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Poetic Forms and Genres

Page history last edited by gretchen 11 years, 6 months ago


The Sonnet

14 lines, iambic pentameter (easy to remember as 10 syllables per line)


English Sonnet (Shakespearean)

  • Three four line quatrains, and one 2 line couplet
  • Typically, the couplet reverses, alters, or challenges the meaning of the preceding 12 lines in an ironic twist.
  • The rhyme scheme is ABAB CDCD EFEF GG.


Italian Sonnet (Petrarchan)

  • One eight line octet and one 6 line sestet.
  • Typically, the octet poses a dilemma that is answered in the sestet.
  • The rhyme schme is ABBAABBA CDECDE.


Spenserian Sonnet

  • A variant on the Shakespearean sonnet, with four quatrains with interlocked rhyme scheme.
  • The rhyme scheme is ABAB BCBC CDCD EE.


The Villanelle

  • Nineteen lines, 5 three line stanzas followed by one four line stanza.
  • Usually tetrameter (4 beats) or pentameter (5 beats).
  • Alternating end rhymes patterned aba, aba, aba, aba, abaa, although not all villanelles rhyme.
  • Lines 1,6,12, and 18 are the same.
  • Lines 3, 9,15, and 19 are the same.
  • Usually nostalgic in tone.


Poetic Genres

  • Epic: a long serious narrative poem concerning a heroic figure or group of heroes (Beowulf).
  • Lyric: poems written in subjectively rich voice, often emotional. Sound quality is emphasized.
  • Ode: a formal lyric poem of exalted emotion celebrating someone or something.
  • Elegy: a poetic lament for the dead or missing.
  • Prose Poem: form of free verse that lacks the formal shape of poetry.
  • Narrative: a poem that tells a story.
  • Ballad: a story told in verse, without much detail or setting. The primary emphasis is action.
  • Haiku: a short poem with seventeen syllables, usually written in three lines with the following syllable pattern (5,7,5).
  • Cinquain: a five-line poem with two syllables in the first line, four in the second, six in the third, eight in the fourth, and two in the fifth.
  • Concrete Poetry: a picture poem, in which the visual shape of the poem contributes to its meaning.



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