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Poetry Categories & Characteristics. Poetry. compressed languages that relies on figures of speech and imagery to provide insight or appeal to the emotions. “I am poured out like water, And all my bones are out of joint. My heart has turned to wax; It has melted away within me….

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Poetry categories characteristics

PoetryCategories & Characteristics



compressed languages that relies on figures of speech and imagery to provide insight or appeal to the emotions.

“I am poured out like water,

And all my bones are out of joint.

My heart has turned to wax;

It has melted away within me….

Psalms 22:14


  • short

  • humorous

  • 5 lines

  • aabba rhyme scheme

  • strong rhythm

I sat next to the Duchess at tea;

It was just as I feared it would be;

Her rumblings abdominal

Were truly phenomenal,

And everyone thought it was me!


  • a Japanese form

  • 3 lines

  • alternating 5, 7, & 5 syllables (translations do not always conform)

  • imagery

  • generally features nature

  • arouses emotion or insight

Poverty's child -he begins to grind the rice,and gazes at the moon.

by Basho Matsuo

Here where a thousand

captains swore grand conquest

tall grasses their monument.

by Basho Matsuo

Epic poetry
Epic Poetry

  • long narrative poem

  • “high” language (formal & intellectual/sophisticated)

  • blends history & myth

  • focuses on heroes & heroic deeds

  • reflects the values of a society

The Odyssey

Tell me, O muse, of that ingenious hero who travelled far and wide after he had sacked the famous town of Troy. Many cities did he visit, and many were the nations with whose manners and customs he was acquainted; moreover he suffered much by sea while trying to save his own life and bring his men safely home; but do what he might he could not save his men, for they perished through their own sheer folly…

by Homer 800 B.C.E.

Lyric Poetry

  • generally short

  • expresses the feelings or thoughts of the speaker

Red, Red Rose

O, my luve’s like a red, red rose

That's newly sprung in June.

O, my luve's like the melodie,

That's sweetly play'd in tune.

As fair art thou, my bonnie lass,

So deep in luve am I,

And I will luve thee still, my Dear,

Till a' the seas gang dry.

Til a’ the seas gang dry, my Dear

And the rocks melt w’ the sun!

O I will luve thee still, my Dear,

While the sands o’ life shall run.

And fare thee weel, my only Luve, And fare thee weel a while! And I will come again, my Luve, Tho' it were ten thousand mile!


  • lyric poem

  • moderate length

  • unidentified speaker

  • addresses a person, thing, or event not present

  • generally serious or reflective

  • written in a “high” style

Thou wast not born for death, immortal Bird! No hungry generations tread thee down; The voice I hear this passing night was heard In ancient days by emperor and clown: Perhaps the self-same song that found a path Through the sad heart of Ruth, when, sick for home, She stood in tears amid the alien corn; The same that oft-times hath Charm'd magic casements, opening on the foam Of perilous seas, in faery lands forlorn.

Ode to a Nightingale


  • tells a story

  • deals with tragedy, love, or adventure

  • strong rhythm

  • predictable rhyme scheme

  • chorus or refrain

  • often contains hyperbole

  • includes dialogue

  • may feature reversal or situational irony

The Cremation of Sam McGee

There are strange things done in the midnight sun

By the men who moil for gold;

The Arctic trails have their secret tales

That would make your blood run cold;

The Northern Lights have seen queer sights,

But the queerest they ever did see

Was that night on the marge of Lake Lebarge

I cremated Sam McGee…

For complete poem, see p. 637 of EOL.

Shakespearian sonnet
Shakespearian Sonnet

  • fourteen lines

  • 3 quatrains

  • alternating rhyme

  • 1 couplet

  • iambic (unstressed syllable followed by a stressed syllable) pentameter (times five)

  • volta – a “turn” or change in subject or attitude

Sonnet XXIX

When in disgrace with Fortune and men's eyes,

I all alone beweep my outcast state,

And trouble deaf heaven with my bootless cries,

And look upon myself and curse my fate,

Wishing me like to one more rich in hope,

Featured like him, like him with friends possessed,

Desiring this man's art and that man's scope,

With what I most enjoy contented least,

Yet in these thoughts my self almost despising,

Haply I think on thee, and then my state,

(Like to the lark at break of day arising

From sullen earth) sings hymns at heaven's gate,

For thy sweet love remembered such wealth brings,

That then I scorn to change my state with kings.