the practice of poetry. It is named after its creator, Horace.

Irregular (Pseudo Pindaric or Cowleyan) Ode

It is characterized by irregularity of verse and structure and lack of correspondence between the parts. It is essentially an Ode which is unlike the Pindaric or Horatian.

Pindaric Ode

A ceremonious poem that consists of a strophe (two or more lines repeated as a unit) followed by an antistrophe with the same metrical pattern and concludes with a summary line (an epode) in a different meter. Named after Pindar, a Greek professional lyricist of the 5th century B.C.


Displays rural life in a peaceful, romanticized way.


A stanza which consists of four lines. Lines 2 and 4 must rhyme while having a similar number of syllables.


Has the repetition of the same or similar sounds of two or more words, often at the end of the line. Could be about any subject matter and include any number of lines or stanzas.

Rhyme royal

Consists of any amount of stanzas having seven lines written in iambic pentameter.


About nature and love while having an emphasis on personal experience.


A lyric of French origin having 10 or 13 lines with two rhymes and with the opening phrase

repeated twice as the refrain.


A short Japanese poem that is similar to Haiku’s 5-7-5 structure but has the topic of humans rather than nature and is often written in a humorous or satiric manner.


Consists of six six-line stanzas and a tercet envoy (ending stanza). The final words of the first stanza are repeated in a varied order as end-words in the other stanzas and also recur in the envoy.


Shape poetry is written in the shape or form of an object. Also, see “concrete” and “visual” poetry.


A lyric that consists of 14 lines which usually has one or more conventional rhyme schemes (but not always) and consists of a turn.

Italian (Petrarchan)

Consists of an octave with the rhyme pattern ABBAABBA followed by six lines of CDECDE, CDDCDC, CDECED, CDCEDC, or CDCDCD. A turn takes place after the first eight lines.

Shakespearean (English)

Consists of three quatrains of ABAB CDCD EFEF followed by a couplet of gg. Shakespearean sonnets generally use iambic pentameter but may veer away from the meter for added effect throughout the poem. A turn takes place after the first twelve lines. A single stanza, two stanzas, or three stanzas are all common for this type of poetry.

Example: “Ode to Baseball” by Gary R. Hess


This “verse without words” is a type of dada poetry which is primarily for performance art. This form bridges literary and musical composition in which the phonetics of human speech create a poem without necessarily using real words.


A Japanese poem of five lines with the first and third composed of five syllables and the other seven.

Example: “On a tree” by Gary R. Hess

Terza Rima

10 or 11 syllable lines arranged in three-line tercets.


A single metrical line.


A 19 line poem consisting of five tercets and a final quatrain of two rhymes. The first and third lines of the first tercet repeated alternately as a refrain closing the succeeding stanzas and joined as the final couplet of the quatrain.


The visual arrangement of text, images, and symbols to help convey the meaning of the work. Also, see “concrete” and “shape” poetry.

Gary R. Hess

Gary was born and raised on a small farm in rural Kansas. Today, he is teaching various nationalities English in Southeast Asia. Get his newest poetry eBook here.

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