Kinds of Poems

Poetry is a form of literary art that uses language to evoke images and feelings in addition to meaning. Although there are numerous varieties of poetic styles, it can be handy to know some of the most common ones. If you're a beginning poet looking to improve your art, try your hand at composing some of these kinds of poems.

Free-Verse Poems

In this kind of poetry, the poet arranges either rhymed or unrhymed lines of poetry in no set metrical pattern. Free-verse poetry is a modern poetry style developed by 20th century poets who felt constrained by the rigidity of the formulaic poetry that was traditional at the time. An example of free verse poetry is Walt Whitman's "Song of Myself."

Blank-Verse Poems

Blank-verse poetry is written in unrhymed iambic pentameter. Iambic pentameter is a meter device typically used in English poetry, consisting of five iambic feet in each written line. An iamb is a metrical foot that consists of an unstressed syllable followed by a stressed syllable, which follows the typical inflection of human speech. Blank-verse poetry was used prolifically by William Shakespeare in his poetry and plays.

Narrative Poems

Narrative poetry is a type of poetry that tells a story, such as ballads, epics and plays. Epic poetry is the most common form of narrative poetry, consisting of storytelling poems about a heroic figure. In their beginnings, epic poems were told orally and passed from one orator to the next. Homer's "Iliad" and "Odyssey" are two examples of orally delivered epic poetry. Henry Wadsworth Longfellow's "The Song of Hiawatha" is a more contemporary written epic poem.


English, or Shakespearean, sonnets are a rigid poem structure. The English sonnet structure consists of three quatrains (each quatrain consists of four lines metered in iambic pentameter following the end-rhyme pattern "abab") followed by a concluding couplet. The English sonnet was introduced by Thomas Wyatt in the early 16th century and was frequently used as a poetic form for Shakespeare's poems.

Lyric Poems

Lyric poetry is defined as a poem that expresses the poet's own thoughts or feelings rather than telling a story. In a lyric poem, the poet may directly address the reader to portray his or her feelings, perceptions, opinions and beliefs. Lyric poetry, then, is the opposite of narrative poetry. One example of a famous lyric poet is Emily Dickinson, who often used poetry as a means to express her apprehensions about death.

Prose Poems

Prose poetry is a writing style that dates back to the writings of Hebrew scholars. Although prose poetry was used in the writing of the King James Bible in the Book of Psalms, it wasn't recognized as a kind of poetry until Aloysius Bertand published "Gespard de la nuit" in 1842. Prose poetry embeds characteristics of poetry, such as metrical structure or verse, within the appearance of prose.

Haiku Poems

Haiku poetry is a style of Japanese poetry that is comprised of three unrhymed lines. The first line consists of five syllables, the second of seven and the third of five syllables. This poetry type originated in the 16th century and uses imagery to create a meaningful and compact poem, usually about nature. An example of haiku poetry is "None is Travelling" by Basho.

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