different types of poetry and how to recognise them

different types of poetry and how to recognise them

Poetry is one of the worlds oldest forms of written word & it can also sometimes be a little difficult to recognise. From ancient epics to modern day valentines day cards its all poetry of some form or another.

Around the world there are well over fifty different poetry styles to be found and probably many many more. In reality, most of these styles are similar to each other and it would not be appropriate to go into the full list here. Therefore, for the sake of this guide, we will concentrate on four most commonly used styles and their recognisable attributes.

The Sonnet

The Sonnet is by far the most popular traditional style of poetry and has been used by many great poets over the centuries, including Shakespeare. Originating from Europe, there are many variations of this style, the most common and widely known is 14 lines in length where each line consists of 10 syllables and the stress is placed on the second syllable of the rhyming pairs. This style is called Iambic Pentameter and is but one variation on this style. If you are thinking of writing poetry, but have not done so before, this is often a good format to use as you will most likely be familiar with it already.

Shall I compare thee to a summer's day
By William Shakespeare

Shall I compare thee to a summer's day?
Thou art more lovely and more temperate:
Rough winds do shake the darling buds of May,
And summer's lease hath all too short a date:
Sometime too hot the eye of heaven shines,
And often is his gold complexion dimm'd;
And every fair from fair sometime declines,
By chance or nature's changing course untrimm'd;
But thy eternal summer shall not fade
Nor lose possession of that fair thou owest;
Nor shall Death brag thou wander'st in his shade,
When in eternal lines to time thou growest:
So long as men can breathe or eyes can see,
So long lives this and this gives life to thee

Free Verse

There are no set rules for free verse, really the only thing you need to remember is the form, you are writing poetry after all. Often this type of poetry is written in a conversational style.

Winter Poem
By Nikki Giovanni

once a snowflake fell
on my brow and i loved
it so much and i kissed
it and it was happy and called its cousins
and brothers and a web
of snow engulfed me then
i reached to love them all
and i squeezed them and they became
a spring rain and i stood perfectly
still and was a flower

Jazz Poetry

Jazz poetry came about towards the beginning of the 20th Century and was conceived by African-Americans. Jazz poetry today is most commonly found in rap and hip-hop music. Its main distinguishing factor is its rhythm which can be closer to that of a song than that of poetry. Also, due to its origins, jazz poetry often references music and/or musical instruments in some way.

When Sue Wears Red
By Langston Hughes

When Susanna Jones wears red
Her face is like an ancient cameo
Turned brown with the ages.
Come with a blast of trumpets,
When Susanna Jones wears red
A queen from some time-dead Egyptian night
Walks once again.
Blow trumpets, Jesus!
And the beauty of Susanna Jones in red
Burns in my heart a love-fire sharp like pain
Sweet silver trumpets,


Haiku is a traditional poem of Japanese origin. It is three lines in length and will contain a total of 17 syllables arranged as 5-first line, 7-second line, 5-third line. Mora (Morae plural), which is a Japanese term, is similar to a syllable but not the same. In fact, a syllable is effectively constructed of morae which act much like units of sound. If you are considering this style you should investigate this further. Haiku does not need to rhyme and when writing in the English language you can for the most part use syllables to count the length.

Untitled Haiku
By Basho

Come on let us see
all the real flowers of this
sorrowful world

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