29 Types of Poetry and Poetic Forms

29 types of poetry and poetic forms

When it comes to poetry, there is an almost endless number of different types of poems. Many of these different poetic forms depend on the length of each verse, the rhyme and even the shape of the poem. There are even variations specific to some languages.

With this much choice, there is a form of poetry for everyone. Whether you want to expand your horizon by reading some new poems or you want to experiment with a new writing style, here is a guide to 29 different types of poetry.

The Main Types of Poetry

If you love structure in your writing, then there are plenty of different kinds of poems to choose from. Some have a more rigid poetic form, while others are free-flowing and experimental.

You will probably recognise some of these well-known types of poetry from your time at school. However, some of these are often not mentioned because they appear to be too niche. Saying this, they are still worth mentioning and you might even find that poems which break the rules appeal to you much more than the poems that use specific shapes and stanzas.

Enjoy exploring these forms of traditional and contemporary poetry.

1. Haiku

Until a few years ago, haikus were largely unknown outside of their native Japan but they have grown hugely in popularity. That’s because they are often short. This makes them fun to read and write, making them more accessible to children and adults.

A haiku poem often has nature as its core topic but there are no limits to what a haiku could cover. As long as the rules for a haiku are fulfilled, you can write this type of poem about anything.

A haiku should always be three lines long. The first line needs to have 5 syllables, the second line has 7 syllables and the third line has 5 syllables again.

This sounds straightforward but it can be surprisingly difficult to write something so simple, especially when you want to give your haiku meaning.

Here are some examples of traditional and modern haikus.

2. Ballad

The ballad is one of the oldest and most traditional form of poetry. These poems often tell an emotional or tragic story.

Ballads started to emerge during the late Middle Ages when they were often combined with music to make the plot more dramatic. In fact, many of the modern pop songs that you can hear today go back all the way to the good, old ballad.

A ballad is commonly made up of four lines (known as a quatrain). Thanks to its close links with music, it also has a pleasant rhythm with a set rhyme scheme of ABCB or ABAB. This is the traditional ballad form and writers can easily modify this to fit their topic.

Here are some wonderful ballad examples.

3. Conceptual Poetry

Conceptual poetry is often considered a literary movement from the early 20th century but it is also a poetic form in its own right. Concept poems are based on a fundamental thought or idea. They can take any form, length or shape. As a type of experimental poetry, these poems emerged out of concrete poetry, without a fixed form.

Check out my artwork for more information and examples of conceptual poetry.

4. Limericks

Similar to haikus (without the oriental twist), limericks are short and fun poems. They are often light on meaning and quite trivial. You will also find limericks that are similarly crude and comedic.

Limericks commonly don’t go into much detail. A limerick only gives a short description of small tales and morals.

These five line poems only use a single stanza with the traditional AABBA rhyme. This being said, the first, second and firth lines of a limerick usually have up to 10 syllables, while the third and fourth lines have up to 7 syllables. However, this is quite flexible and you can also write less, as long as you stick to the AABBA rhyme scheme.

Here are some of the most funny limerick examples.

5. Acrostic

Acrostic poems aren’t poems in the traditional sense as an ode or a ballad. These fun poems spell out a phrase, word or name with the first letter of each line.

One of the most famous acrostic writer was Lewis Carroll who would create little acrostic poetry and then hand them to children as gifts.

Here are some sweet acrostic poems examples.

6. Pantoum

Chances are that you have never hear of this complicated type of poem. Pantoums are made up of quatrains (stanzas that have four lines). The first and the last line of a stanza is always the same. The second and fourth line of each quatrain are repeated in the first and third line of the next quatrain.

Check out these great pantoum examples

7. Ekphrastic

An ekphrastic poem is a type of poetry that uses another work of art or a visual image as its inspiration. This means that it is part of experimental poetry without any specific form, structure or rigidity.

This modern form of poetry is essential because it brings together poetry and art. Writers and poets often write ekphrastic poems about a painting, photograph, collage or another piece of artwork they have seen. These poems usually express how the writer feels about what they see but they may also ponder the origins of the artwork and indeed art itself.

Take a look at this list of ekphrastic poem examples.

8. Sonnet

Sonnets are one of the most famous forms of poetry. These poems are typically 14 lines in length and the specific rhyme can vary depending on the topic. They often tell stories of love and romance.

One of the best know sonnets come from Shakespeare. Shakespearean sonnets are made of three quatrains with a couplet at the end. They are always written in iambic pentameter. Shakespeare’s sonnets typically have an ABCB rhyme scheme in their quatrain, and the couplet has a DD rhyme.

Here are some wonderful sonnet examples.

9. Ode 

Often mentioned together with the sonnet and ballad, an ode is another traditional form of poetry. Odes are commonly used to pay tribute and honour a certain subject. This could be an object, a movement and a person.

While these short lyrical poems aren’t very common now, they have a traditional verse structure that portrays dramatic emotions with lots of praises.

Explore these lovely ode examples.

10. Lyric Poetry

Lyric poetry is a very broad term that covers a wide variety of poetic types. Typically, lyric poems are focused on certain emotions and feelings. The short length and expressive descriptions always give them a song-like feeling that reminds you of music.

There is no set form for a lyric poem. It can have any length and take any shape. As long as the core subject is emotions rather than a story, a poem can be labelled a lyric poem.

Here are some fantastic examples of the lyric poem.

11. Free Verse

Just as the name suggests, free verse is liberated from any strict form and poetic rules. In fact, there are no rules in free verse poetry at all. You can use any rhyme or rhythm that you like.

This type of poem is great when you are new to writing poetry or you want to try out something new. You can freely allow your imagination to flow and explore new ideas and structures.

Take a look at these classic examples of free verse.

12. Prose Poetry

The clue is in the name. Prose poetry uses elements from prose and poetry. Most prose poems look like a normal paragraph of prose. They don’t have any line breaks but use certain poetic elements like repetition, alliteration, rhythm, rhyme and meter.

Prose poems should have a balance of poetic features and parts of prose to be labelled in this way. If you are interested in writing prose poems, then check out these prose poetry examples.

13. Narrative Poetry

Narrative poems have a lot in common with epics but they aren’t just as just. Plus, narrative poetry don’t focus just on hero tales or adventures. These descriptive poems often tell the full plot story from the beginning to the end, focusing on the story itself rather than feelings.

You will find that a narrative poem is usually told by a single speaker or narrator. These narrating poems also use a certain type of traditional rhyme scheme.

Here are some amazing narrative poem examples.

14. Sestina

A sestina is a French poetry form that is relatively complex. The unrhymed lines are made of six stanzas that are six lines each. What makes sestina poems so complicated is that the end word of each line in the first stanza is used as a line ending in each of the following stanzas. This pattern rotates throughout the stanzas, depending on the length of the sestina.

Also the ending tercet has specific rules. It contains all the six words that were previously used as ending words in all the six stanzas before.

While this form of French poetry is difficult to write, the effect and sound sestina poems create is beautiful.

Here are some amazing sestina examples.

15. Experimental Poetry

Experimental poetry or experimental writing can take any shape, form and length. It is similar to free verse, although experimental poems often mix a range of different poetic forms, and even other art forms.

You can also find that some experimental poems are not even legible or they may fall under visual art rather than poetry.

Explore some examples of experimental poems, or take a look at Concrete Poetry, Free Verse and Conceptual Poetry which are all more experimental poetic forms.

16. Villanelle

Villanelle poems combine the complexity of some poetic forms with the lyric fluidity and beauty that just makes these poems a pleasure to read. This is also because they regularly use repeating lines. For example, the first line repeats in line 6, 12 and 18 of the piece.

Overall, Villanelles are made up of 19 lines with five tercets and a quatrain at the end. But that’s not where the strict rules end. This form of poetry also has a specific rhyme scheme: the quatrain’s have the rhyme scheme ABAA, while the tercets have the rhyme ABA.

The repetition in villanelle poetry creates a distinctive effect that is often used around intense subjects, such as OCD and obsession.

Check out these villanelle examples.

17. Elegy

Elegies have much in common with odes. They are both a praise to a person, an object or an idea. However, an elegy typically has a person as its subject, reflecting on loss, death and mourning. In addition, they also present the other side of tragedy: consolation, hope and redemption. Many poets write elegies in honour of a loved one who died.

An elegy is always made up of quatrains that are written in iambic pentameter with a classic rhyme scheme of ABAB. These are just the basic rules of writing elegies but poets can easily change them according to subject.

Here are some great classic and contemporary elegy poem examples.

18. Erasure Poetry and Blackout Poetry 

Blackout poetry and erasure poetry are both distinct types of found poetry where you collect existing pieces of a text and black out or cross out certain sections to create meaning. With the existing text as a basis, you can shape an entirely new poem that has a strong connection to the old piece.

You can use any type of text, from old books, newspapers and magazines to handwritten letters. This poetic form is also part of experimental poetry as there are no specific writing rules for it. 

Take a look at these stunning examples of erasure poetry.

19. Echo Verse

Echo verse can be great fun to write, for adults and children alike. Echo poems simply repeat the last syllable of each line in your stanza. You can even vary the line break by putting the repeated syllable directly underneath the end syllable. Besides the continual repetition, there are no rules to echo verse and you are free to experiment as much as you like.

Here are some classic examples of echo poetry.

20. Epics

Epic poems are verses that tell an entire story. Just as their name suggests, they are literally extremely long poems that tell of adventures, heroes, villains, mythical creates and other characters that make a story exciting.

While the most famous epics, such as Homer’s Iliad, are said to be fictional, an epic poem can also be real.

Here are some examples of the best epic poems.

21. Palindrome

This type of poetry combines poetic form with palindromes, so the words reflect back upon themselves, hence why they are also referred to as mirror poems. These poems start with an initial set of lines and then hinge on a line that usually repeats directly in the middle of the poem before they work through the rest of the lines in reverse order. This form is another complicated form which seems less daunting once you read an example of it. Try Doppelgänger by James A. Lindon.  

These palindrome examples are super fun.

22. Diminishing Verse

Diminishing poetry is all about removing the first letter of the final word of each line, and repeat the “diminished” word in the next line. This is continued throughout the stanza.

Other than the reducing of the word at the end, there are no other specific rules in diminishing verse poems. This newer form of poetry is more contemporary and experimental.

Here are some great examples of diminishing poems.

23. Epitaph

Epitaphs are a shorter type of elegy. These dark poems are often short and can appear on gravestones. You will find that they can also contain sarcasm, cynicism and humour.

There are no specific rules associated with epitaphs which makes them an ideal poetry type for experimenting with your writing.

Here are some stunning examples of headstone epitaphs.

24. Occasional Poetry

Occasional poetry is a broad category that covers a wide variety of poetic forms. Occasional poems always refer to a particular event. This could be a serious event, such as war, or more joyous occasions, such as elections, anniversaries or birthdays.

Check out these examples of occasional poetry.

25. Blank Verse

Blank verse is a specific written poem that is designed with a specific meter (typically iambic pentameter). However, blank verse doesn’t usually rhyme. There aren’t any other strict rules for blank verse poetry which makes it perfect for writing in any structure that you prefer.

Here are some classic examples of blank verse.

26. List Poems

List poems simply contain a list of items, objects or things. They don’t have a specific structure or rule. You can write them as long or short as you like, although many poets use the last line to put a smile on the reader’s face.

Here are a few super fun list poem examples.

27. Concrete Poetry

Concrete poems are often the most obvious poetic form because these poems are shaped in the object or message that they want to convey. This could be a dove, cloud or any other form or particular shape which refers to the words in the poem.

Check out these incredible concrete poem examples.

28. Pastoral Poetry

Pastoral poems always concern rural life, landscapes and the natural world. These poems aren’t very popular anymore, although we know many famous pastoral poetry examples from Ancient Rome and Ancient Greece.

29. Cinquains

A cinquain poem is made up of 5 lines per stanza. The whole cinquain poem can have either four or five stanzas.

While cinquains aren’t well-known in the English language, they are popular across European languages, including French poetry.

Here are a few examples of cinquains 5-line poems.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is a 40 line poem called?

A 40 line poem is called a glosa or glose. This is a Spanish form of poetry that is based on an epigraph.

With a glosa, the poet quotes four lines of another poem as a praise or reference to the other writer’s piece. These four lines are usually added at the end of the entire glosa.

How many types of poetry are there?

There are hundreds of different types of poetry. However, only some poetic forms are commonly used, including the haiku, sonnet, ballad, ode or free verse poetry.

The interest of different poetic types can vary throughout history. For example, while the sonnet was very popular during Shakespeare’s time, contemporary poets also use experimental forms of writing.

What are 30 line poems called?

30 line poems could be free verse poems or sestina poems which are 39-line poems. In a sestina, the last words of each line are repeated in the following stanza.

What is a 19 line poem called?

A 19 line poem is called a villanelle, Villanelle poetry is made up of five tercets with a quatrain at the end. 

Final Thoughts

Some of these 29 types of poetry and poetic forms that I look at here seem very complex but the effect they create can make all the difference to your writing and meaning. Just because a poem is difficult to write or read doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t try. It’s also worth experimenting with your writing.