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Forms of Poetry

· Narrative: First major literary form. Tells a story from start to finish like a short
story or novel.
· Ballad: originally composed to be sung, uses a characteristic stanza form: 4 lines
(quatrain) rhyming abcb, the 1st and 3rd lines in iambic triameter (3 iambs to a
· Folk Ballad: a story expressed through song, dramatic, handed down
through generations: Twa Corbies, Lord Randal
· Literary Ballad: more modern; narrative written in ballad form,
disguised as folk poetry: The Shooting of Dan McGrew, The Lady of
Shallot, Annabel Lee
· Many contemporary folk, country, and rock songs are ballads

· Epic: a long narrative poem relating the exploits of characters of heroic

proportions. Eg/ The Illiad, Beowulf, Paradise Lost, The Faerie Queene

· Dramatic Monologue: story is revealed by the words of a single character in the

poem. Often another character present who does not speak. The circumstances
which bring together the speaker and his/her audience provide an artistic
framework, setting, and motivation for psychological analysis. Eg/ My Last
Duchess, The Love Song of J Alfred Prufrock

· Lyric Poetry (Greek: poetry accompanied by the lyre) The phrase “lyric poetry”
is loosely applied to most if not all short poems including, sonnets, songs, odes,
as well as poems without a conventional form. Usually, expresses a single feeling
or emotion, intense personal response, often in first person.
· descriptive lyric: the most objective. Describes some natural object or event
without stressing the poet’s reaction to it.
· reflective or meditative lyric: often starts from some concrete object or
situation, moves through the poet’s immediate reactions to an attitude of more
universal application.

· Sonnet; 14 lines (give or take), usually rhymed, usually written in iambic
· Italian or Petrarchan sonnet: Love sonnets. Octave describes subject or
introduces problem, sestet comments on or resolves it. Octave= two
quatrains rhyming abba. Two tercets rhyming in various ways= sestet.
· English/Shakespearean/Elizabethan: Three quatrains with independent
rhymes concluding with a rhyming couplet (abab, cdcd, efef, gg).
· (Other types of sonnets include Spensarian and Miltonic)

· Ode: Usually longer than other lyrics. Often expresses serious thoughts or
reflections on a topic, and it is usually stated in elevated language. Eg/ Ode to the
West Wind, Ode on a Grecian Urn
· Elegy: A poem of lament or sober reflection. Usually about the death of a person.
Highly stylized diction. Expression is grave and controlled rather than passionate.

· Didactic poetry: usually written to teach or state an informative message. The

purpose of the poem is to explain rather than express an emotion.

· Free Verse: Doesn’t impose a regular meter, predetermined length of lines, or

fixed form for each stanza. Difficult to use well. Demands a knowledge of regular
forms, sensitivity to word values, and a well-developed sense of rhythm.
Characteristics: short lines, controlled but irregular rhythm, word play.