What Poetic Forms Use Formal Rhyme & Meter?

While you may perceive poetry as an exercise in freedom of expression, several forms of poetry require a strict structure and rhyme scheme. Short forms of poetry, such as the haiku, require one or two thoughts, but other longer forms such as the ode, require lengthy rhyme schemes and meter continuation.


Thought to originate in Italy, sonnets have a formulaic rhyme and meter, depending on which type of sonnet the poet uses. Petrarch, often thought of as the father of the modern sonnet, developed the 14-line poem, which uses a specific type of meter called iambic pentameter. The poem is broken into two parts -- the octave, which contains two abba rhyme schemes -- and the sestet -- which contains two or three different rhyming combinations that can be arranged in many ways. Other forms of the sonnet include the Spenserian sonnet and the Shakesperian sonnet. Both have 14 lines, and both are in iambic pentameter, but have different rhyme schemes.


The villanelle is an even more structured form of poetry than the sonnet. The villanelle has 19 lines, which consist of five tercets and a quatrain. The poetry form includes two repeating rhyme schemes and two refrains. Refrains are pieces of the poem that continue to repeat throughout the poem. While the origins of the villanelle are disputed, it has found popularity with English language poets. One of the most famous villanelles written in English is Dylan Thomas' "Do Not Go Gentle Into That Good Night."


Haikus are a Japanese form of poetry. The poems consist of three lines and a distinct syllable pattern scheme. The first and the third lines must have five syllables, and the second line has seven. Haikus usually have aspects of nature within the poem, such as the changing of the seasons, or a particular animal or plant. Haikus also feature a change within the poem, usually in between the second and third lines. The change is unusual and unexpected. The poet tends to remain unaffected and detached from the events of the poem.


While odes do not have the same rigid structure as sonnets, villanelles or haikus, they do adhere to a structure and a rhyme scheme. The Pindaric ode has an opening, and then an antistrophe, which usually has the same rhyme scheme as the opening. The Pindaric ode closes with a different rhyme scheme than the rest of the poem. These odes were used for stage and oration, when speakers would shout them rather than read them softly. Another form of the ode, a Horatian ode, is designed to be read rather than recited.

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