Euterpe, Muse of Lyric Poetry and Music
When I wrote Poetry Forms, it hadn't crossed my mind that I would be writing another article about types of poetry and that I was about to publish the first Hub in a new series. My article was so well-received, I did the research for a second article.
Forms of Poetry
My research produced Forms of Poetry, a showcase of poetic forms not derived from the English or Japanese languages.
While doing my research, I discovered dozens of poetic forms. I now know that I will be writing two—perhaps three—more articles which discuss the numerous forms in which poetry can appear.
As with Forms of Poetry, this article also discusses poetic forms not based upon the Japanese or English languages. Some, such as the rondeau and the terza rima, evolved into English language poetry forms.
I hope you will write poetry using the poetic forms described in my articles.
I hope you will write poetry.
A foot, a combination of stressed and unstressed syllables, is the smallest repeating pattern in a line of poetry.
Meter is the pattern of syllables in poetry—the arrangement of stressed and unstressed syllables in each line and the sequences that are used in multiple lines.
A syllable, usually counted by vowel sounds, is the most basic unit in a word. In a poem, syllables are either stressed or unstressed.
Non-Japanese and Non-English Poetry Forms
The poetry forms discussed in the section which follows began their lives not related to the English or Japanese languages. Some, such as the rondeau, evolved into English language forms of poetry.
A canzone is a Medieval Italian lyrical poem. It consists of one to seven 11-syllable stanzas set to music. Each stanza has the same number of lines, usually between eight and 20. Common themes in a canzone were dramatic events, longing, love, and nature.
Among the poets writing canzone were Boccaccio, Dante, Petrarch, and Spenser.
The following video by Eros Ramazotti is that of a modern-day canzone.
Eros Ramazotti: Se Bastasse Una Canzone (If I Had a Love Song)
Ghazal (Arabic-speaking Areas in the 6th Century)
The ghazal, a poetic form consisting of five to 15 rhyming couplets, originated in Arabic-speaking areas in the 6th century.
The poems have been written in a number of languages—Bengali, Gujarati, Hindi, Malay, Nepali, Pashto, Persian, Punjabi, Turkish and Urdu—with the primary language being Urdu.
The themes of love and loss and separation are frequently seen in ghazal poems. The poet's name is traditionally featured in the last verse of the poem.
German poet, novelist, artist, and politician Johann Wolfgang von Goethe (1749-1832) became interested in the ghazal, which caused the poetic form to be very popular in Germany in the 19th century.
Poet Agha Shahid Ali (1949 New Delhi, India-2001 Amherst, Massachusetts) wrote ghazal in English and a number of languages originating in the Indian Sub-Continent.
Urdu Hindi Ghazal Poetry
Victor Hugo (1802-1885)
Pantun (Malaysia), then Pantoum (France)
Pantuns were written in ancient Malaysia. In the 19th century, Victor Hugo, a novelist and poet whose major works include The Hunchback of Notre Dame and Les Misérables, became interested in the pantun. He brought this form of interlocking poetry to the attention of other French poets, who took the poetic form and developed the pantoum, a set of quatrains—four-line stanzas—which utilize refrains in a complex pattern.
A pantoum must have a minimum of three stanzas. There isn't any upper limit to the number of stanzas it may have.
In a pantoum, the second and fourth lines of each stanza are repeated as the first and third lines of the next stanza. The second line becomes the next first line, and the fourth line becomes the next third line. The final line of the poem—the fourth line of the last stanza—is used as the first line of the first stanza.
The refrains should ideally have a different meaning each time they are used. This can be accomplished by changing the context of the refrain with the text around it.
If a pantoum were comprised of three stanzas, the rhyming pattern would be as follows:
a - b - a - b ... b - c - b - c ... c - a - c - c
The rondeau was a poetic form which was set to music in France in the 14th and 15th centuries. It has become an English language poetic form which is now written without a musical accompaniment.
A rondeau is comprised of three stanzas containing a total of 15 lines, 13 of which are eight-syllable lines. The poem also has three rhymes.
There is a refrain which appears three times—as the beginning of the first line, the entire last line in the second stanza, and the entire last line of the third stanza.
Rhyming Patterns and Stanzas in a Rondeau
a (includes the refrain) - a - b - b - a
a - a - b - refrain c
a - a - b - b - a - refrain c
John McCrae: In Flanders Fields (1915)
The best-known rondeau is the war memorial poem In Flanders Fields, written by a Canadian doctor, John McCrae (1872-1918). In 1915, while in charge of a field hospital during World War I, McCrae saw his friend killed. He wrote the poem the following day.
"In Flanders Fields" by John McCrae (read by Tom O'Bedlam)
Lord Byron (1798 London, England–1824 Missolonghi, Ottoman Empire [now Greece])
Terza Rima (Italy)
The terza rima was developed by a major Italian poet in the Middle Ages, Durante "Dante" Alighieri (1265-1321). English language poets who wrote terza rima were Lord Byron, John Milton, Percy Bysshe Shelley, and—much later—Robert Frost and T.S. Elliott.
A terza rima is a series of triplets (3-line stanzas) with an interlocking rhyming pattern which often ends in a single line or a couplet. There isn't any restriction regarding the number of stanzas which may be used.
The rhyming pattern for a terza rima is as follows:
a - b - a ... b - c - b ... c - d - c ...
d - e - d ... e - f - e ... f - f
One of the best known terza rima, She Walks in Beauty, was written by Lord Byron. It is said that he wrote the poem about his cousin Mrs. Wilmot Horton, whom he had just met. Mrs. Horton was in mourning, wearing a black dress with spangles on it.
"She Walks in Beauty" by Lord Byron (read by Tom O'Bedlam)
Villanelle (Spain / Italy)
The villanelle originated in Spain and Italy as a ballad-like folk song without a strict format or length. Its current structure wasn't widely used until the 19th century, when it was popularized by French poet and author Théodore de Banville (1823-1891).
The villanelle, a 19-line poem consisting of five tercets (three-line stanzas) and a final quatrain (four-line stanza), has two refrains. The first and third lines of the first stanza are rhyming refrains. They alternate as the third line in the stanzas which follow, and they appear as a couplet—the final two lines—in the quatrain at the end of the poem.
Since the two refrains (repeating lines) play have such an important role in a villanelle, many poets write the refrains first, and fill in the other lines after that. As with many other modern-day poetic forms, most villanelles are now written in English.
"Do Not Go Gentle into that Great Night" by Dylan Thomas
Do Not Go Gentle into that Great Night by Welsh poet and writer Dylan Thomas (1914, Swansea, United Kingdom-1953, Greenwich Village, New York City) is considered by many to be the most famous villanelle. Following are three readings of the poem—by Dylan Thomas, Anthony Hopkins; and Rodney Dangerfield, in his role as Thornton Mellon in the movie Back to School.
Rodney Dangerfield as Thornton Mellon in "Back to School"
Whose reading of "Do Not Go Gentle into that Good Night" do you prefer?See results without voting
More by this Author
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