Poetic Forms and Terms

Below are poems that contain or serve as examples of certain poetic forms and terms. For more detailed information about these and other terms, visit the Poetry Foundation’s Learning Lab.

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Alliteration

The repetition of initial stressed, consonant sounds in a series of words within a phrase or verse line. Alliteration need not reuse all initial consonants; “pizza” and “place” alliterate.

Allusion

A brief, intentional reference to a historical, mythic, or literary person, place, event, or movement.

Aphorism

A pithy, instructive statement or truism, like a maxim or adage.

Ars Poetica

A term meaning “the art of poetry,” an ars poetica poem expresses that poet's aims for poetry and/or that poet's theories about poetry.

Assonance

The repetition of vowel sounds without repeating consonants; sometimes called vowel rhyme.

Aubade

A love poem or song welcoming or lamenting the arrival of the dawn.

Ballad

A popular narrative song passed down orally. In the English tradition, it usually follows a form of rhymed (ABCB) quatrains alternating four-stress and three-stress lines. Folk (or traditional) ballads are anonymous and recount tragic, comic, or heroic

Concrete or Pattern Poetry

Verse that emphasizes nonlinguistic elements in its meaning, such as a typeface that creates a visual image of the topic

Consonance

A resemblance in sound between two words, or an initial rhyme.

Ekphrasis

“Description” in Greek. An ekphrastic poem is a vivid description of a scene or, more commonly, a work of art.

Elegy

In traditional English poetry, it is often a melancholy poem that laments its subject's death but ends in consolation.

Epigram

A pithy, often witty, poem.

Epistle

A letter in verse, usually addressed to a person close to the writer.

Free Verse

Nonmetrical, nonrhyming lines that closely follow the natural rhythms of speech. A regular pattern of sound or rhythm may emerge in free-verse lines, but the poet does not adhere to a metrical plan in their composition.

What People are Saying

"I learned just how much deeper your understanding of a poem is when you memorize it than when you just read it a couple of times, and how you understand it a little better every single time you recite it."
Alex Hanesworth
2015 WA POL Champion