Poetic forms

Verse, stanzas and rhyme

Free verse – varying line and stanza lengths determined by the content. Don’t particularly rhyme. Most submissions to Verbatim fall into this category.

Blank verse – Lines of equal syllabic length (especially 8-12) with no end rhymes. Breaks are infrequent and irregular.

Stanzas – Verses of equal length, more than 2 lines each.

Couplets – Verses of 2 lines each which usually rhyme (we overlook that for found poetry).

Villanelle – 6 stanzas that use lines 1 and 3 as a refrain to a strict rhyme scheme: a1-b-a2, a-b-a1, a-b-a2, a-b-a1, a-b-a2, a-b-a1-a2.

Pantoum – 4 or more quatrains where lines 2 and 4 are repeated as lines 1 and 3 of the following stanza: a-b-c-d, b-e-d-f, e-g-f-h, g-i(a or c)-h-j(a or c).

Rhyme – An additional tag for any poem that has noticeable end rhymes.

Syllabic forms

Haiku (17 or fewer) – 5-7-5 syllables max. Unrhymed. About nature, with a seasonal reference and a clear semantic break. If it is about human nature, it’s a senryu, which are usually comical.

Distich (20) – Single couplet, ideally 2 rhyming 10-syllable lines.

Cinquain (22) – 2-4-6-8-2 syllables. Unrhymed.

Tanka (31 or fewer) – 5-7-5-7-7 syllables max. Unrhymed. Subject traditionally breaks into upper half and final couplet.

Limerick (34) – Usually 8-8-5-5-8 with a strong, comical rhythm and subject. Rhymes a-a-b-b-a.

Naga-uta (43, 55, 67, 79, 91, 103) – A longer tanka, alternating 5-7 until the end couplet of 7s. Unrhymed.

Sijo (44-46) – 3 lines of 14-16 syllables, totalling 44-46. Unrhymed. Lines are theme, elaboration, counter-theme, each with a mid-line break.

Nonet (45) – 9-8-7-6-5-4-3-2-1 syllables. Often rhymes.

Sonnet (140) – 14 lines of 10 syllables. Shakespearean sonnets rhyme a-b-a-b c-d-c-d e-f-e-f g-g. Italian sonnets often rhyme a-b-a-b a-b-a-b c-d-e-c-d-e.

Other forms

Acrostic – Regular lines, the first letter of each spelling out a phrase.

Cento – Assembled from lines of other poets.

Clerihew – Four comical lines rhymed a-a-b-b. The first line is the subject’s name.

Concrete poem – The visual layout forms a shape that is part of the poem’s meaning.

Nursery rhyme – Simple rhyming verse for children, often with a subtext.

Prose poem – No line breaks –the poetic matter shines through a block of prose.

Skeltonic verse – Short, rhyming, rhythmical lines create a comical tumbling effect.

Song – Lines arranged to be sung, e.g. with a repeated chorus.