National Poetry Month, celebrated annually in April, is a time to show appreciation for the craft of poetry. This year, instead of sticking with the same old forms you’ve always known, celebrate by trying your hand at a new form. This guide provides an A-to-Z glossary of new poetry forms to try for National Poetry Month.
Abecedarian: A type of acrostic poem where every line begins with a letter of the alphabet (i.e., A/B/C/D/…etc). This form is also known as an alphabet poem.
Blank Verse: A poem with no rhyme, but a set meter. The meter is typically iambic pentameter. Blank Verse is also typically characterized by the use of end-stops; that is, punctuation marks at the end of the line, which signify a pause (when read aloud, a reader would emphasize a comma, period, or other end-stop by pausing an extra beat or more before reading the next line).
Calligram: A poem, phrase, or even a word, composed in the form of its subject. For example, a poem about a woman would be written in the shape of a woman. Though some consider a calligram the same as a shape poem, they are different. First, a calligram may be only one word, while a shape poem is longer. Secondly, while shape is important to the look of a calligram, in shape poetry (also called concrete poetry), the shape of the poem contributes to the poem’s overall meaning in a more intentional way.
Doggerel: Though often associated with poetry that is bad, or trite, doggerel poetry can also be poetry that is witty, humorous, or poems that poke fun at serious writing styles. Doggerel is associated with children’s poetry, and poems following the “roses are red” formula. Some would also classify doggerel poetry as nonsense poetry. When writing doggerel poetry, the aim is to get a message across in a clever or silly way, or else be a poem with no real message at all but entertaining the reader.
Epistle: A poem written in the form of a letter. The letter’s address (“Dear [Name]”) may be part of the poem, or the title. Some poets will write an epistle poem as a narrative poem (that is, a poem in paragraph form), while others will break it into lines and stanzas.
Fib: A poem based on the Fibonacci sequence. A fib is typically six lines and twenty syllables, following the patter 1/1/2/3/5/8. There are no restraints regarding length; the only guideline/restriction is to follow the Fibonacci sequence. However, beyond 8, the Fibonacci sequence continues 13/21/34/55/89/144; writing a line with 144 syllables might become a daunting task to some poets!
Gnome: Probably playing off of the image of the mythical gnome, this poem is a short statement expressing cleverly stated truth, like a humorous proverb. It is similar to, but shorter than, an epigram.
Haiku: A Japanese form of poetry, typically dealing with nature, written in three lines. The general English guideline is a total of 15 syllables, in a pattern of 5/7/5. This is only an English standard, however; typical Japanese haiku does not translate into the same pattern, and more commonly English haiku is diverging from said standard. Likewise, some poets are beginning to diverge from the nature-theme standard as well, granting the form a lot more flexibility among modern poets.
Izibongo: An African (Zulu) praise song typically used to praise someone’s greatness. An izibongo will often grant a person exceptional strength or praise, such as equating him or her to a strong animal, or calling him or her the beloved of the earth or of God.
Jingle: A jingle is the song you hear in commercials. It is a short, catchy verse, and can usually be easily set to music.
Kimo: A poetic form from Israel, with origins in the haiku form. A kimo poem, similar to haiku, is a three-line poem. However, instead of the 5/7/5 syllable count of a haiku, a kimo’s lines have 10, 7, and 6 syllables.
Limerick: A five line poem, typically humorous or nonsensical, following the rhyme scheme aabba. The first, second, and fifth lines typically have nine syllables, while the third and fourth usually have five or six. Edward Lear is perhaps the most famous limerick writer. In more modern times, limericks have fallen among the least liked forms of poetry writers! For those who don’t like limericks, there is the anti-limerick, which might go something like this: “There once was a man from Nantucket/ Who hated the limerick form/ he told the poem, ‘I/ hate you so much, please die’/ and it did”
Meiosis: The root meio means less. A meiosis poem, then, is a poem consisting of an understatement. It suggests that what is being expressed is of less significance than it actually is. And example would be the first stanza of The Spider and the Fly (“‘Will you walk into my parlour?’ said the Spider to the Fly . . .”), in which the Spider seems to be inviting the Fly into its home, but in actuality is luring its next meal. A meiosis poem typically opens with the understated idea, and carries it throughout the poem in a way that reveals to the reader that the opening idea was actually more significant than originally let on.