Poetic Forms Glossary

Poetic Forms Glossary


The representation of abstract ideas or principles by characters, figures, or events in narrative, dramatic, or pictorial form. A story, picture, or play employing such representation.


A poem of 26 words. Each word begins with the next letter of the alphabet.


The replacement of a category of compositional elements by their opposites.


A narrative poem, often of folk origin and intended to be sung, consisting of simple stanzas and usually having a refrain.


An anagram from which, ideally, all possibility of rational meaning has been removed.


A poem which itemizes the qualities of a loved one.

Beautiful Outlaw:

A work in which each line or sentence includes all the letters of the alphabet except for the letter that appears in a given name (or other series of letters) in the position corresponding to that of the line (1st, 2nd, 3rd, etc).


A form of folk or popular poetry. Graphic imagery and themes drawn from a wide range of group and personal experiences distinguish blues lyrics. The blues can also exist as instrumental and vocal music, as a psychological state, as a lifestyle and as a philosophical stance.

Branching system:

A text structured so as to allow multiple readings according to the reader's choice.


A work designed to ridicule attitudes, styles, or subject matter by either handling an elevated subject in a trivial manner or a low subject with mock dignity. The burlesque may be written for the sheer fun of it; usually, however, it is a form of satire.


The visual shape of the poem relates to the subject. (i.e.: a poem about rain looks like rain falling).


A poem or series of lines in which certain letters, usually the first in each line, form a name, motto, or message when read in sequence. Use the letters at the end of lines too - or in the middle.


A patchwork poem made entirely of pieces from poems by other authors. A cento is a Roman poetic form meaning stitched together: each line of the poem is drawn from a different source. "Cento" also resonates with the number one hundred, and many centos are a hundred lines long.


Among the ancient Greeks the chorus was a group of people, wearing masks, who sang or chanted verse while performing dance-like maneuvers at religious festivals. Choruses also served as commentators on the characters and events who expressed traditional moral, religious and social attitudes. During the Elizabethan Age the term "chorus" was applied to a single person who spoke the prologue and epilogue to a play and sometimes introduced each at as well.


A five-line stanza.


Refers to the placement of words on the page so that a picture is formed containing the image of the poem itself. Through this, concrete poetry is able to provide a multiple experience.


Refers to a type of narrative and lyric verse which deals with the facts and intimate mental and physical experiences of the poet's own life. In confessional poetry, the speaker often describes her confused chaotic state, which becomes a metaphor for the state of the world around her.

Definitional literature:

Each meaningful word in a text is replaced by its dictionary definition.


A poem of dialog between two people involving quarrel and reconciliation.


A mournful or elegiac poem or other literary work.

Dramatic Monologue:

A poem in which a story is related by a single person (not the poet) speaking to one or more persons; we know of the listener's presence and what they say and do only from clues in the discourse of the speaker. In a dramatic monologue, the speaker utters the entire poem in a specific situation at a critical moment.


A poem or song composed especially as a lament for a deceased person.


A long narrative poem telling of a hero's deeds.


A short, witty poem expressing a single thought or observation.


A comprehension or perception of reality by means of a sudden intuitive realization: "I experienced an epiphany, a spiritual flash that would change the way I viewed myself" (Frank Maier).


A literary composition in the form of a letter.


The presentation of a borrowed text or found object as a poem or as part of a poem.

Free Verse:

Verse composed of variable, usually unrhymed lines having no fixed metrical pattern.

Haiku (or Hokku):

"A Japanese lyric verse form having three unrhymed lines of five, seven, and five syllables, traditionally invoking an aspect of nature or the seasons. A true haiku is only written in Japanese. If you are writing in any other language, the syllable rule (5 7 5) does not apply. Still fun to try as an exercise."

Lescurean word square:

The 24 possible arrangements of 4 given words.

Intentional Mistranslation:

A poem based on a translation. Look at a poem in a foreign language and translate it simply by the sound of the words. Just look at the words, focus on certain words, ignore others.

Interior Monologue:

A passage of writing presenting a character's inner thoughts and emotions in a direct, sometimes disjointed or fragmentary manner.

Light Verse:

A term applied t a great variety of poems that use an ordinary speaking voice and a relaxed manner to treat their subjects gaily, or playfully, or with a good - natured satire. Its subjects may be serious or petty; the defining quality is the tone of voice used and the attitude of the lyric or narrative speaker towards the subject.


A light humorous, nonsensical, or bawdy verse of five anapestic lines usually with the rhyme scheme aabba.


A catalog poem. An itemization of things/events.


Of or relating to a category of poetry that expresses subjective thoughts and feelings, often in a songlike style or form.

Metrical Romance:

A narrative poem celebrating love, war, and religion.

Mock Epic:

A poem that imitates the elaborate form and ceremonious style of the epic genre, but applies it to a commonplace or trivial subject matter.


A literary composition in the form of a soliloquy.


A story, whether in prose or verse, involving events, characters, and what the characters say and do.


Regular length poem, consistent punctuation, made-up language.


A poem written in commemoration of a specific occasion such as a birthday, marriage, a death, a military engagement or victory, the dedication of a public building or the opening performance of a play.


A lyric poem of some length, usually of a serious or meditative nature and having an elevated style and formal stanzaic structure.

Oral Formulaic:

Poetry that is composed and transmitted by singers or reciters - includes both narrative forms (epic and ballad) and lyric forms. There is no fixed version of an oral composition because each performer tends to render it differently, and sometimes introduces differences between one performance and the next.


A poem in which the author retracts something said in a previous poem.


A panegyric is poetry that praises something.


A type of high burlesque which imitates or exaggerates the serious manner and characteristic features of a particular literary work, or the distinctive style of a particular author.


Poetry that describes the simple life of country folk, usually shepherds who live a timeless, painless life in a world that is full of beauty, music and love.


The combination of the 1st half of one proverb with the second half of another.

Prose Poetry:

A poem that visually appears to be prose (i.e.: no line breaks).


Renga (linked verse) and Kika (branched verse) is a form of Japanese poetry. A typical renga sequence comprised 100 stanzas composed by several people taking turns adding verses. Each stanza of a renga is like a link in a chain. Five or seven syllables per line.


A series of directions, mentions of sacred places and objects.


A literary work in which human vice or folly is attacked through irony, derision, or wit.


A dramatic or literary form of discourse in which a character talks to themself or reveals their thoughts without addressing a listener.


Two texts of similar length but radically differing genres having been chosen, each text is rewritten using the vocabulary of the other.

Ubi Sunt:

A catalog listing of names of heroes or poets who have gone away. The poet inquires after their absence with a passage beginning: Ubi sunt? (Where are?)


A poem depicting a Utopian setting or place of idyllic beauty.