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Poetry as a Genre With Sub-Genres

Updated on December 14, 2019

Poetry as a genre:

Poetry is a genre of writing that has been around the longest, the first ever written piece of literature was an epic poem named Gilgamesh. This poem was written around 2000 to 2500 B.C. That is over 4,000 years ago give or take! The Webster dictionary defines poetry as metrical writing in verse or a message written in specific language to evoke an emotional response through sound, rhythm and meaning. As poetry has grown from ancient times to modern, so has the many types, versions and rules of poetry have changed. To me, poetry is interplay of words that are beautiful or not so beautiful strung together to form sounds, images, heartbreak, rhythms, imagination, happiness, everyday life of the mundane and are lyrically creative.

There are no specific word counts for poetry, but there are rules with syllables, meter, verse, rhythm, rhymes and number of stanzas or couplets. Below are some of the common subtypes of poetry with examples and the rules of writing each.


Abstract: Is a type of poetry where words are chosen and combined for their aural quality or the way a word sounds rather than for their meaning.

Acrostic: Is puzzle written as each letter that starts a line spells out a word, message, or can also list the alphabet vertically.

Allegory: Usually a metaphor which is used in the narrative to deliver a message both stated and unstated about general truths.

Ballad: A narrative written in verse and often set to music, and most known as a genre of folk poetry, it follows the abcb or abab rhyme and is a story written that can be sang as a song. A classic example is Celine Dion, My Heart Will Go On. Click on the link to see the lyrics:

Blackout/erasure: Where a person takes another text and blackouts or erases words until a new poem is created.

Elegy: The most common way this type of poetry is used is related to a death or to mourn a loss, but type of poetry can also mean more than one type of loss or mourning, it can consist of any topic and is more on reflective and philosophic pieces and love poems written in verses and stanzas.

Epigram: Is a statement that is usually funny, satirical, interesting, short, and memorable. The most common form is a pun.

Epitaph: A short poem that one places on a tombstone.

Epic: is a long narrative poem with a story that has a specific time or timeline and celebrates heroes, historic deeds or events, but epics usually focus on one hero.

Classic examples are the Gilgamesh, written by the Mesopotamia civilization, or The Iliad and The Odyssey by Homer.

Epistle: this is a letter written in verse and generally has a philosophical or romantic question. The theme can also be intimate or sentimental.

Free verse: Is any poem that does not follow a particular rule or have a fixed metrical pattern.

Haiku/Senryu: A poem that follows a specific format of 5/7/5 and has 17 syllables; is usually written about nature, but can be simplicity and directness about any subject. A senryu has the same format, but are written in present tense and only has references to human nature or emotions.

Hymn: Verse set as a song for the purpose to praise a god or prominent figure.

List: A poem that lists. Click out this website for list poems and how to write one:

Lyric: Written in different types of verses and meters and expresses personal emotions and feelings about any topic. This poetry can be sung, spoken or written.

Magic 9: A nine-line rhyme following this order ‘abacadaba'.

Nonet: A nine-line countdown. Click on this link to see nonet poems:

Ode: these poems are generally long, but they are a reflection of mediation of one subject that usually have quatrain stanzas and short lines. There are three forms an ode can take shape as Pindaric, Horatian and irregular. A Pindaric ode are meant to perform with dancers and singers celebrating special events. An Pindaric example is Ode to Tomatoes, by Pablo Neruda. A Horatian ode are more thoughtful and meant for personal amusement as the subjects usually are reflecting on people, nature or the abstract. An example is by the man the tyoe of ode is named after The Ship of State (Odes I, 14) by Horace. Lastly, irregular ode has the same elements as the others, but has the totally freed to experiment with rhyming and structure. An example is Ode to a Grecian Urn by John Keats.

Parody: (a mockery) A comic imitation of a writer, artist, another piece of work to make others laugh.

Prose: Is a form of language as to be written, spoken, sung, or/and read.

Psalm: Is written in verses and is a sacred song. An example would be the national anthem of any country.

Sestina: is a poem compose of six six-line stanzas and a three-line stanza without a rhyme that is repeated through the stanzas but in a specific order. To find the arrangement and how to write one, click on the website:

Sonnet: Is a poem that expresses one complete thought or idea and is arranged in 14 lines with a specific pattern of iambic pentameter and rhyme scheme. A common scheme is abab (first / cdcd / efef / gg) See the image below.


Tragedy: these originated in ancient Greek, but came alive with popular William Shakespeare, these dramas are usually long and are about the main character’s downfall. In modern times, this has expanded to be a downfall of any kind.

A classic tragedy we have all probably read is Juliet and Romeo or Hamlet by William Shakespeare. An ancient Greek tragedy example is Oedipus Rex by Sophocles. There are more here at this link:

Villanelle: is a fixed poem written with tercets usually in five and is followed by a final quatrain and all using two rhymes. A common scheme is 19 lines long with aba rhyme scheme with repeating lines. Click the link below to see how it is done:


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    • Nicoartz profile image

      Jason Nicolosi 

      5 weeks ago from AZ

      Nice article. Very helpful thanks.

    • Jodah profile image

      John Hansen 

      5 weeks ago from Queensland Australia

      Thank you for sharing the various sub-genres of poetry. This was helpful.


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