Styles of Poetry 
Sonnet:
A lyric poem written in a single stanza consisting of 14 iambic pentameter lines linked by an intricate rhyme scheme.
Italian (Petrarchan) - has an octave (8 lines) abbaabba and a sestet (six lines) cdecde or cdccdc.
English (Shakespearean) - has 3 quatrains (4 lines) and a concluding rhyming couplet (2 lines) abab/cdcd/efef/gg.or Spenserian abab/bcbc/cdcd/ee. Sonnets usually deal with love, religious or serious concerns. There are also sonnet cycles or sequences which involve several sonnets dealing with more than one character but the same situation (relationships, plot, life).
Sample authors: Auden, Thomas, Robinson, Drayton, Wordsworth, Rossetti, Barrett-Browning.

Elegy:
The meter alternates hexameter and pentameter lines. The mood is complaining, sad, melancholic, lamenting, consoling, usually about the death of a person or for somber meditations.
Sample authors: Tennyson, Auden, Gray, Milton, Shelley, Arnold.

Free Verse:
It has short lines, not the continuity of prose. It has a more controlled rhythm than ordinary prose. The concentration is on emotion, words, pace, and bucking conventional patterns of poetry (re: stanzaic form, rhyme scheme, and meter)
Sample authors: Whitman, Williams, Pound, Ginsberg, Cummings, Ferlinghetti.

Apostrophe:
A direct address either to an absent person or to an abstract or inanimate object. The effect can be highly formal or of a sudden emotional impetus. The addressee is not intended to hear this.
Sample authors: Keats, Coleridge, Milton.

Ode:
A long, lyric poem, serious in subject, elevated in style, and elaborate in stanzaic structure, line length, and rhyme scheme. Romantic odes deal in description, passion, and meditation - perhaps attempting to solve either a private or human problem.
Sample authors: Worsworth, Cowley, Dryden, Gray, Keats, Shelley.

Ballad:
Popular - a song transmitted orally which tells a story, much like folk tales passed down for generations. Dramatic and impersonal, action and dialogue, it is devoid of the author's personal feelings or attitudes. It is usually formatted in quatrain stanzas in alternate four and three stress iambic lines - usually only the second and fourth lines rhyme in each stanza.
Literary - appeared mostly during the Romantic period as a deliberate imitation of the form and spirit of the folk ballad.
Sample authors: Guthrie, Dylan, Coleridge, Wordsworth, Scott, Keats.

Lyric:
Any fairly short, non-narrative poem presenting a single speaker who expresses a state of mind or a process of thought and feeling (observation, thought, memory) may be organized in a variety of ways.
Sample authors: Shelley, Burns, Yeats, Arnold, (songwriters in a non-narrative style like Eddie Vedder)

Blank Verse:
Consists of lines of iambic pentameter which are unrhymed. This is the closest to the natural rhythms of speech and is most frequently used.
Sample authors: Milton, T.S. Eliot, Wordsworth, Tennyson, Browning, Coleridge, W. Stevens.

Epic (heroic poem):
A long, narrative poem on a great and serious subject, told in an elevated style, centered on a heroic or quasi-divine figure on whose actions depends the fate of a tribe, a nation, or the human race.
Sample authors: Homer, Milton, Vergil, Keats, Blake, Dante, Spenser.

 
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Last updated on July 8, 1998
Mary Sauve