31 Days of Poetry {day 9} Poetry 101 pt 1

Welcome to 31 DAYS of Poetry.

Today and tomorrow, I shall be delighting you or boring you to tears with an entirely too quick, not at all comprehensive, introduction or refresher in poetry and its various forms.

If you are interested in a more rigorous poetry introduction, may I suggest Perrine’s Sound and Sense.

(Note: this is a college introductory level poetry textbook, and it was quite pricey when I bought it. Check out used bookstores or online book retailers for a used copy. The information doesn’t really change, but the poems illustrating the terms may.)


So you want to know some more about poetry.

What is poetry? Good question, and I don’t have a definitive end all definition for you. Wordsworth said “it was the overflow of powerful feelings.” Emily Dickinson said when she “felt like the top of her head had been taken off” that she knew it was poetry. Some argue it evokes experience and literary language. Some argue it is an image. Take your pick. Personally, I espouse to Dickinson’s point of view.

What are some common forms of poetry?

  • Ballad: a short poem that tells a story in stanza form. Variation: folk ballad, same idea but usually the writer is anonymous and it is passed down through oral tradition.
  • Free verse: no metrical pattern or rhyme, breaks and pause come naturally out of the poem. (This is what I do)
  • Sestina: a poem of six six-line stanzas and 3 envoys. The stanza following another will repeat the last line but in a different order, the envoy uses the words again. A bit complicated as a fixed form.
  • Sonnet: a 14 line  fixed form poem written in iambic pentameter. Variations: the Italian: contents 1 octave(8 rhymed lines) and a sestet(6 rhymed lines). the English contents 3 quatrains(a set of 4 rhymed lines) and 1 couplet (a pair of rhyming lines).
  • Villanelle: a 19 line poem consisting of  5 tercets(three rhymed lines) and a quatrain.


What questions do you have poetry or its forms or its parts? Let me know in the comments.