A Look at 3 Basic Types of Poetry
Language is a fascinating subject, one that is constantly evolving alongside humanity. Every day, the meanings of certain words change a little more, eventually taking on new meaning with enough time, and shifting entire cultures ever so slightly. And poetry, I find, best captures and retains this concept, preserving a small piece of history wrapped snugly into each line, double entendre lost to all but those who are familiar with the period the poem hails from.
What is it about this art form that enthralls me so? Is it the pictures so daintily painted inside my head, so clear I can almost see it, and settings so tangible they seem only a hair’s length away? Or is it perhaps the emotion they call forth, drawing from the author’s passion to rouse the reader’s, whether it be a lover, misfortune, or something a simple as a walk in the park. I may never truly know for sure, but what I do know is that tingling sensation that runs down my spine whenever I come to realize that the whimsical poem I’ve been reading has some rather dark connotations. And this sensation doesn’t only apply to reading poetry. Writing poetry can be as equally enjoyable at times.
So, what are some basic forms can this style of literature take?
Free Verse Poetry:
Perhaps the easiest and most liberating form of poetry to write, free verse poetry is the archetype that takes on the greatest amount of individualistic expression. Though the term ‘free verse’ wasn’t coined until the early 1900’s, it has existed for far longer, as it has seen use from early medieval and Ancient Greek poets, before poetic forms had been fully established. More modern takes on the style extend to folk songs and some forms of rock music, but it can just easily be seen elsewhere, given its highly versatile nature.
Free verse poetry is quite boundless as far as poetry goes, as it does not have to abide by any traditional rules, such as word count or stanza sizes. Furthermore, it does not need to conform to any sort of rhythmic pattern or meter at all, instead choosing to use basic human speech structure as its framework. This allows for free verse poetry to become extremely versatile during the writing process, leading to final products that can be incredibly varied between different authors and works.
Personally, this has to be the form of poetry I use most often. With the incredible number of flexible design options the format allows, I often find myself using it as a means to calm myself or layout my emotions, but this informal structuring does not hold it back from official works by any means.
Blank Verse Poetry:
Often mistaken for free verse due to the terms being somewhat homophonic with each other, blank verse is less fluid than its counterpart, requiring the author to write their poems in iambic pentameter (or a similarly strict meter), meaning that each line must have ten syllables with a pattern of stressed to unstressed every two syllables. Its other unique trait is that none of its lines may rhyme with one another, which serves as an intriguing contrast to the mandatory use of audible patterns most poetry employs. Use of this form is often found in traditional English poetry, most notably in dramas or plays. Names like Shakespeare and Marlowe are splendid models of poets who used blank verse poetry extensively, with a fair number of their works containing it.
Although it is quite a jump from the nonexistent rules of free verse, blank verse poetry is still pretty easy to work with, as the ten syllables allows plenty of room for most words in the English dictionary, and not having to worry a set number of stanzas allows is only one less variable to worry about. While still simplistic when compared to majority of poems, blank verse still contains some of the infinite world of free verse while sounding more uniform in the process.
The last of the three is rhymed poetry, which is used to describe any poem that rhymes its vowel sounds, usually found at the ends of lines or stanzas throughout the piece. This makes it associated with other recognizable forms of poetry, such as sonnets and limericks. The looseness of its categorization has led to an incredibly wide variety of rhymes being created. For example, while perfect rhymes are considered true rhymes, using words that share assonance and number of syllables, there exist multiple exceptions to this idea. Eye rhymes in particular are notorious for these ‘fake’ rhymes in media, using similar looking words such as ‘plow’ and ‘blow’ to round off lines. As many cultures have used the idea of taking homophonic words and creating a better sounding rhythm with them, rhymed poetry has many possible origin points, none of which appear to be completely concrete.
Not everyone will agree that coming up with rhymes that can accurately fit a set number of syllables to match the lines previous is an easy task, and I believe that this might be why so many variations exist today. As the boundaries for what can be rhymed become looser and looser, I would encourage anyone interested to try make a rhyming poem of their own. While definitely the most restrictive among the three, it also creates some of the most delightful poems to date, and can grant an incredible sense of satisfaction in the process.