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Poetic Forms. Introduction. Poetry is written in closed or open form . Closed form poetry is characterized by patterns: verse, rhyme, meter and/or syllable. The content fits into the form. Open form poetry is characterized by the lack of pattern. The content creates the form. Open Form Poetry.

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Poetic Forms

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  • Poetry is written in closed or open form.
  • Closed form poetryis characterized by patterns: verse, rhyme, meter and/or syllable. The contentfits intothe form.
  • Open form poetryis characterized by the lack of pattern. The contentcreatesthe form.
open form poetry
Open Form Poetry
  • Content determines the form of the poem.
  • Punctuation, line breaks, and white spaces become very important in open form poetry.
  • “Free verse”
  • Concrete poems
  • Shaped poems
free verse
Free Verse

Cavalry Crossing a Ford

A line in long array where they wind betwixt green islands,

They take a serpentine course, their arms flash in the sun -- hark to the musical clank

Behold the silvery river, in it the splashing horses loitering stop to drink,

Behold the the brown-faced men, each group, each person a picture, the negligent rest on the saddles.

Some emerge on the opposite bank, others are just entering the ford --while,

Scarlet and blue and snowy white,

The guidon flags flutter gayly in the wind.

Walt Whitman, 1865

concrete poems
Words create picture

More a visual than a literary form

Related to Pop Art

Concrete Poems

I <')))><ing.

Billy Eckles

shaped poems
Shaped Poems
  • Create a picture or visual pattern
  • Content ismore importantthan shape
  • Content follows general grammatical rules
  • Shapecomplementscontent of poem
easter wings by george herbert
Easter Wingsby George Herbert

Lord, Who createdst man in wealth and store,Though foolishly he lost the same,Decaying more and more,Till he becameMost poore:With TheeO let me rise,As larks, harmoniously,And sing this day Thy victories:Then shall the fall further the flight in me.My tender age in sorrow did beginne;And still with sicknesses and shameThou didst so punish sinne,That I becameMost thinne.With TheeLet me combine,And feel this day Thy victorie;For, if I imp my wing on Thine,Affliction shall advance the flight in me.



Above the

water hang the




O so



What A pale signal will appear

When Soon before its shadow fades

Where Here in this pool of opened eye

In us No Upon us As at the very edges

of where we take shape in the dark air

this object bares its image awakening ripples of recognition that will

brush darkness up into light

even after this bird this hour both drift by atop the perfect sad instant now

already passing out of sight

toward yet-untroubled reflection

this image bears its object darkening

into memorial shades Scattered bits of

light No of water Or something across

water Breaking up No Being regathered

soon Yet by then a swan will have

gone Yes out of mind into what




of a



sudden dark as

if a swan


Swan and Shadow

John Hollander

closed form poems
Closed Form Poems
  • Recognizable patterns
  • Patterns can be determined by:
    • Stanza length
    • Metrical pattern (ex: iambic pentameter)
    • Rhyme scheme
    • Syllable count
  • Patterns of stressed and unstressed syllables
  • The basic unit of meter is a foot.
  • Most common feet in English poetry:
    • Iamb  /
    • Trochee / 
    • Anapest  /
    • Dactyl / 
    • Spondee / /
    • Pyrrhic 
metrical lines
Metrical Lines
  • One footmonometer
  • Two feetdimeter
  • Three feettrimeter
  • Four feettetrameter
  • Five feetpentameter
  • Six feet hexameter
  • Seven feetheptameter
  • Eight feetoctameter
  • 2 line stanzas: couplets
  • 3 line stanzas:
    • tercets
    • triplets:aaa bbb ccc ddd
    • terza rima:aba bcb cdc ded
  • 4 line stanzas: quatrains
  • 5 line stanzas: quintets
  • 6 line stanzas: sestets
  • 7 line stanzas: septets
  • 8 line stanzas: octaves

The Red Wheelbarrow

so much depends


a red wheel


glazed with rain


beside the white


William Carlos Williams


Syllabic poetry:

17 syllables

1st line – 5 syllables

2nd line -- 7 syllables

3rd line -- 5 syllables

Seasonal reference

Implied identification of perceiver (poet) with perceived (subject)

Silent and still: then

Even sinking into rocks,

The cicada’s screech


Sleepless at Crown Point

All night this headland

Lunges into the rumpling

Capework of the wind

Richard Wilbur

5 line nonsense poem

First line ends in proper name of place or person

Rhyme: aabba


1st, 2nd and 5th lines are anapestic trimeter:  /  /  /

3rd and 4th lines are anapestic dimeter:

 /  /


There was a young belle of old Natchez

Whose garments were always in patchez

When comment arose

On the state of her clothes

She drawled, When Ah itchez, Ah scratchez!

Ogden Nash

There was a young woman named Plunnery

Who rejoiced in the practice of gunnery

Till one day unobservant

She blew up a servant

And was forced to retire to a nunnery.

Edward Gorey

  • English
  • Narrative
  • 4 line stanzas
  • Meter: Common Meter
    • iambic tetrameter alternating with
    • iambic trimeter
  • Rhyme
    • abab or
    • abcb
  • Refrains: exact or incremental repetition
types of ballads
Types of Ballads
  • Traditional
    • Anonymous
    • Folk
  • Broadside
    • Propaganda
    • Social Protest
  • Literary
    • Romantic poets
ballad conventions
Ballad Conventions
  • Conversational language -- dialect
  • Dialogue
  • Traditional motifs:
    • Lost love
    • Death
    • Supernatural seducers
    • Political protest
  • Italian origin
  • Lyric
  • 14 lines
  • Iambic pentameter
Italian or Petrarchan


Octave -- presents problem

Sestet -- resolution or meditation upon problem


Octave -- abbaabba

Sestet-- cdecdeorcdccdcor cddcdd orvariation

English or Shakespearean


3Quatrains-- present similar images

Heroic Couplet-- pardoxical resolution


Quatrains --




Couplet --gg

  • French origin
  • Originated with round dance
  • Stanzas and Rhyme
    • 5 tercets: aba aba aba aba aba
    • 1 quatrain: abaa
  • Line Repetition
    • 1, 6, 12, 18
    • 3, 9, 15, 19
mad girl s love song by sylvia plath

I shut my eyes and all the world drops dead;I lift my lids and all is bornagain.(I think I made you up inside my head.)The stars go waltzing out in blue and red,And arbitrary darkness gallops in:I shut my eyes and all the world drops dead.I dreamed that you bewitched me into bedAnd sung me moon-struck, kissed me quite insane.(I think I made you up inside my head.)God topples from the sky, hell's fires fade:Exit seraphim and Satan's men:I shut my eyes and all the world drops dead.I fancied you'd return the way you said.But I grow old and I forget your name.(I think I made you up inside my head.)I should have loved a thunderbird instead;At least when spring comes they roar back again.I shut my eyes and all the world drops dead.(I think I made you up inside my head.)

Mad Girl's Love Song by Sylvia Plath
  • French origin
  • Stanzas:
    • 6sestets
    • 1tercet: anenvoi
  • Repetition and linking oftalons:
    • a/b/c/d/e/f
    • f/a/e/b/d/c
    • c/f/d/a/b/e
    • e/c/b/f/a/d
    • d/e/a/c/f/b
    • b/d/f/e/c/a
    • ba/dc/fe
  • Atmosphereranges from cozy to claustrophobic

"Sestina d'Inverno" by Anthony Hecht

Was blessed heaven once, more than an islandThe grand, utopian dream of a noble mind.In that kind climate the mere thought of snowWas but a wedding cake; the youthful natives,Unable to conceive of Rochester,Made love, and were acrobatic in the making.

Dream as we may, there is far more to makingDo than some wistful reverie of an island,Especially now when hope lies with the RochesterGas and Electric Co., which doesn't mindSuch profitable weather, while the nativesSink, like Pompeians, under a world of snow.

The one thing indisputable here is snow,The single verity of heaven's making,Deeply indifferent to the dreams of the natives,And the torn hoarding-posters of some island.Under our igloo skies the frozen mindHolds to one truth: it is grey, and called Rochester.

No island fantasy survives Rochester,Where to the natives destiny is snowThat is neither to our mind nor of our making.

Here in this bleak city of Rochester,Where there are twenty-seven words for "snow,"Not all of them polite, the wayward mindBasks in some Yucatan of its own making,Some coppery, sleek lagoon, or cinnamon islandAlive with lemon tints and burnished natives,

And O that we were there. But here the nativesOf this grey, sunless city of RochesterHave sown whole mines of salt about their land(Bare ruined Carthage that it is) while snowComes down as if The Flood were in the making.Yet on that ocean Marvell called the mind

An ark sets forth which is itself the mind,Bound for some pungent green, some shore whose nativesBlend coriander, cayenne, mint in makingRoasts that would gladden the Earl of RochesterWith sinfulness, and melt a polar snow.It might be well to remember that an island

nani by alberto rios

I watch the mama warming more tortillas for me.  I watch her fingers in the flame for me. Near her mouth, I see a wrinkle speak of a man whose body serves the ants like she serves me, then more words from more wrinkles about children, words about this and that, flowing more easily from these other mouths.  Each serves as a tremendous string around her, holding her together.  They speak nani was this and that to me and I wonder just how much of me will die with her, what were the words I could have been, was.  Her insides speak through a hundred wrinkles, now, more than she can bear, steel around her, shouting, then, What is this thing she serves? She asks me if I want more. I own no words to stop her. Even before I speak, she serves.

Sitting at her table, she serves the sopa de arroz to me instinctively, and I watch her, the absolute mama, and eat words I might have had to say more out of embarrassment.  To speak, now-foreign words I used to speak, too, dribble down her mouth as she serves me albondigas.  No more than a third are easy to me. By the stove she does something with words and looks at me only with her back.  I am full.  I tell her I taste the mint, and watch her speak smiles at the stove.  All my words make her smile.  Nani never serves herself, she only watches me with her skin, her hair.  I ask for more.

Nani by Alberto Rios