Forms of Traditional Poetry Taken from Write Source 2000 and Stories in Verse
Poetry has been around for centuries,beginning with bards and messengerswho used poetry to pass along news,songs, and stories as they traveled fromtown to town. Today, we find poetry insongs, greeting cards, posters, gift books,and a variety of other places.
There are several forms of poetry thathave existed for centuries. Each of theseforms has a specific purpose and a strictset of rules. You are going to beexamining seven of these traditionalforms.
Ballad A poem which tells a story (usually about very moving events) Usually written in four-line stanzas, or quatrains Often the first and third lines will have eight syllables and the second and fourth lines will have six syllables There are several possible rhyme schemes for a quatrain, but generally the entire poem will follow the same rhyme scheme Use of repetition and refrain* Tragic ending*Note: a refrain is a line or stanza repeated at regular intervals throughout the poem
Ballad Example The first stanza of the “Ballad of Birmingham” Notice how it follows the requirements of a balladMother dear, may I go downtownInstead of out to play,And march the streets of BirminghamIn a Freedom March today?Note: This ballad tells the story of the tragedy of a civil rights protest in the 1960s.
Blank Verse Unrhymed poetry with meter* Each line is 10 syllables in length (although you can fudge a little)*Meter is a pattern of accented and unaccented syllables. I don’t expect you to use meter in your poems. It’s purely optional!
Blank Verse Example The first three lines of the “Birches” Notice how it follows the requirements of blank verseWhen I see birches bend to left and rightAcross the lines of straighter darker trees,I like to think some boy’s been swinging them.
Epic A long story poem which describes the adventures of a hero (usually of supernatural origin, like a mythological god) Events in the poem are of national or international importance Supernatural characters Many long speeches in the poem given by characters
Epic Example The beginning of The Odyssey by HomerTell me, o muse, of that ingenious hero who travelled far and wideafter he had sacked the famous town of Troy. Many cities did he visit,and many were the nations with whose manners and customs he wasacquainted; moreover he suffered much by sea while trying to save hisown life and bring his men safely home; but do what he might he couldnot save his men, for they perished through their own sheer folly ineating the cattle of the Sun-god Hyperion; so the god prevented themfrom ever reaching home. Tell me, too, about all these things, Odaughter of Jove, from whatsoever source you may know them.
Cinquain Five lines in length There are syllable cinquain poems and word cinquain poems
Syllable Cinquain Line 1: Title 2 syllables Line 2: Description of title 4 syllables Line 3: Action about the title 6 syllables Line 4: Feeling about the title 8 syllables Line 5: Synonym for the title 2 syllables
Word Cinquain Line 1: Title 1 word Line 2: Description of title 2 words Line 3: Action about the title 3 words Line 4: Feeling about the title 4 words Line 5: Synonym for the title 1 word
Syllable Cinquain ExampleFirst Visit to the Ocean Shes lost inside her laugh before the rising tidethat reaches out to tickle her bare toes. - Jeanne Cassler
Free Verse Poetry that does not require meter or rhyme scheme
Free Verse Example Not every free verse poem is this short. Both individual lines and the entire poem itself can be longer. Fog The fog comes on little cat feet. It sits looking over harbor and city on silent haunches and then moves on. - Carl Sandburg
Limerick A humorous verse Five lines Lines one, two, and five rhyme Lines three and four rhyme Lines one, two, and five have the same number of syllables (usually nine or ten) Lines three and four have the same number of syllables (usually four or five)
Limerick Example Notice the rhythm of the poemThere once was a lady from NantucketWho lived her whole life in a bucket.Her pleasures unknown,Were completely thrown,When in a mudhole her bucket got stuckit.
A Limerick for First Period ’05-‘06At M.I.S. there’s a TAG L.A. classWith such technology issues, alas.They can’t turn things on;(less brains and more brawn?)It’s a wonder that they can all pass! He, he! Just teasing – you know I love you.
Lyric A short poem The purpose is to express personal feeling
Lyric Example The first five lines of the “My Heart Leaps Up When I Behold”My heart leaps up when I beholdA rainbow in the sky;So was it when my life began;So is it now I am a man;So be it when I shall grow old. - William Wordsworth