Types of Poetry

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A ballad tells a story and has alternating lines of rhyme. Folk ballads were designed to be sung, contained a refrain, had unknown authors, and were passed on by word of mouth. Their consistent rhyme pattern was necessary because of their oral nature.

An elegy is a serious poem usually lamenting someone's death. A dirge is similar but less formal and meant to be sung. A pastoral elegy combines both the pastoral form with an elegy.

An epic or heroic poem deals with some person or event of significance. It is very long, tells the story of the event or person, and does it in an exalted manner. Mock epic or mock heroic poems are used to satirize minor characters and events. These may be treated as parodies.

An epigram is a very short poem which is usually humorous and may rely upon satire. Its length demands that it be carefully constructed.

Japanese poetry relies upon the number of syllables within a line rather than the arrangement of accented and unaccented. The poems are short and have nature rather than emotions or events as their subjects.

Haiku poems consist of three lines of five syllables, seven syllables, five syllables. Usually the subject is nature.

Lantern is a shaped poem of five lines of one syllable, two syllables, three syllables, four syllables, and one syllable.

Tanka is a poem made up of five lines of five, seven, five, seven, and seven syllables which describes the seasons of the year.


Lyric is a short poem which lends itself to being put to music. It usually deals with emotions rather than a plot.

A narrative poem is one which tells a story.

An occasional poem is one in which a special event is commemorated.

An ode is a form of poetry which is lyrical, long, and solemn. It may be used to praise or to eulogize.

A pastoral poem is one which uses the rural life as its background. It may also be known as an idyll.

A sonnet is a form of the lyric which must be fourteen lines long.

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