The Structures & Types of Poetry
Starting with the oldest written poem, "The Epic of Gilgamesh," composed in Mesopotamia between approximately 2700 BC and 600 BC, poets have put writing instrument to flat tablet expressing heroism, religious beliefs, history and love. Over time, many types of poems emerged, with elements and structure such as rhyming, iambic pentameter and sestets.
Epic poems tell stories at great length, regaling the reader with the heroism of a main character who was vital to the very existence of humanity. Epic poems cross geographical, chronological and fantastical boundaries and tell a somber tale. Not every epic poem rhymes. Epic poems commonly start with an explanation of the theme and often include flashbacks throughout the poem. Homer famously wrote the epic poems "The Illiad" and "The Odyssey" in approximately the 8th century BC.
Three line Haiku poetry is a product of Japanese culture from the 16th century. The first and third lines of haiku traditionally have five syllables, and the second line has seven. Non-rhyming, haiku does not deal in the grandiose, but rather uses graphic imagery to describe the simple daily life and feelings of the poets. According to Poets.org, "a season word," or kigo, specified the time of year" at the end of lines one or two. Famous haiku poets include Matsuo Basho.
Limericks are five lines written about lighthearted, comical subjects. Lines one, two and five rhyme with each other and lines three and four rhyme with each other. Limericks are written in anapestic meter, in which the last syllable in groups of three has emphasis. Limericks have British roots and are named after the town Limerick, in Ireland. Edward Lear famously wrote limericks such as "The Owl and the Pussycat."
Sonnets have fourteen lines, iambic pentameter, complex rhyming and are a contrast of two themes, ideas or emotions. Types of sonnets include Shakespearean (English) and Petrarchan (Italian). Of course, these two types of sonnets are named after the famous poets William Shakespeare and Petrarch. A major component of English sonnets is the couplet, which comes at the end of the sonnet, after three quatrains. The couplet provides an ending to the sonnet that is surprising or resolves the story. Italian sonnets are two parts, or stanzas, called the octave and sestet. Italian sonnets ponder or argue an idea in the first stanza, which is then refuted or explained in the second stanza.
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