21 Types of Poems

These are the 21 types of poems.

From Acrostic to Villanelle.

So if you want to learn all about the different types of poems, then this article is for you.

Let’s dig right in!

The Different Poem Types With Examples

While the sheer variety of structures, rhyme schemes, meters, and traditional forms associated with poetry may intimidate you, I have some good news that might help you stay motivated. 

Every form, at its core, is just a superficial thing that someone at one point or another made up to challenge themselves.

You also do not need to memorize every single one of them to be a poet. 

The main reason to learn about all the forms out there isn’t so that you’ll remember every single one of them because you most likely won’t. It’s because researching different forms may give you an idea for a poem that you wouldn’t have had otherwise.

Also, if you’re the pragmatic type, then there are some bragging rights associated with mastering a few different forms. 

Telling someone that you wrote a best-selling villanelle should fill you with a sense of pride because it’s brutally difficult to write a villanelle, much less a good one.

So with a quiet understanding that you’re probably not going to remember all of these (feel free to favorite the page), let’s discuss some of the many, many different types of poems.

#1 Acrostic

Alice Pleasance Liddell

Acrostic poems use the first letter of every line to spell out a word or phrase. 

The word used is often the subject being described by the remainder of the poem. Below is an example that utilizes “Cat” as the word spelled out.

Clawed and sassy
Awesome but nasty
Trying to be flashy

#2 Ballad

Ballads are narrative-driven poems, often written to be sung, usually but not always based in folklore. 

Not to be confused with a “ballade” because the English language needs to be confusing and inconvenient, as per usual. Ballads often feature simple bouncy rhyme schemes.

He stepped upon the ship’s bow,
a feather in his weathered cap,
then danced for seven nights,
to the tune of ’80’s rap.
The kraken found it soothing
and laid down for a nap.

#3 Blank verse

When a poem has a strong meter but no rhyme scheme, it’s considered “blank verse.” This title especially applies to poems written in Iambic pentameter. 

William Shakespeare was accredited with waves upon waves of blank verse. Many of the best examples of blank verse come from Shakespeare’s works.

#4 Cinquain

A cinquain is a five-line poem, though it can also refer to a five-line stanza. There are many varieties of cinquain (crown cinquain, didactic cinquain, American cinquain). 

Still, the bottom line is that they’re all variations of a five-line poem. The form was initially inspired by Japanese haikus.

#5 Concrete poetry

Concrete poetry is an experimental type of poetry in which the words are arranged on the page so that they form a simple shape or image. This may even involve tilting or resizing the words occasionally.

A square is perhaps,
I think, the most dull
example I could use,
yet here it is for you
to so quietly peruse,
if you do so choose.
A square is perhaps,
I think, the most dull
example I could use,
yet here it is for you
to so quietly peruse,
if you do so choose.

#6 Elegy

An elegy doesn’t have particular rules, typically. But is written following a person’s death to honor them or the subject of loss of life itself.

#7 Epic poetry

Odyssey and the suitors of Penilope.

Epic poems are poems of monumental length and scope, often detailing lengthy narratives about ancient heroes as they fought against mythical creatures, enemy warriors, and impossible odds. 

Epic poems have a great many conventions unique to the form. Still, the central theme of the “hero’s journey” is the most defining feature of any epic.

Examples include Gilgamesh and Homer’s Odyssey. Epics were traditionally told orally and passed down from one poet to the next, rather than being penned out. 

While epic poetry is extremely important to the history of poetry as a form of public entertainment, it’s not nearly as popular in the modern era. Copies of Homer’s works are still sold regularly, of course, but largely for academic purposes.

#8 Epigram

An epigram is a very short poem, usually no longer than a quatrain, that often contains a witty little instance of rhyme. They can even be as short as one line, such as “Let desire stoke your fire” or “I gladly invite all of your spite.”

Yes, a poem can be a single line. Have I mentioned yet that poetry largely doesn’t really have clearly defined rules?

#9 Epitaph

An epitaph is a short poem specifically written to be placed on a gravestone. They can be respectful, like an elegy, or even humorous if it’s believed that that’s what the deceased would’ve wanted. 

Whether you believe humorous epitaphs to be uncalled for or not is naturally up to personal taste.

#10 Formal poetry

“Formal” is a blanket description commonly applied to poems that follow a specific meter and/or rhyme scheme predetermined by a unique template. Common examples include sonnets and villanelles. 

Formal poetry has been losing popularity as writers move further away from strict rulesets. Still, it has an important place in the poetry world both historically and as a tool for poets to sharpen their skills and challenge themselves.

#11 Free verse

Free verse poems don’t have rules whatsoever. The lengths of each line rhyme that may or may not exist and individual details are all decided at the poet’s whim. This form isn’t without its pros and cons, though.

The upside is that a free verse poem has the potential to be unbelievably beautiful if written by an expert craftsman who gives every single word, pause, and punctuation mark a greater purpose within the poem. 

The downside, which can be huge, is that many hopefuls lack the necessary experience to imbue each line with a sense of purpose, leading to bland, empty poetry.

As a result, free verse has a mixed reputation in the poetry world. It’s a form that brings out the best of the world’s most experienced writers and brings out the worst in the world’s most inexperienced writers. 

Don’t let that scare you away but do study up on the inner mechanisms of poetry before blindly assuming “anyone can do it.”

#12 Haiku

Haiku written on a piece of white stone on the beach.

Haikus, in English, are poems that feature a 5-7-5 syllable structure. (Five lines on the first, seven on the second, five on the third.) 

The focus is typically on mundane moments of beauty in life. Of course, many of the rules associated with haikus, including the syllable count, have been violated over time. That’s not unusual for popular forms.

In the original Japanese tradition, where haikus originated from, they were typically poems that focused on nature and the seasons.

Flower petals sink
as if to threaten softly
of a warm summer.

#13 Limerick

Limericks are examples of a poem written for humor, employing a simple AABBA rhyme scheme and an amusing anecdotal topic. They’re written more for simple entertainment than to get at any greater purpose and are a nice reminder that poems don’t need to “mean” something to be well-liked.

I saw a lovely young lady from France
who quietly asked me to dance.
I tripped on my shoe,
became black and blue,
and may have just missed my chance.

#14 Lyric poetry

Lyric poetry is completely unlike poetry focused on narratives or concrete subjects. Lyric poetry is all about connecting with and expressing a feeling. These poems can be free or formal, depending on the writer’s preference. 

For example, many famous love poems that focus on explaining how it feels to love can be considered lyric poetry.

Not to be confused with song lyrics because, again, the English language is a charming mess.

#15 Metered poetry

Metered poetry, which includes many formal poems and all blank verse, is poetry. A specific pattern of stressed and unstressed syllables is followed. 

Meter is measured in feet. An individual foot represents the specific pattern to be followed and is usually two or three syllables.

For example, an iambic foot (or iamb) is one unstressed syllable followed by a stressed syllable. 

The number of feet determines the length of the meter. A meter with five feet is a pentameter. As such, a line of poetry with five iambs back-to-back is considered “iambic pentameter.” This also means that a line of iambic pentameter will always have exactly ten syllables total due to having five sets of two syllables.

Note that the stress of a syllable is based on vocalization and can vary slightly depending on dialect or even from person to person. As such, many poets will gladly deviate from the meter for a foot or two, as long as the overarching poem maintains the proper rhythm.

#16 Minimalism

Minimalism is more of a movement than a type of poem. Still, it’s a term commonly used to refer to poems that stray away from classic techniques and even punctuation in extreme cases. 

Minimalist poetry has recently been popularized by the success of Rupi Kaur, whose writings are radically minimalistic.

This is one of the more controversial movements as of this moment. Many people applaud the lawless, avant-garde rawness of minimalist poems, while others argue that the lack of technique makes them feel hollow. 

Either way, they’re an example of just how far you can push free verse while still making something that is recognizably a poem.

i look to the window
sometimes weeping
never knowing why
even as the view beneath
escapes my sightless eyes

#17 Ode

A vintage pen sitting on top of the piano keys.

An ode is a poem that glorifies a specific subject. Odes can be written to people, places, events, or even random objects lying around the house. 

It is believed that odes were invented by the Greeks, who designed them to be sung. Modern odes lack any particular rules, aside from the theming.

#18 Pastoral

A pastoral is a type of poem that focuses on rural life and the natural world. 

Generally, pastorals paint an idealistic country life away from the harshness of urban living. 

The underlying message of most pastorals is a desire to return to untainted settings surrounded by nature. Shepherds are common central figures in pastoral poems.

#19 Rhyming poetry

Spoiler alert: Some poems rhyme. These rhymes aren’t usually selected at random, though this can sometimes be the case. 

If you follow a poem along carefully, you’ll often find that rhyming poems will have a set pattern in which every other line rhymes or perhaps the last two lines of each stanza rhyme, etc.

These patterns are defined as rhyme schemes and are signified by a series of capital letters that represent the ending sounds of the lines. 

So a poem with a rhyme scheme of AABC AADE has the same ending sound on the 1st, 2nd, 5th, and 6th lines (signified by the “A”). 

None of the other letters match each other to signify that none of them rhyme with each other or with the sound used for “A.”

Even poems that don’t have a set rhyme scheme will often use rhyme as a means to draw the reader’s attention to a line that the writer felt was important. 

And yes, there are also times when a rhyme was just dropped in to make a line sound more fun. Poets are people too.

#20 Sonnet

Sonnets are a type of formal poem consisting of 14 lines with a strict rhyme scheme and meter. The most common forms of sonnets are the Petrarchan (aka Italian sonnet) and the Shakespearean (aka English sonnet).

Sonnets written in English are typically written in Iambic pentameter, traditionally, but this is a form that has gone through many permutations. 

Some poets would even go so far as to argue that any metered 14-line poem should be considered a sonnet. As with most forms, it’s really a matter of perspective.

#21 Villanelle

Villanelles have 5 3-line stanzas, followed by a single 4-line stanza, for a total of 19 lines. They feature a strict, unforgiving rhyme scheme of ABA ABA ABA ABA ABA ABAA. Line 1 is repeated three more times, on lines 6, 12, and 18. Line 3 is similarly repeated on lines 9, 15, and 19.

Sounds oddly specific, right? That’s because it is. Writing a villanelle in English is a miserable experience and writing a GOOD villanelle is nearly impossible without witchcraft. 

A truly masterful villanelle will arrange the lines such that the repeated lines have a new meaning and fresh impact each time they’re read.

“Do not go gentle into that good night” by Dylan Thomas is one excellent example of a top-tier villanelle that uses the form’s repetition to emphasize recurring thoughts.