There are so many different types of poetry that it can sometimes be hard to remember them all. But don’t worry we’re here to help! We’ll take you through the basics from Shakespeare to Milton, to Homer to feminist slam poetry, you’ll learn it all.


We’ll start with the fun quirky limerick. A limerick is a light-hearted poem that is usually around 5 lines long and follows an AABBA rhyming scheme. Edward Lear was known for using this form of poem back in the 1800s. Here’s an example of one he wrote:

There was an Old Person of Dean,
Who dined on one pea and one bean;
For he said, “More than that would make me too fat,”
That cautious Old Person of Dean.

Limericks are in accentual verse, which means that the construction of a line is determined by the number of accents no matter how many syllables there are. And because the syllables aren’t counted, limericks have a certain flexibility.

Haiku Poems

Now this is one that you might not have studied at school. A Haiku, or a Hokku as it can be known, is a Japanese poem that can be based on many themes, from love to nature.

The Haiku has since been adapted for English and many famous authors have tried their hand at this short poem.

It usually contains a total of 17 syllables shared between three lines, arranged in a pattern of 5-7-5. The fist line consists of 5 syllables, the second line 7, and the last line another 5 syllables.

Originally, in Japanese, Haiku poetry was measured in sounds, or "breaths," not English syllables. The 5-7-5 approach was a rough approximation to get the same feel as the traditional Japanese poems. The 5-7-5 form is still popular today and many poets still embrace the framework.

Here’s some examples of Haiku:

From time to time by Matsuo Basho

From time to time

The clouds give rest

To the moon-beholders.


Haiku by Jack Kerouac

 The low yellow

 moon above the

Quiet lamplit house

Poetry is for everyone
Reading is good for the soul! (Source: Pexels)

Epic Poem

You’ll definitely remember toiling over epic poems in English lessons at school. At first, it can seem quite the task to read an epic poem but they are such classics that we think everyone should read!

An Epic poem is a lengthy narrative poem told on a grand scale. According to Webster’s New World dictionary, “epic is a long narrative poem in a dignified style about the deeds of a traditional or historical hero or heroes; typically a poem like Iliad or the Odyssey with certain formal characteristics.” The story usually involves forces of natures and uses long character arcs. Protagonists meet with obstacles and disaster, action and triumph.

Here's book one of the famous Paradise Lost by John Milton, a long read but worth it to really understand what epic poems are like:

"Of man’s first disobedience, and the fruit

Of that forbidden tree, whose mortal taste

Brought death into the world, and all our woe,

With loss of Eden, till one greater man

Restore us, and regain the blissful seat,

Sing Heav’nly Muse, that on the secret top

Of Oreb, or of Sinai, didst inspire

That shepherd, who first taught the chosen seed,

In the beginning how the heavens and earth

Rose out of Chaos: or if Sion hill

Delight thee more, and Siloa’s brook that flowed

Fast by the oracle of God, I thence

Invoke thy aid to my advent’rous song,

That with no middle flight intends to soar

Above th’ Aonian mount, while it pursues

Things unattempted yet in prose or rhyme.

And chiefly thou, O Spirit, that dost prefer

Before all temples th’ upright heart and pure,

Instruct me, for thou know’st; thou from the first

Wast present, and with mighty wings outspread

Dove-like sat’st brooding on the vast abyss

And mad’st it pregnant: what in me is dark

Illumine, what is low raise and support,

That to the highth of this great argument

I may assert eternal providence,

And justify the ways of God to men.

Say first, for Heav’n hides nothing from thy view

Nor the deep tract of Hell, say first what cause

Moved our grand parents in that happy state,

Favored of Heav’n so highly, to fall off

From their Creator, and transgress his will

For one restraint, lords of the world besides?

Who first seduced them to that foul revolt?

Th’ infernal serpent; he it was, whose guile

Stirred up with envy and revenge, deceived

The mother of mankind, what time his pride

Had cast him out from Heav’n, with all his host

Of rebel angels, by whose aid aspiring

To set himself in glory above his peers,

He trusted to have equalled the Most High,

If he opposed; and with ambitious aim

Against the throne and monarchy of God

Raised impious war in Heav’n and battle proud

With vain attempt. Him the Almighty Power

Hurled headlong flaming from th’ ethereal sky

With hideous ruin and combustion down

To bottomless perdition, there to dwell

In adamantine chains and penal fire,

Who durst defy th’ Omnipotent to arms.

Nine times the space that measures day and night

To mortal men, he with his horrid crew"


Dive into the English language by reading Shakespeare's playwrights
The man himself (Photo Via Visual Hunt)

Now onto something a bit shorter… The word sonnet is derived from the Italian word “sonetto,” which means a “little song” or sound. In poetry, a sonnet has 14 lines, and is written in iambic pentameter. Sonnets adhere to a tightly structured thematic organization.

The sonnet has become popular among different poets because it can be adapted for different purposes, though rhythms are strictly followed by all.

It is the perfect poetic style for expressing a feeling or thought. With its short length a poet can use a sonnet to focus on just a single idea. Sonnets typically explore strong emotions but in a manageable 14 lines, making it easier for both the poet and the reader.

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Shakespeare is without a doubt the most famous sonnet writer. Here’s an example of is work:

Sonnet 3

Look in thy glass and tell the face thou viewest
Now is the time that face should form another;
Whose fresh repair if now thou not renewest,
Thou dost beguile the world, unbless some mother.
For where is she so fair whose uneared womb
Disdains the tillage of thy husbandry?
Or who is he so fond will be the tomb
Of his self-love, to stop posterity?
Thou art thy mother's glass and she in thee
Calls back the lovely April of her prime;
So thou through windows of thine age shalt see,
Despite of wrinkles, this thy golden time.
But if thou live, remembered not to be,
Die single and thine image dies with thee.


If you thought a ballad was just a love song, you’re not wrong. A ballad is a type of poem that is sometimes set to music. This type of poetry has a long history and the musical version of it is said to have started as a folk song, This continues today in popular music and many love songs that we know today are considered to be ballads.

A typical ballad consists of stanzas that contain a quatrain, or four poetic lines.

The meter or rhythm of each line is usually iambic, which means it has one unstressed syllable followed by a stressed syllable. In ballads, there are usually eight or six syllables in a line.

Here’s an example of one:

A Western Ballad by Allen Ginsburg

 When I died, love, when I died

my heart was broken in your care;

I never suffered love so fair

as now I suffer and abide

when I died, love, when I died.

When I died, love, when I died

I wearied in an endless maze

that men have walked for centuries,

as endless as the gate was wide

when I died, love, when I died.

When I died, love, when I died

there was a war in the upper air:

all that happens, happens there;

there was an angel by my side

when I died, love, when I died.

Free Verse Poetry

Free verse is a literary device that can be defined as poetry that is free from limitations of a regular meter or rhythm and does not rhyme with fixed forms. Such poems are without rhythm and rhyme schemes, do not follow regular rhyme scheme rules, yet still, provide artistic expression. In this way, the poet can give his own shape to a poem however he or she desires. However, it still allows poets to use alliteration, rhyme, cadences, and rhythms to get the effects that they consider are suitable for the piece.

Here's an example of free verse:

Free Verse by Robert Graves

 I now delight

In spite

Of the might

And the right

Of classic tradition,

In writing

And reciting

Straight ahead,

Without let or omission,

Just any little rhyme

In any little time

That runs in my head;

Because, I’ve said,

My rhymes no longer shall stand arrayed

Like Prussian soldiers on parade

That march,

Stiff as starch,

Foot to foot,

Boot to boot,

Blade to blade,

Button to button,

Cheeks and chops and chins like mutton.

No! No!

My rhymes must go

Turn ’ee, twist ’ee,

Twinkling, frosty,

Will-o’-the-wisp-like, misty;

Rhymes I will make

Like Keats and Blake

And Christina Rossetti,

With run and ripple and shake.

How pretty

To take

A merry little rhyme

In a jolly little time

And poke it,

And choke it,

Change it, arrange it,

Straight-lace it, deface it,

Pleat it with pleats,

Sheet it with sheets

Of empty conceits,

And chop and chew,

And hack and hew,

And weld it into a uniform stanza,

And evolve a neat,

Complacent, complete,

Academic extravaganza!

Slam Poetry

Slam poetry is a form of competitive performance poetry in which participants perform works no longer than three minutes and are judged by audience members. The winners then progress to further in the competition and perform a new piece each time. The winner is the poet with the highest score in the finals. The winner usually wins a cash prize.

You’ve probably seen many videos of slam poetry floating around online. They are particularly popular today because they are powerful ways to spread a message or bring attention to topics that are in the news.

Slam poets use their performances to get people’s attention. The dramatic ways in which their poems are performed evokes emotions in audiences and can really help to shed light on specific topics.

Feminist slam poets are especially important in this era. Here are a couple of our favourites:

Period by Dominique Christina

"So to my daughter / Should any fool mishandle that wild geography of your body, / how it rides a red running current like any good wolf or witch / well then just bleed, boo. / Get that blood a biblical name/something of stone and mortar. / Name it after Eve's first rebellion in that garden/name it after the last little girl to have her genitals mutilated in Kinshasa / that was this morning. / Give it as many syllables as there are unreported rape cases."

"#Feminism" by Crystal Valentine:

"...When I think of feminism / I see a woman, I see a strong woman / I see a strong, white woman and then / I see a subcategory for myself / I see a dark room for me to shove my opinions / And I see a suggestion box that will never be opened..." 

So there you have it, our quick guide to different types of poetry. From old poems about God and evil to Feminist slam poetry we think there’s something for everyone! Check out the Superprof blog to read about these different poetry forms in more detail.

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