Forms of Poetry with Examples

Stanza form in poetry plays an important role in analyzing the meaning of a poem. Start with the definition of poetry form and continue with these poetry examples.

Definition of Poetry Form

Poetic picture with link to poetry lesson plans.

Imagine having 11 complete poetry units with handouts and lesson plans completed. You don’t need to imagine. These units are teacher ready and student ready. Just print, make copies, and accept accolades from colleagues and students.

There are many different types and forms of poems. When teaching stanza form in poetry, keep in mind the following objectives:

  1. Students should know the definition of poetry form and be able to name the different types of stanzas.
  2. Students should be able to identify different stanza forms in poetry. They include couplets, terza rima, quatrains, cinquains, rhyme royal, ottava rima, the Spenserian stanza, and sonnets.
  3. Students should be able to determine the author’s purpose for using a particular stanza form in poetry. This is analysis and involves higher level thinking skills — skills which are transferable to the real world. If you are capable of leading students to this point, you have not only equipped them for being literary experts, you have given them a life-long, beneficial skill.
  4. Students should be able to compose poetry in different forms depending on their purpose.
  5. Students should be able to apply their knowledge of poetic forms for prose writing. They should make the connection that different forms of poetry serve different purposes and different forms of prose serve different purposes (business letters, essays, text messages, etc.).

Common Poetic Forms

Couplets are a unit of verse consisting of two successive lines, usually rhyming and having the same meter and often forming a complete thought, as in an epigram. Couplets are used to end Shakespearean Sonnets and often form the basis of longer poems.

Examples of poems using couplets include “The Tyger” by William Blake and Andrew Marvell’s “To his Coy Mistress.”

Terza Rima is a three line stanza with the following rhyme scheme: a b a b c b c d c. “Acquainted with the Night” by Robert Frost is a good example of a poem written in terza rima.

Quatrains are a popular stanza form, the most popular being the ballad stanza, containing an a b a b rhyme scheme with alternating lines of iambic tetrameter. Examples include “She Dwelt Among the Untrodden Ways” by William Wordsworth.

Cinquains are quatrains with an additional line. Robert Frost’s “The Road Not Taken” is the most famous.

Other stanza forms include Rhyme Royal, a seven-line stanza written in iambic pentameter, rhyme scheme a b a b b c c; ottava rima, an eight line stanza of iambic pentameter, rhyme scheme a b a b a b c c; and a Spenserian stanza, a nine-line poem whose first eight lines are iambic pentameter and ninth line is an Alexandrine, rhyme scheme a b a b b c b c c.

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