menu

How to Organize Poem Lines


One of the most challenging elements of poetry is organization. According to which kind of poem you are writing, there are rules that must be followed. For the young writer especially, these rules can be confusing and can often back your writing into seemingly inescapable corners. For this reason it is important to write poetry. Poetry forces a writer to organize, and use precise words to express meaning.

Simple Rhyming Poem

To create a simple rhyming poem, the poet must first determine their rhyme scheme and meter.

Rhyme scheme is the pattern of end of line rhymes. Some common rhyme schemes are rhyming couplets, and ABCB. Couplets work like this:

If you put lines in a pair A Rhyming couplets are there A

Whereas ABCB works like this:

When your rhyme takes its time A Meandering around B Waiting every other line C Before the next is found B As you can see, the letter labeling at the end of the line coincides with the rhyming sounds. You can make the end of line rhyme scheme whatever you want, for example, ABBA, AABA, or ABCC. The important part is that once you determine your rhyme scheme, you should organize the lines so they match the pattern.

Meter refers to the number of syllables per line and the pattern of how they are stressed. The stresses give the poem a rhythm that makes them seem as though they should be sung rather than spoken. Whatever number of syllables you chose and whatever rhythm you give the poem, they should remain consistent throughout the poem.

Quatrain

A quatrain is a type of traditional rhyming poem that is organized into four line stanzas. Stanzas are blocks of lines separated by a space. They are the poetic equivalent of a paragraph in prose writing. Every four-line stanza has a rhyme scheme such as AABB, ABCB, or ABBA. The chosen rhyme scheme stays consistent throughout the poem.

Sonnets

Sonnets are another traditional type of rhyming poem. These contain 14 lines organized into a uniform rhyme scheme. What rhyme scheme is chosen is up to the writer. They can be done in couplets: AA BB CC DD EE FF GG; or in other varieties: ABCB DEFE GHIH JJ, or ABBA CDDC EFFE GG.

The meter of a true sonnet is Iambic Pentameter, which means the first syllable is unstressed and the second is stressed. This pattern repeats throughout the line, so that the rhythm rises and falls.

Limerick

The writer of a humorous limerick does not get to choose anything about their rhyme scheme or meter, or even the number of lines. They are always five lines long with a rhyme scheme of AABBA. Lines 1, 2 and 5 have 9 syllables while lines 3 and 4 have 6 syllables.

There once was a poet who didn't Want his poem to have a limit So he wrote in a rush And without to much fuss He found that a novel was in it

Haiku

Haikus are a traditional Japanese form of nature poetry. In a haiku, the lines are organized in a group of three. Rhyming and meter are unimportant unless the poet chooses to use them. What is important is the syllables used in each line. The first and last lines have five syllables and the middle line has seven.

In this fine haiku 5 syllables I will show you what to do 7 syllables Line by lovely line. 5 syllables

Acrostic

In an acrostic poem, the lines are organized by their first letter rather than end of line rhymes. The poet chooses a key word and starts each line with a letter from that word.

Plenty of poets Organize acrostically Eliminating doubts about Meanings you see

Concrete

In a concrete poem, the lines are organized into a shape that represents the topic of the poem. For example, a poem about the ocean may be written in wavy lines to represent the tide, or a poem about a tree may have words branching out from a central trunk-like word.

Free Verse

Many student writers pick free verse poetry because to them it seems like there is no wrong way to organize their poem lines. The logic is that, if there are no rules, I can't get it wrong. This isn't the case. Even in free verse poetry there should be an apparent reason for the line organization. For example, a special word may get a line all its own for emphasis, or complete thoughts or words are broken up to show chaos. As with any poetic decision, you should have a compelling reason to start and end lines where you choose.

About the Author

Based in central Florida, J. Jeremy Dean has written for 16 years and has written news and entertainment articles for "The Daily Commercial" in Leesburg, Fla. In 2002, he won the Florida Society of Newspaper Editors award for criticism. Dean holds a professional writing bachelor's degree from Glenville State College and a master's of education degree from National Louis University.

Photo Credits
  • Comstock/Comstock/Getty Images