20 Types of Poetry

What makes a poem different from a story? A story is written in paragraphs, consisting of (mostly) full sentences and some dialogue. Poetry is written in a variety of styles.

Some styles use full sentences, but often poetry consists of sentence fragments and phrases that are grouped together in stanzas*. Poetry can be used to tell a story, or simply to describe a feeling. Sometimes poems are cryptic, requiring analyzation to determine their true meaning. Poetry can be humorous or intentionally somber. Rhyming patterns* vary and are not always consistent. Meter*, alliteration*, and repetition are frequently just as important as the rhyming pattern. Some poems are very short, only a few lines long. A few famous poems are long enough to fill a large, thick book. Occasionally, poets may play with formatting to display their work creatively on the page.

When I write poetry, I typically write free verse with occasional rhyming. A few of them are formatted on the page to match the theme of the poem just for fun. I love reading poems that tell a story in a unique way, as well as compelling free verse.

Can you match the twenty kinds of poetry listed below to their descriptions? I must admit that I was previously unfamiliar with a couple of them, such as the villanelle (…??). Click on the link at the end of the article to check your answers.

Do you know of any other type of poetry not mentioned here? Let me know in the comments and share which kind of poetry is your favorite to read and which is your favorite to write. Common poetry terms (noted with an *) are defined after the poem descriptions.

Types of poetry (in alphabetical order):

  • Acrostic
  • Ballad
  • Blackout poetry
  • Concrete poetry
  • Ekphrastic poetry
  • Elegy
  • Epic
  • Epigram
  • Epitaph
  • Free verse
  • Haiku
  • Limerick
  • List poetry
  • Lyric poetry
  • Narrative poetry
  • Ode
  • Palindrome* poetry
  • Pantoum
  • Sonnet
  • Villanelle

Descriptions (in random order):

  • Japanese poetry consisting of three lines; may or may not rhyme:
    • Line 1: five syllables
    • Line 2: seven syllables
    • Line 3: five syllables
  • Fourteen lines; typically about love; rhyme schemes*:
    • ABBA ABBA CDE CDE or
    • ABAB CDCD EFEF GG
  • Nineteen lines; ABA ABA ABA ABA ABA ABAA rhyme scheme; certain lines are repeated:
    • Line 1
    • Line 2
    • Line 3
    • Line 4
    • Line 5
    • Line 6 – repeat line 1
    • Line 7
    • Line 8
    • Line 9 – repeat line 3
    • Line 10
    • Line 11
    • Line 12 – repeat line 1
    • Line 13
    • Line 14
    • Line 15 – repeat line 3
    • Line 16
    • Line 17
    • Line 18 – repeat line 1
    • Line 19 – repeat line 3
  • First letter of each line vertically spells out a name, word, or phrase
  • Poem with no rules
  • Usually short; written to praise a person, thing, or event; often ten lines
  • Funny or shocking; AABBA rhyme scheme; lines 3 and 4 are shorter than the other lines; the last line is the punchline.
  • Written in mourning after a death; often consisting of several two-line stanzas
  • Tells a dramatic or emotional story; ABAB or ABCB rhyme scheme
  • Vividly describes a painting, statue, photograph, or story
  • Designed to take a particular shape or form on the page; spacing or layout is often manipulated to emphasize a theme or element in the text, or sometimes make the physical shape of the poem’s subject
  • Short, witty, and satirical
  • Short phrase written in memory of a person whose died, often inscribed on a tombstone or grave marker.
  • Shorter, expressive, songlike poem that is centered on emotions.
  • Large portions of an existing text are blacked out to reveal the remaining visible words that form the new poem
  • Very long poem which tells a story about a character’s adventures, accomplishments, and daring feats.
  • Shorter yet fully developed story that focuses more on plot instead of emotion or adventure, often with a specific rhyming scheme.
  • Poem that consists of four-line stanzas* that repeat in a pattern; no set length; changes in punctuation, verb tense, pronouns, word order, homonyms, and plurality are allowed when repeating lines.
    • Line 1
    • Line 2
    • Line 3
    • Line 4
    • Line 5 – repeat line 2
    • Line 6
    • Line 7 – repeat line 4
    • Line 8
    • Line 9 – repeat line 6
    • Line 10
    • Line 11 – repeat line 8
    • Line 12
    • Line 13 – repeat line 10
    • Line 14
    • Line 15 – repeat line 12
    • Line 16

      Final stanza continues same pattern but ends with a repeat of line 1 as the final line in the poem.
  • Poem that reads the same forward or backward with a word in the center as the reversal point
  • List of things; funny or moving last line

Visit https://karolyneditsbooks.com/poetry_types.html to check your answers.


Alliteration – Repetition of the same sound at the beginning of a series of words in succession

Meter – Pattern of stressed syllables (long-sounding) and unstressed syllables (short-sounding) in poetry

Palindrome – Word, phrase, verse, sentence, or poem that reads the same forward or backward

Rhyme scheme/pattern – Lines that end with rhyming words are identified by the same letter. Examples of rhyme schemes:

  • AA BB CC
    • three stanzas
    • last words of lines 1 and 2 rhyme
    • last words of lines 3 and 4 rhyme
    • last words of lines 5 and 6 rhyme
  • AABBA
    • in each stanza, last words of lines 1, 2, and 5 rhyme
    • in each stanza, last words of lines 3 and 4 rhyme

Stanza – Set amount of lines grouped together in poetry by their length, meter, or rhyme scheme