Poetic Forms and Techniques

Abecedarian
An ancient poetic form guided by alphabetical order, it was frequently used for sacred compositions, such as prayers, hymns, and psalms.
Acrostic
Other Acrostics
Anaphora
A type of parallelism created when successive phrases or lines begin with the same words, often resembling a litany.
Ars Poetica
Meaning "The Art of Poetry," this technique employs a consideration on the meaning of poetics.
Ballad
A typical ballad is a plot-driven song, with one or more characters, and unfuling events which lead to a dramatic conclusion.
Ballade
A principal form of music and poetry in 14th and 15th century France, it contains three rhymed stanzas, plus a shorter concluding stanza.
Blues Poem
A popular form of American poetry, it stems from the African American oral tradition and the musical tradition of the blues.
Cento
From the Latin word for "patchwork," the cento is a poetic form made up of lines from poems by other poets.
Chance Operations
Poems composed by anything from throwing darts and rolling dice, to divination and sophisticated computer programs.
Cinquain
Composed of five rhymed lines, examples can be found in many European languages, and the form dates back to medieval French poetry.
Dramatic Monologue
Also known as a persona poem, the poet speaks through the assumed voice of a character, or fictional identity.
Ekphrastic
Originally an ancient rhetorical technique, ekphrasis now encompasses any poems which describe or address a work of visual art.
Elegy
A form which mirrors the three stages of loss: first, there is a lament, then praise for the idealized dead, and finally consolation and solace.
Epic
A book-length narrative in verse distinguished by fabulous deeds and adventures, and a blending of lyrical and dramatic traditions.
Epigram
A short, pithy saying, usually in verse, often with a quick, satirical twist at the end.
Epistle
Epistolary poems—from the Latin 'epistula' for 'letter'—are, quite literally, poems that read as letters.
Found Poem
The literary equivalent of a collage, found poetry is often made from newspaper articles, street signs, graffiti, speeches, letters, or even other poems.
Ghazal
Traditionally invoking melancholy, love, longing, and metaphysical questions, it originated in 7th century Arabia and is often sung.
Haiku
A three-line poem of 17 syllables, it often focuses on images from nature, and emphasizes simplicity, intensity, and directness of expression.
Limerick
A popular form in children’s verse, it is often comical, nonsensical, and sometimes even lewd.
Ode
Originally accompanied by music and dance, and later reserved by the Romantic poets to convey their strongest sentiments.
OULIPO
Poems written through a playful system of structural constraints, frameworks, or formulas, which result in endless outcomes.
Pantoum
A short folk poem, typically made up of two rhyming couplets that are recited or sung, which originated in Malaysia in the 15th century.
Prose Poem
Though the name of the form may appear to be a contradiction, it essentially appears as prose, but reads like poetry.
Rondeau
A lyric form invented in 13th century France and popular among medieval court poets and musicians.
Sapphic
A form which dates back to ancient Greece and is named for the poet Sappho, who left behind many fragments in the unmistakable meter.
Sestina
A thirty-nine-line form attributed to Arnaut Daniel, the Provencal troubadour of the 12th century.
Sonnet
A popular 14-line form which employs one of several rhyme schemes and adheres to a tightly structured thematic organization.
Tanka
One of the oldest Japanese forms, it originated in the 7th century, and became the preferred form of the Japanese Imperial Court.
Terza Rima
Composed of tercets woven into a rhyme scheme, it was invented by Dante to structure his three-part epic poem, The Divine Comedy.
Triolet
A short poem of eight lines with only two rhymes used throughout.
Villanelle
The highly structured nineteen-line poem with two repeating rhymes and two refrains.