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How well do you know your genres? Part One: Poetry

Updated on February 26, 2017

Ten Major Types of Poetry

  1. Narrative
  2. Epic
  3. Dramatic
  4. Satirical
  5. Sonnet
  6. Lyric
  7. Elegy
  8. Verse Fable
  9. Prose
  10. Speculative

By Definition & Use

Poetry by definition is “Writing that formulates a concentrated imaginative awareness of experience in language chosen and arranged to create a specific emotional response through meaning, sound, and rhythm.”

--Merrian-Webster

Poetry by use is expression, reflection, sometimes collaboration, confessions, truths & lies, destiny & fates, beautiful memories, defying moments, and lastly reasons to ask why, how, when. Many people use poetry as an outlet, a different writing platform taking language to a higher level--a way to fool with language into strange, mesmerizing, beautiful images, metaphors, similes, description, and so much more!

1. Narrative poetry must contain these things:

  • Usually in prose (no rhythm or rhyme—just ordinary language), or verse (meter, rhythm, and/or rhyme)
  • Usually chronical, but has connected events
  • Contains characters & plot
  • Reads like a story
  • Has a narrator

Famous Narrative Poets & Poems:

  • The Canterbury Tales by Geoffrey Chaucer
  • The Ring and the Book by Robert Browning

2. Epic poetry, which must include:

  • Highlights cultural norms
  • Questions cultural values
  • A hero
  • Can have romantic or mythological theme
  • Begins with a muse
  • Speeches that are formal and most times long
  • Sometimes a descent into hell or the underworld
  • Divine intervention
  • A clear theme
  • The setting is vast --> character usually travels or goes on a hero’s journey
  • May have multiple POVs (point-of-views) and each character may be in a different location
  • Uses heavy repetition
  • Uses catalogues and lists and history lessons
  • In media res, starts in the middle

Famous Epics:

  • The Epic of Gilgamesh
  • The epic of Enuma Elish
  • The Iliad
  • The Odyssey
  • The Aeneid
  • Beowulf
  • Epic of King Gesar
  • Paradise Lost

3. Drama Poetry must contain:

  • A story
  • Meant to be spoken
  • Lots of scenes
  • Must achieve one of Aristotle’s three unities: unity of plot, unity of place, and/or unity of time
  • Can have subplots
  • Lots of action which makes it fast paced
  • Conflict carries throughout entire poem


Famous Drama Poets:

  • Almost all of Shakespeare’s writing
  • T. S. Elliot
  • George Bernad Shaw
  • Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

4. Satirical poetry must include:

  • Using humor to criticize or attack someone
  • Also uses ridicule, follies, abuses, shortcomings
  • And Exaggeration
  • And Irony
  • And to describe politics and other issues

Famous Satirical Poets:

  • John Dryden
  • John Wilmot
  • Ignacy Krasicki

5. Sonnet must contain:

  • Originally written for love, suffering, woes, and hopes
  • Religious experiences
  • Art reflections
  • War experiences
  • Has 14 lines each
  • If there is more than one sonnet is called a sonnet cycle
  • Adheres to this rhyme pattern: abab cdcd efef gg

Famous Sonnet Poets:

  • Robert Lowell
  • John Milton
  • Shakespeare
  • William Wordsworth
  • Thomas Wyatt
  • William Butler Yeats

6. Lyric (lyrical, Lyricism) must include:

  • Typically short (1-2 pages) (200-500 words)
  • Has a theme, state of mind, emotional state
  • Heavy figurative language
  • Melodic like a song
  • Meant for reflection/contemplative nature
  • Intimate feelings/thoughts of the poet
  • (An ode is a longer form of lyrical poetry)

Famous Lyrical Poets & Poems:

  • On being Human by C.S. Lewis
  • Night by Sidney Lanier
  • Cleon by Robert Browning
  • The Cuckcoo by Robert William Service
  • Ode to Tomatoes by Pablo Neruda

7. Elegy must contain:

  • Usually written on a person’s death
  • Can be solemn meditations
  • Can have questions on death
  • May have elegiac couplets
  • Expresses mourn/sorrow

Famous Elegy Poets & Poems:

  • Elegy Upon Tiger by Jonathan Swift
  • Elegy for my father by Annie Finch
  • The earth has many keys by Emily Dickinson
  • Elegy in the classroom by Anne Sexton

8. Verse Fable must include:

  • Uses verse form
  • Story features animals, plants, objects, forces of nature with human characteristics that teaches a moral lesson
  • Various meter and rhyme

Famous Fable Poets:

  • Aesop
  • Vishnu Sarma
  • Ambrose Bierce

9. Prose must contain:

  • Short story
  • Fiction
  • Fragmentation
  • Compression
  • Repetition
  • Rhyme
  • Varies in length and subject
  • Lyricism
  • Figurative language
  • Usually one character
  • Has a plot and setting

Famous Prose Poets & Poems:

  • Be Drunk by Charles Baudelaire
  • Pablo Neruda
  • Rainer Maria Rilke
  • My dearest Frank I wish your Joy by Jane Austen
  • The vision of Judgemen by Lord George Byron

10. Speculative, must include:

  • “beyond reality” elements
  • Science-fiction elements
  • Horror elements
  • Strange/macabre
  • Use any form (rhyme, prose, free verse, narrative, sonnet, quatrain, dramatic)

Famous Speculative Poets & Poems:

  • Saving Love by Victor Buhagiar
  • Travel Light by John Beam
  • Inferno Yawn by Jim Cross
  • Fearless, My spirit by Anaika Avery
  • Restless Natives by Anonymous

What is your favorite type of poetry?

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