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Poetry (from the Greek poiesis - with a broad meaning of a "making", 
seen also in such terms as "hemopoiesis"; more narrowly, the making 
of poetry) is a form of literary art which uses aesthetic and 
rhythmic qualities of language-such as phonaesthetics, sound 
symbolism, and metre-to evoke meanings in addition to, or in place 
of, the prosaic ostensible meaning.
Poetry has a long history, dating back to the Sumerian Epic of 
Gilgamesh. Early poems evolved from folk songs such as the Chinese 
Shijing, or from a need to retell oral epics, as with the Sanskrit 
Vedas, Zoroastrian Gathas, and the Homeric epics, the Iliad and the 
Odyssey. Ancient attempts to define poetry, such as Aristotle's 
Poetics, focused on the uses of speech in rhetoric, drama, song and 
comedy. Later attempts concentrated on features such as repetition, 
verse form and rhyme, and emphasized the aesthetics which distinguish 
poetry from more objectively-informative, prosaic forms of writing. 
From the mid-20th century, poetry has sometimes been more generally 
regarded as a fundamental creative act employing language.
Poetry uses forms and conventions to suggest differential 
interpretation to words, or to evoke emotive responses. Devices such 
as assonance, alliteration, onomatopoeia and rhythm are sometimes 
used to achieve musical or incantatory effects. The use of ambiguity, 
symbolism, irony and other stylistic elements of poetic diction often 
leaves a poem open to multiple interpretations. Similarly, metaphor, 
simile and metonymy create a resonance between otherwise disparate 
images-a layering of meanings, forming connections previously not 
perceived. Kindred forms of resonance may exist, between individual 
verses, in their patterns of rhyme or rhythm.
Some poetry types are specific to particular cultures and genres and 
respond to characteristics of the language in which the poet writes. 
Readers accustomed to identifying poetry with Dante, Goethe, 
Mickiewicz and Rumi may think of it as written in lines based on 
rhyme and regular meter; there are, however, traditions, such as 
Biblical poetry, that use other means to create rhythm and euphony. 
Much modern poetry reflects a critique of poetic tradition, playing 
with and testing, among other things, the principle of euphony 
itself, sometimes altogether forgoing rhyme or set rhythm. In today's 
increasingly globalized world, poets often adapt forms, styles and 
techniques from diverse cultures and languages.


Main articles: History of poetry and Literary theory
Poetry as an art form may predate literacy. Epic poetry, from the 
Indian Vedas (1700-1200 BC) and Zoroaster's Gathas to the Odyssey 
(800-675 BC), appears to have been composed in poetic form to aid 
memorization and oral transmission, in prehistoric and ancient 
societies. Other forms of poetry developed directly from folk songs. 
The earliest entries in the ancient compilation Shijing, were 
initially lyrics, preceding later entries intended to be read.
The oldest surviving epic poem is the Epic of Gilgamesh, from the 3rd 
millennium BC in Sumer (in Mesopotamia, now Iraq), which was written 
in cuneiform script on clay tablets and, later, papyrus. Other 
ancient epic poetry includes the Greek epics Iliad and Odyssey, the 
Old Iranian books the Gathic Avesta and Yasna, the Roman national 
epic, Virgil's Aeneid, and the Indian epics Ramayana and Mahabharata.
The efforts of ancient thinkers to determine what makes poetry 
distinctive as a form, and what distinguishes good poetry from bad, 
resulted in "poetics"-the study of the aesthetics of poetry. Some 
ancient poetic traditions; such as, contextually, Classical Chinese 
poetry in the case of the Shijing (Classic of Poetry), which records 
the development of poetic canons with ritual and aesthetic 
importance. More recently, thinkers have struggled to find a 
definition that could encompass formal differences as great as those 
between Chaucer's Canterbury Tales and Matsuo Bash?'s Oku no 
Hosomichi, as well as differences in context spanning Tanakh 
religious poetry, love poetry, and rap.

Western traditions

John Keats
Classical thinkers employed classification as a way to define and 
assess the quality of poetry. Notably, the existing fragments of 
Aristotle's Poetics describe three genres of poetry-the epic, the 
comic, and the tragic-and develop rules to distinguish the highest-
quality poetry in each genre, based on the underlying purposes of the 
genre. Later aestheticians identified three major genres: epic 
poetry, lyric poetry, and dramatic poetry, treating comedy and 
tragedy as subgenres of dramatic poetry.
Aristotle's work was influential throughout the Middle East during 
the Islamic Golden Age, as well as in Europe during the Renaissance. 
Later poets and aestheticians often distinguished poetry from, and 
defined it in opposition to prose, which was generally understood as 
writing with a proclivity to logical explication and a linear 
narrative structure.
This does not imply that poetry is illogical or lacks narration, but 
rather that poetry is an attempt to render the beautiful or sublime 
without the burden of engaging the logical or narrative thought 
process. English Romantic poet John Keats termed this escape from 
logic "Negative Capability". This "romantic" approach views form as a 
key element of successful poetry because form is abstract and 
distinct from the underlying notional logic. This approach remained 
influential into the 20th century.
During this period, there was also substantially more interaction 
among the various poetic traditions, in part due to the spread of 
European colonialism and the attendant rise in global trade. In 
addition to a boom in translation, during the Romantic period 
numerous ancient works were rediscovered.

20th-century disputes

Archibald MacLeish
Some 20th-century literary theorists, relying less on the opposition 
of prose and poetry, focused on the poet as simply one who creates 
using language, and poetry as what the poet creates. The underlying 
concept of the poet as creator is not uncommon, and some modernist 
poets essentially do not distinguish between the creation of a poem 
with words, and creative acts in other media. Yet other modernists 
challenge the very attempt to define poetry as misguided.
The rejection of traditional forms and structures for poetry that 
began in the first half of the 20th century coincided with a 
questioning of the purpose and meaning of traditional definitions of 
poetry and of distinctions between poetry and prose, particularly 
given examples of poetic prose and prosaic poetry. Numerous modernist 
poets have written in non-traditional forms or in what traditionally 
would have been considered prose, although their writing was 
generally infused with poetic diction and often with rhythm and tone 
established by non-metrical means. While there was a substantial 
formalist reaction within the modernist schools to the breakdown of 
structure, this reaction focused as much on the development of new 
formal structures and syntheses as on the revival of older forms and 
Recently, postmodernism has come to convey more completely prose and 
poetry as distinct entities, and also among genres of poetry, as 
having meaning only as cultural artefacts. Postmodernism goes beyond 
modernism's emphasis on the creative role of the poet, to emphasize 
the role of the reader of a text (Hermeneutics), and to highlight the 
complex cultural web within which a poem is read. Today, throughout 
the world, poetry often incorporates poetic form and diction from 
other cultures and from the past, further confounding attempts at 
definition and classification that were once sensible within a 
tradition such as the Western canon.


Main article: Meter (poetry)
Prosody is the study of the meter, rhythm, and intonation of a poem. 
Rhythm and meter are different, although closely related. Meter is 
the definitive pattern established for a verse (such as iambic 
pentameter), while rhythm is the actual sound that results from a 
line of poetry. Prosody also may be used more specifically to refer 
to the scanning of poetic lines to show meter.


Main articles: Timing (linguistics), tone (linguistics), and Pitch 

Robinson Jeffers
The methods for creating poetic rhythm vary across languages and 
between poetic traditions. Languages are often described as having 
timing set primarily by accents, syllables, or moras, depending on 
how rhythm is established, though a language can be influenced by 
multiple approaches. Japanese is a mora-timed language. Syllable-
timed languages include Latin, Catalan, French, Leonese, Galician and 
Spanish. English, Russian and, generally, German are stress-timed 
languages. Varying intonation also affects how rhythm is perceived. 
Languages can rely on either pitch, such as in Vedic Sanskrit or 
Ancient Greek, or tone. Tonal languages include Chinese, Vietnamese, 
Lithuanian, and most Subsaharan languages.
Metrical rhythm generally involves precise arrangements of stresses 
or syllables into repeated patterns called feet within a line. In 
Modern English verse the pattern of stresses primarily differentiate 
feet, so rhythm based on meter in Modern English is most often 
founded on the pattern of stressed and unstressed syllables (alone or 
elided). In the classical languages, on the other hand, while the 
metrical units are similar, vowel length rather than stresses define 
the meter. Old English poetry used a metrical pattern involving 
varied numbers of syllables but a fixed number of strong stresses in 
each line.
The chief device of ancient Hebrew Biblical poetry, including many of 
the psalms, was parallelism, a rhetorical structure in which 
successive lines reflected each other in grammatical structure, sound 
structure, notional content, or all three. Parallelism lent itself to 
antiphonal or call-and-response performance, which could also be 
reinforced by intonation. Thus, Biblical poetry relies much less on 
metrical feet to create rhythm, but instead creates rhythm based on 
much larger sound units of lines, phrases and sentences. Some 
classical poetry forms, such as Venpa of the Tamil language, had 
rigid grammars (to the point that they could be expressed as a 
context-free grammar) which ensured a rhythm. In Chinese poetry, 
tones as well as stresses create rhythm. Classical Chinese poetics 
identifies four tones: the level tone, rising tone, departing tone, 
and entering tone.
The formal patterns of meter used in Modern English verse to create 
rhythm no longer dominate contemporary English poetry. In the case of 
free verse, rhythm is often organized based on looser units of 
cadence rather than a regular meter. Robinson Jeffers, Marianne 
Moore, and William Carlos Williams are three notable poets who reject 
the idea that regular accentual meter is critical to English poetry. 
Jeffers experimented with sprung rhythm as an alternative to 
accentual rhythm.


Main article: Systems of scansion
In the Western poetic tradition, meters are customarily grouped 
according to a characteristic metrical foot and the number of feet 
per line. The number of metrical feet in a line are described using 
Greek terminology: tetrameter for four feet and hexameter for six 
feet, for example. Thus, "iambic pentameter" is a meter comprising 
five feet per line, in which the predominant kind of foot is the 
"iamb". This metric system originated in ancient Greek poetry, and 
was used by poets such as Pindar and Sappho, and by the great 
tragedians of Athens. Similarly, "dactylic hexameter", comprises six 
feet per line, of which the dominant kind of foot is the "dactyl". 
Dactylic hexameter was the traditional meter of Greek epic poetry, 
the earliest extant examples of which are the works of Homer and 
Hesiod. Iambic pentameter and dactylic hexameter were later used by a 
number of poets, including William Shakespeare and Henry Wadsworth 
Longfellow, respectively. The most common metrical feet in English 


iamb - one unstressed syllable followed by a stressed syllable (e.g. 
describe, Include, retract)
trochee - one stressed syllable followed by an unstressed syllable 
(e.g. picture, flower)
dactyl - one stressed syllable followed by two unstressed syllables 
(e.g.annotate an-no-tate)
anapest - two unstressed syllables followed by one stressed syllable 
(e.g. comprehend com-pre-hend)
spondee - two stressed syllables together (e.g. e-nough)
pyrrhic - two unstressed syllables together (rare, usually used to 
end dactylic hexameter)

There are a wide range of names for other types of feet, right up to 
a choriamb, a four syllable metric foot with a stressed syllable 
followed by two unstressed syllables and closing with a stressed 
syllable. The choriamb is derived from some ancient Greek and Latin 
poetry. Languages which utilize vowel length or intonation rather 
than or in addition to syllabic accents in determining meter, such as 
Ottoman Turkish or Vedic, often have concepts similar to the iamb and 
dactyl to describe common combinations of long and short sounds.
Each of these types of feet has a certain "feel," whether alone or in 
combination with other feet. The iamb, for example, is the most 
natural form of rhythm in the English language, and generally 
produces a subtle but stable verse. Scanning meter can often show the 
basic or fundamental pattern underlying a verse, but does not show 
the varying degrees of stress, as well as the differing pitches and 
lengths of syllables.

A Holiday illustration to Carroll's "The Hunting of the Snark", which 
is written mainly in anapestic tetrameter.
There is debate over how useful a multiplicity of different "feet" is 
in describing meter. For example, Robert Pinsky has argued that while 
dactyls are important in classical verse, English dactylic verse uses 
dactyls very irregularly and can be better described based on 
patterns of iambs and anapests, feet which he considers natural to 
the language. Actual rhythm is significantly more complex than the 
basic scanned meter described above, and many scholars have sought to 
develop systems that would scan such complexity. Vladimir Nabokov 
noted that overlaid on top of the regular pattern of stressed and 
unstressed syllables in a line of verse was a separate pattern of 
accents resulting from the natural pitch of the spoken words, and 
suggested that the term "scud" be used to distinguish an unaccented 
stress from an accented stress.

Metrical patterns

Main article: Meter (poetry)
Different traditions and genres of poetry tend to use different 
meters, ranging from the Shakespearean iambic pentameter and the 
Homeric dactylic hexameter to the anapestic tetrameter used in many 
nursery rhymes. However, a number of variations to the established 
meter are common, both to provide emphasis or attention to a given 
foot or line and to avoid boring repetition. For example, the stress 
in a foot may be inverted, a caesura (or pause) may be added 
(sometimes in place of a foot or stress), or the final foot in a line 
may be given a feminine ending to soften it or be replaced by a 
spondee to emphasize it and create a hard stop. Some patterns (such 
as iambic pentameter) tend to be fairly regular, while other 
patterns, such as dactylic hexameter, tend to be highly irregular. 
Regularity can vary between language. In addition, different patterns 
often develop distinctively in different languages, so that, for 
example, iambic tetrameter in Russian will generally reflect a 
regularity in the use of accents to reinforce the meter, which does 
not occur, or occurs to a much lesser extent, in English.

Alexander Pushkin
Some common metrical patterns, with notable examples of poets and 
poems who use them, include:
Iambic pentameter (John Milton in Paradise Lost, William Shakespeare 
in his Sonnets)
Dactylic hexameter (Homer, Iliad; Virgil, Aeneid)
Iambic tetrameter (Andrew Marvell, "To His Coy Mistress"; Aleksandr 
Pushkin, Eugene Onegin, Robert Frost, Stopping by Woods on a Snowy 
Trochaic octameter (Edgar Allan Poe, "The Raven")
Alexandrine (Jean Racine, Phèdre)

Rhyme, alliteration, assonance

The Old English epic poem Beowulf is written in alliterative verse 
and paragraphs, not in lines or stanzas.
Main articles: Rhyme, Alliterative verse, and Assonance
Rhyme, alliteration, assonance and consonance are ways of creating 
repetitive patterns of sound. They may be used as an independent 
structural element in a poem, to reinforce rhythmic patterns, or as 
an ornamental element. They can also carry a meaning separate from 
the repetitive sound patterns created. For example, Chaucer used 
heavy alliteration to mock Old English verse and to paint a character 
as archaic.
Rhyme consists of identical ("hard-rhyme") or similar ("soft-rhyme") 
sounds placed at the ends of lines or at predictable locations within 
lines ("internal rhyme"). Languages vary in the richness of their 
rhyming structures; Italian, for example, has a rich rhyming 
structure permitting maintenance of a limited set of rhymes 
throughout a lengthy poem. The richness results from word endings 
that follow regular forms. English, with its irregular word endings 
adopted from other languages, is less rich in rhyme. The degree of 
richness of a language's rhyming structures plays a substantial role 
in determining what poetic forms are commonly used in that language.
Alliteration and assonance played a key role in structuring early 
Germanic, Norse and Old English forms of poetry. The alliterative 
patterns of early Germanic poetry interweave meter and alliteration 
as a key part of their structure, so that the metrical pattern 
determines when the listener expects instances of alliteration to 
occur. This can be compared to an ornamental use of alliteration in 
most Modern European poetry, where alliterative patterns are not 
formal or carried through full stanzas. Alliteration is particularly 
useful in languages with less rich rhyming structures. Assonance, 
where the use of similar vowel sounds within a word rather than 
similar sounds at the beginning or end of a word, was widely used in 
skaldic poetry, but goes back to the Homeric epic. Because verbs 
carry much of the pitch in the English language, assonance can 
loosely evoke the tonal elements of Chinese poetry and so is useful 
in translating Chinese poetry. Consonance occurs where a consonant 
sound is repeated throughout a sentence without putting the sound 
only at the front of a word. Consonance provokes a more subtle effect 
than alliteration and so is less useful as a structural element.

Rhyming schemes

Dante and Beatrice see God as a point of light surrounded by angels. 
A Doré illustration to the Divine Comedy, Paradiso, Canto 28.
Main article: Rhyme scheme
In many languages, including modern European languages and Arabic, 
poets use rhyme in set patterns as a structural element for specific 
poetic forms, such as ballads, sonnets and rhyming couplets. However, 
the use of structural rhyme is not universal even within the European 
tradition. Much modern poetry avoids traditional rhyme schemes. 
Classical Greek and Latin poetry did not use rhyme. Rhyme entered 
European poetry in the High Middle Ages, in part under the influence 
of the Arabic language in Al Andalus (modern Spain). Arabic language 
poets used rhyme extensively from the first development of literary 
Arabic in the sixth century, as in their long, rhyming qasidas. Some 
rhyming schemes have become associated with a specific language, 
culture or period, while other rhyming schemes have achieved use 
across languages, cultures or time periods. Some forms of poetry 
carry a consistent and well-defined rhyming scheme, such as the chant 
royal or the rubaiyat, while other poetic forms have variable rhyme 
Most rhyme schemes are described using letters that correspond to 
sets of rhymes, so if the first, second and fourth lines of a 
quatrain rhyme with each other and the third line does not rhyme, the 
quatrain is said to have an "a-a-b-a" rhyme scheme. This rhyme scheme 
is the one used, for example, in the rubaiyat form. Similarly, an "a-
b-b-a" quatrain (what is known as "enclosed rhyme") is used in such 
forms as the Petrarchan sonnet. Some types of more complicated 
rhyming schemes have developed names of their own, separate from the 
"a-b-c" convention, such as the ottava rima and terza rima. The types 
and use of differing rhyming schemes is discussed further in the main 


Poetic form is more flexible in modernist and post-modernist poetry, 
and continues to be less structured than in previous literary eras. 
Many modern poets eschew recognisable structures or forms, and write 
in free verse. But poetry remains distinguished from prose by its 
form; some regard for basic formal structures of poetry will be found 
in even the best free verse, however much such structures may appear 
to have been ignored. Similarly, in the best poetry written in 
classic styles there will be departures from strict form for emphasis 
or effect.
Among major structural elements used in poetry are the line, the 
stanza or verse paragraph, and larger combinations of stanzas or 
lines such as cantos. Also sometimes used are broader visual 
presentations of words and calligraphy. These basic units of poetic 
form are often combined into larger structures, called poetic forms 
or poetic modes (see following section), as in the sonnet or haiku.
Lines and stanzas
Poetry is often separated into lines on a page. These lines may be 
based on the number of metrical feet, or may emphasize a rhyming 
pattern at the ends of lines. Lines may serve other functions, 
particularly where the poem is not written in a formal metrical 
pattern. Lines can separate, compare or contrast thoughts expressed 
in different units, or can highlight a change in tone. See the 
article on line breaks for information about the division between 
Lines of poems are often organized into stanzas, which are 
denominated by the number of lines included. Thus a collection of two 
lines is a couplet (or distich), three lines a triplet (or tercet), 
four lines a quatrain, and so on. These lines may or may not relate 
to each other by rhyme or rhythm. For example, a couplet may be two 
lines with identical meters which rhyme or two lines held together by 
a common meter alone.

Alexander Blok's poem, "Noch, ulitsa, fonar, apteka" ("Night, street, 
lamp, drugstore"), on a wall in Leiden
Other poems may be organized into verse paragraphs, in which regular 
rhymes with established rhythms are not used, but the poetic tone is 
instead established by a collection of rhythms, alliterations, and 
rhymes established in paragraph form. Many medieval poems were 
written in verse paragraphs, even where regular rhymes and rhythms 
were used.
In many forms of poetry, stanzas are interlocking, so that the 
rhyming scheme or other structural elements of one stanza determine 
those of succeeding stanzas. Examples of such interlocking stanzas 
include, for example, the ghazal and the villanelle, where a refrain 
(or, in the case of the villanelle, refrains) is established in the 
first stanza which then repeats in subsequent stanzas. Related to the 
use of interlocking stanzas is their use to separate thematic parts 
of a poem. For example, the strophe, antistrophe and epode of the ode 
form are often separated into one or more stanzas.
In some cases, particularly lengthier formal poetry such as some 
forms of epic poetry, stanzas themselves are constructed according to 
strict rules and then combined. In skaldic poetry, the dróttkvætt 
stanza had eight lines, each having three "lifts" produced with 
alliteration or assonance. In addition to two or three alliterations, 
the odd numbered lines had partial rhyme of consonants with 
dissimilar vowels, not necessarily at the beginning of the word; the 
even lines contained internal rhyme in set syllables (not necessarily 
at the end of the word). Each half-line had exactly six syllables, 
and each line ended in a trochee. The arrangement of dróttkvætts 
followed far less rigid rules than the construction of the individual 

Visual presentation

Visual poetry

Main article: Visual poetry
Even before the advent of printing, the visual appearance of poetry 
often added meaning or depth. Acrostic poems conveyed meanings in the 
initial letters of lines or in letters at other specific places in a 
poem. In Arabic, Hebrew and Chinese poetry, the visual presentation 
of finely calligraphed poems has played an important part in the 
overall effect of many poems.
With the advent of printing, poets gained greater control over the 
mass-produced visual presentations of their work. Visual elements 
have become an important part of the poet's toolbox, and many poets 
have sought to use visual presentation for a wide range of purposes. 
Some Modernist poets have made the placement of individual lines or 
groups of lines on the page an integral part of the poem's 
composition. At times, this complements the poem's rhythm through 
visual caesuras of various lengths, or creates juxtapositions so as 
to accentuate meaning, ambiguity or irony, or simply to create an 
aesthetically pleasing form. In its most extreme form, this can lead 
to concrete poetry or asemic writing.


Arabic poetry

Main article: Poetic diction
Poetic diction treats the manner in which language is used, and 
refers not only to the sound but also to the underlying meaning and 
its interaction with sound and form. Many languages and poetic forms 
have very specific poetic dictions, to the point where distinct 
grammars and dialects are used specifically for poetry. Registers in 
poetry can range from strict employment of ordinary speech patterns, 
as favoured in much late-20th-century prosody, through to highly 
ornate uses of language, as in medieval and Renaissance poetry.
Poetic diction can include rhetorical devices such as simile and 
metaphor, as well as tones of voice, such as irony. Aristotle wrote 
in the Poetics that "the greatest thing by far is to be a master of 
metaphor." Since the rise of Modernism, some poets have opted for a 
poetic diction that de-emphasizes rhetorical devices, attempting 
instead the direct presentation of things and experiences and the 
exploration of tone. On the other hand, Surrealists have pushed 
rhetorical devices to their limits, making frequent use of 
Allegorical stories are central to the poetic diction of many 
cultures, and were prominent in the West during classical times, the 
late Middle Ages and the Renaissance. Aesop's Fables, repeatedly 
rendered in both verse and prose since first being recorded about 500 
B.C., are perhaps the richest single source of allegorical poetry 
through the ages. Other notables examples include the Roman de la 
Rose, a 13th-century French poem, William Langland's Piers Ploughman 
in the 14th century, and Jean de la Fontaine's Fables (influenced by 
Aesop's) in the 17th century. Rather than being fully allegorical, 
however, a poem may contain symbols or allusions that deepen the 
meaning or effect of its words without constructing a full allegory.
Another strong element of poetic diction can be the use of vivid 
imagery for effect. The juxtaposition of unexpected or impossible 
images is, for example, a particularly strong element in surrealist 
poetry and haiku. Vivid images are often endowed with symbolism or 
metaphor. Many poetic dictions use repetitive phrases for effect, 
either a short phrase (such as Homer's "rosy-fingered dawn" or "the 
wine-dark sea") or a longer refrain. Such repetition can add a sombre 
tone to a poem, or can be laced with irony as the context of the 
words changes.


See also: Category:Poetic form
Specific poetic forms have been developed by many cultures. In more 
developed, closed or "received" poetic forms, the rhyming scheme, 
meter and other elements of a poem are based on sets of rules, 
ranging from the relatively loose rules that govern the construction 
of an elegy to the highly formalized structure of the ghazal or 
villanelle. Described below are some common forms of poetry widely 
used across a number of languages. Additional forms of poetry may be 
found in the discussions of poetry of particular cultures or periods 
and in the glossary.


Main article: Sonnet
Among the most common forms of poetry through the ages is the sonnet, 
which by the 13th century was a poem of fourteen lines following a 
set rhyme scheme and logical structure. By the 14th century, the form 
further crystallized under the pen of Petrarch, whose sonnets were 
later translated in the 16th century by Sir Thomas Wyatt, who is 
credited with introducing the sonnet form into English literature. A 
sonnet's first four lines typically introduce the topic. A sonnet 
usually follows an a-b-a-b rhyme pattern. The sonnet's conventions 
have changed over its history, and so there are several different 
sonnet forms. Traditionally, in sonnets English poets use iambic 
pentameter, the Spenserian and Shakespearean sonnets being especially 
notable. In the Romance languages, the hendecasyllable and 
Alexandrine are the most widely used meters, though the Petrarchan 
sonnet has been used in Italy since the 14th century.
Sonnets are particularly associated with love poetry, and often use a 
poetic diction heavily based on vivid imagery, but the twists and 
turns associated with the move from octave to sestet and to final 
couplet make them a useful and dynamic form for many subjects. 
Shakespeare's sonnets are among the most famous in English poetry, 
with 20 being included in the Oxford Book of English Verse.


Main article: Shi (poetry)
Shi (traditional Chinese: ?; simplified Chinese: ?; pinyin: sh?; 
Wade-Giles : shih) Is the main type of Classical Chinese poetry. 
Within this form of poetry the most important variations are "folk 
song" styled verse (yuefu), "old style" verse (gushi), "modern 
style" verse (jintishi). In all cases, rhyming is obligatory. The 
Yuefu is a folk ballad or a poem written in the folk ballad style, 
and the number of lines and the length of the lines could be 
irregular. For the other variations of shi poetry, generally either a 
four line (quatrain, or jueju) or else an eight line poem is normal; 
either way with the even numbered lines rhyming. The line length is 
scanned by according number of characters (according to the 
convention that one character equals one syllable), and are 
predominantly either five or seven characters long, with a caesura 
before the final three syllables. The lines are generally end-
stopped, considered as a series of couplets, and exhibit verbal 
parallelism as a key poetic device. The "old style" verse (gushi) is 
less formally strict than the jintishi, or regulated verse, which, 
despite the name "new style" verse actually had its theoretical basis 
laid as far back to Shen Yue, in the 5th or 6th century, although not 
considered to have reached its full development until the time of 
Chen Zi'ang (661-702) A good example of a poet known for his gushi 
poems is Li Bai. Among its other rules, the jintishi rules regulate 
the tonal variations within a poem, including the use of set patterns 
of the four tones of Middle Chinese The basic form of jintishi 
(lushi) has eight lines in four couplets, with parallelism between 
the lines in the second and third couplets. The couplets with 
parallel lines contain contrasting content but an identical 
grammatical relationship between words. Jintishi often have a rich 
poetic diction, full of allusion, and can have a wide range of 
subject, including history and politics. One of the masters of the 
form was Du Fu, who wrote during the Tang Dynasty (8th century).


W. H. Auden
Main article: Villanelle
The villanelle is a nineteen-line poem made up of five triplets with 
a closing quatrain; the poem is characterized by having two refrains, 
initially used in the first and third lines of the first stanza, and 
then alternately used at the close of each subsequent stanza until 
the final quatrain, which is concluded by the two refrains. The 
remaining lines of the poem have an a-b alternating rhyme. The 
villanelle has been used regularly in the English language since the 
late 19th century by such poets as Dylan Thomas, W. H. Auden, and 
Elizabeth Bishop.


Main article: Tanka
Tanka is a form of unrhymed Japanese poetry, with five sections 
totalling 31 onji (phonological units identical to morae), structured 
in a 5-7-5 7-7 pattern. There is generally a shift in tone and 
subject matter between the upper 5-7-5 phrase and the lower 7-7 
phrase. Tanka were written as early as the Asuka period by such poets 
as Kakinomoto no Hitomaro, at a time when Japan was emerging from a 
period where much of its poetry followed Chinese form. Tanka was 
originally the shorter form of Japanese formal poetry (which was 
generally referred to as "waka"), and was used more heavily to 
explore personal rather than public themes. By the tenth century, 
tanka had become the dominant form of Japanese poetry, to the point 
where the originally general term waka ("Japanese poetry") came to be 
used exclusively for tanka. Tanka are still widely written today.


Main article: Haiku
Haiku is a popular form of unrhymed Japanese poetry, which evolved in 
the 17th century from the hokku, or opening verse of a renku. 
Generally written in a single vertical line, the haiku contains three 
sections totalling 17 onji, structured in a 5-7-5 pattern. 
Traditionally, haiku contain a kireji, or cutting word, usually 
placed at the end of one of the poem's three sections, and a kigo, or 
season-word. The most famous exponent of the haiku was Matsuo Bash? 
(1644-1694). An example of his writing:

the wind of Mt. Fuji
I've brought on my fan!
a gift from Edo


Main article: Ode
Odes were first developed by poets writing in ancient Greek, such as 
Pindar, and Latin, such as Horace. Forms of odes appear in many of 
the cultures that were influenced by the Greeks and Latins. The ode 
generally has three parts: a strophe, an antistrophe, and an epode. 
The antistrophes of the ode possess similar metrical structures and, 
depending on the tradition, similar rhyme structures. In contrast, 
the epode is written with a different scheme and structure. Odes have 
a formal poetic diction, and generally deal with a serious subject. 
The strophe and antistrophe look at the subject from different, often 
conflicting, perspectives, with the epode moving to a higher level to 
either view or resolve the underlying issues. Odes are often intended 
to be recited or sung by two choruses (or individuals), with the 
first reciting the strophe, the second the antistrophe, and both 
together the epode. Over time, differing forms for odes have 
developed with considerable variations in form and structure, but 
generally showing the original influence of the Pindaric or Horatian 
ode. One non-Western form which resembles the ode is the qasida in 
Persian poetry.


Main article: Ghazal
The ghazal (also ghazel, gazel, gazal, or gozol) is a form of poetry 
common in Arabic, Persian, Turkish, Azerbaijani, Urdu and Bengali 
poetry. In classic form, the ghazal has from five to fifteen rhyming 
couplets that share a refrain at the end of the second line. This 
refrain may be of one or several syllables, and is preceded by a 
rhyme. Each line has an identical meter. The ghazal often reflects on 
a theme of unattainable love or divinity.
As with other forms with a long history in many languages, many 
variations have been developed, including forms with a quasi-musical 
poetic diction in Urdu. Ghazals have a classical affinity with 
Sufism, and a number of major Sufi religious works are written in 
ghazal form. The relatively steady meter and the use of the refrain 
produce an incantatory effect, which complements Sufi mystical themes 
well. Among the masters of the form is Rumi, a 13th-century Persian 
poet who lived in Konya, in present-day Turkey.

In addition to specific forms of poems, poetry is often thought of in 
terms of different genres and subgenres. A poetic genre is generally 
a tradition or classification of poetry based on the subject matter, 
style, or other broader literary characteristics. Some commentators 
view genres as natural forms of literature. Others view the study of 
genres as the study of how different works relate and refer to other 

Narrative poetry

Geoffrey Chaucer
Main article: Narrative poetry
Narrative poetry is a genre of poetry that tells a story. Broadly it 
subsumes epic poetry, but the term "narrative poetry" is often 
reserved for smaller works, generally with more appeal to human 
interest. Narrative poetry may be the oldest type of poetry. Many 
scholars of Homer have concluded that his Iliad and Odyssey were 
composed from compilations of shorter narrative poems that related 
individual episodes. Much narrative poetry-such as Scottish and 
English ballads, and Baltic and Slavic heroic poems-is performance 
poetry with roots in a preliterate oral tradition. It has been 
speculated that some features that distinguish poetry from prose, 
such as meter, alliteration and kennings, once served as memory aids 
for bards who recited traditional tales.
Notable narrative poets have included Ovid, Dante, Juan Ruiz, 
Chaucer, William Langland, Luís de Camões, Shakespeare, Alexander 
Pope, Robert Burns, Fernando de Rojas, Adam Mickiewicz, Alexander 
Pushkin, Edgar Allan Poe and Alfred Tennyson.

Epic poetry

Main article: Epic poetry
Epic poetry is a genre of poetry, and a major form of narrative 
literature. This genre is often defined as lengthy poems concerning 
events of a heroic or important nature to the culture of the time. It 
recounts, in a continuous narrative, the life and works of a heroic 
or mythological person or group of persons. Examples of epic poems 
are Homer's Iliad and Odyssey, Virgil's Aeneid, the Nibelungenlied, 
Luís de Camões' Os Lusíadas, the Cantar de Mio Cid, the Epic of 
Gilgamesh, the Mahabharata, Valmiki's Ramayana, Ferdowsi's Shahnama, 
Nizami (or Nezami)'s Khamse (Five Books), and the Epic of King Gesar. 
While the composition of epic poetry, and of long poems generally, 
became less common in the west after the early 20th century, some 
notable epics have continued to be written. Derek Walcott won a Nobel 
prize to a great extent on the basis of his epic, Omeros.

Dramatic poetry

Main articles: Verse drama and dramatic verse, Theatre of ancient 
Greece, Sanskrit drama, Chinese Opera, and Noh
Dramatic poetry is drama written in verse to be spoken or sung, and 
appears in varying, sometimes related forms in many cultures. Greek 
tragedy in verse dates to the 6th century B.C., and may have been an 
influence on the development of Sanskrit drama, just as Indian drama 
in turn appears to have influenced the development of the bianwen 
verse dramas in China, forerunners of Chinese Opera. East Asian verse 
dramas also include Japanese Noh. Examples of dramatic poetry in 
Persian literature include Nizami's two famous dramatic works, Layla 
and Majnun and Khosrow and Shirin, Ferdowsi's tragedies such as 
Rostam and Sohrab, Rumi's Masnavi, Gorgani's tragedy of Vis and 
Ramin, and Vahshi's tragedy of Farhad.

Satirical poetry

John Wilmot
Poetry can be a powerful vehicle for satire. The Romans had a strong 
tradition of satirical poetry, often written for political purposes. 
A notable example is the Roman poet Juvenal's satires.
The same is true of the English satirical tradition. John Dryden (a 
Tory), the first Poet Laureate, produced in 1682 Mac Flecknoe, 
subtitled "A Satire on the True Blue Protestant Poet, T.S." (a 
reference to Thomas Shadwell). Another master of 17th-century English 
satirical poetry was John Wilmot, 2nd Earl of Rochester. Satirical 
poets outside England include Poland's Ignacy Krasicki, Azerbaijan's 
Sabir and Portugal's Manuel Maria Barbosa du Bocage.

Lyric poetry

Christine de Pizan
Main article: Lyric poetry
Lyric poetry is a genre that, unlike epic and dramatic poetry, does 
not attempt to tell a story but instead is of a more personal nature. 
Poems in this genre tend to be shorter, melodic, and contemplative. 
Rather than depicting characters and actions, it portrays the poet's 
own feelings, states of mind, and perceptions. Notable poets in this 
genre include John Donne, Gerard Manley Hopkins, and Antonio Machado.


Main article: Elegy
An elegy is a mournful, melancholy or plaintive poem, especially a 
lament for the dead or a funeral song. The term "elegy," which 
originally denoted a type of poetic meter (elegiac meter), commonly 
describes a poem of mourning. An elegy may also reflect something 
that seems to the author to be strange or mysterious. The elegy, as a 
reflection on a death, on a sorrow more generally, or on something 
mysterious, may be classified as a form of lyric poetry.
Notable practitioners of elegiac poetry have included Propertius, 
Jorge Manrique, Jan Kochanowski, Chidiock Tichborne, Edmund Spenser, 
Ben Jonson, John Milton, Thomas Gray, Charlotte Turner Smith, William 
Cullen Bryant, Percy Bysshe Shelley, Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, 
Evgeny Baratynsky, Alfred Tennyson, Walt Whitman, Louis Gallet, 
Antonio Machado, Juan Ramón Jiménez, William Butler Yeats, Rainer 
Maria Rilke, and Virginia Woolf.

Verse fable

Ignacy Krasicki
Main article: Fable
The fable is an ancient literary genre, often (though not invariably) 
set in verse. It is a succinct story that features anthropomorphized 
animals, plants, inanimate objects, or forces of nature that 
illustrate a moral lesson (a "moral"). Verse fables have used a 
variety of meter and rhyme patterns.
Notable verse fabulists have included Aesop, Vishnu Sarma, Phaedrus, 
Marie de France, Robert Henryson, Biernat of Lublin, Jean de La 
Fontaine, Ignacy Krasicki, Félix María de Samaniego, Tomás de 
Iriarte, Ivan Krylov and Ambrose Bierce.
Prose poetry

Charles Baudelaire, by Gustave Courbet
Main article: Prose poetry
Prose poetry is a hybrid genre that shows attributes of both prose 
and poetry. It may be indistinguishable from the micro-story (a.k.a. 
the "short short story", "flash fiction"). While some examples of 
earlier prose strike modern readers as poetic, prose poetry is 
commonly regarded as having originated in 19th-century France, where 
its practitioners included Aloysius Bertrand, Charles Baudelaire, 
Arthur Rimbaud and Stéphane Mallarmé. Since the late 1980s 
especially, prose poetry has gained increasing popularity, with 
entire journals, such as The Prose Poem: An International Journal, 
Contemporary Haibun Online devoted to that genre.
Speculative poetry
Speculative poetry, also known as fantastic poetry, (of which weird 
or macabre poetry is a major subclassification), is a poetic genre 
which deals thematically with subjects which are 'beyond reality', 
whether via extrapolation as in science fiction or via weird and 
horrific themes as in horror fiction. Such poetry appears regularly 
in modern science fiction and horror fiction magazines. Edgar Allan 
Poe is sometimes seen as the "father of speculative poetry".

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