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Form and structure of poetry

Form and structure of poetry

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Summary

Form and structure of poetry

​​In a nutshell

You can understand a poem's message and meaning by its form and structure. Poems use form to describe their structures or designs, with each form having specific rules that instruct how it is created and presented.



Identifying Form

In order to identify a poem's form, it is important to look at its layout and listen for sound patterns, especially rhyme and rhythm. A poem is usually broken into stanzas, which are a group of lines or verses. Stanzas of different lengths have different effects on the mood and tone of a poem as well as the metre used.


Name of Stanza

Number of lines

Tercet
3 lines
Quatrain
4 lines
Quintain
5 lines
Sestet
6 lines
Septet
7 lines
Octave
8 lines



Different forms of poetry 

Poetry comes in different forms, with each form having different rules. Have as look at the most common forms of poetry.


Type of Form

Rules

Haiku
This poem has 3 lines. Line 1 has 5 syllables. Line 2 has 7 syllables. Line 3 has 5 syllables.
Acrostic
​The first letter of each line spells out a word vertically.
Petrarchan sonnet
Like all sonnets, this poem has 14 lines. 2 stanzas, the first is 8 lines the second is 6 lines. The first stanza has a rhyme scheme of ABBA ABBA with the second usually having CDECDE or CDCDCD.
Shakespearian sonnet
This sonnet also has 14 lines. Divided into 3 quatrains with a rhyme scheme of ABAB CDCD EFEF. It ends with a rhyming couplet, so the overall rhyme scheme is ABAB CDCD EFEF GG
Limerick
This has 5 lines and is usually humorous. The rhyme scheme is AABBA.
Ballad
This poem is structured in quatrains and adopts alternating rhyme.
Ode
This poem is used to celebrate someone or something. They use vivid imagery and emotive language to evoke feelings. There is less of a rigid rule for rhyme schemes in an ode. 
Pastoral
This poetry isn't fixed in its structure but is poetry dedicated to the beauty of nature.
Concrete
This poem resembles the shape of the topic of the poem. The poem uses structure to visually depict an image on the page.
Prose
This poetry doesn't have line breaks or rigid structures. Instead, the use of poetic devices, such as metre, makes the poem read as prose but with a poetic feel.
Free Verse
This is a contemporary style of poetry. The only rule of this poetry is that it doesn't have rules. Instead, it gives the poet creative freedom to structure their work however they want.



The effect of form

The form is a great way to convey the theme of a poem. A short, punchy poem with a fun rhyme already gives a whimsical tone to the poem and can be a great way to convey positivity. Whereas an ode poem conjures grandiose imagery and a celebratory theme. As such, when discussing form, it's important to note what form is used. But also, why does the poet make this choice and what effect does it have?


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FAQs - Frequently Asked Questions

Is all poetry the same form?

Why do poems use form?

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