by George J. Dance

About Poetry
Poetry • Outline • Explication

Theme • Plot • Style
Character • Setting • Voice
Writer • Writer's block

Poetic diction

Imagery • Figures of speech
Metaphor • Simile
Homeric simile
Personification • Pathetic fallacy
Synecdoche  • Metonymy
Conceit • Extended metaphor
Allegory • Motif • Symbol
Pun • Double entendre
Ambiguity • Idiom


Alliteration • Assonance
Consonance • Rhyme
Repetition • Refrain


Line • Enjambment • Caesura
Foot • Meter • Verse • Stanza

Verse forms

Epic • Narrative • Lyric • Ode
Dramatic monologue • Ballad
Blank verse • Heroic couplets
Sestina • Sonnet • Villanelle
List of poetic forms

Modern poetry

Free verse • Prose poetry
Haiku in English • Tanka

Much, much more ...

Collaborative poetry
Glossary of poetry terms
How to - topics


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Verse forms are arrangements of lines of verse (poetry written in meter) that have become standard.

Overview Edit

A verse form is similar to a stanza , in that both are pre-ordained arrangements of lines; but stanza (or stanza form) refers to a part of a poem, where verse form refers to an entire poem. Verse composed in a form can be called formal verse or fixed verse; the converse is Free verse poetry, which by design has little or no pre-established guidelines, including meter.

Verse forms are a kind of template or formula in which poetry can be composed. Poetic rules of meter and rhyme, and stricter rules like repetition of words and even of entire lines, can guide as much as limit a poet's choices when composing poetry. A fixed verse form combines one or more of these guide/limitations into a larger pattern.

A form usually demands strict adherence to the established guidelines that to some poets may seem stifling, while other poets view the rigid structure as a challenge to be innovative and creative while staying within the guidelines. Conversely, many poets have found ways to be innovative and creative with the forms themselves. A variation on a form sticks out like a sore thumb, a fact that many skilled poets have exploited.

Examples of Verse forms Edit

Heroic coupletEdit

Main article: Heroic couplet

A Heroic couplet is a rhyming couplet, or pair, of lines written in iambic pentameter. Normally each couplet is a discrete unit of thought or speech. Geoffrey Chaucer used the form extensively, in The Canterbury Tales. It became the dominant form of English verse drama by the mid-17th century, and over the following century was perfected by John Dryden and Alexander Pope.[1]


Main article: Sonnet

The sonnet at its most basic requires that the total length be 14 lines of meter . In the English language, the normal meter used is iambic pentameter . There are 2 primary forms of the sonnet written in English:

Shakespearean sonnet

In addition to above requirements, the English or Shakespearean sonnet must have a rhyme scheme of 3 quatrains rhyming A-B-A-B, followed by a heroic couplet .

Petrarchan sonnet
    • The Italian or Petrarchan sonnet requires that the fourteen lines have the rhyme scheme of an 8-line stanza or octave rhyming A-B-B-A-A-B-B-A, followed by a 6-line sestet, which can have one of several rhyme schemes. Traditionally the octave describes a problem, followed by the sestet resolving it.


Main article: Sestina
  • The sestina has a highly structured form consisting of 6 sestet (6-line) stanzas followed by a tercet (3-line), called its envoy or tornada, for a total of 39 lines. The same set of 6 words ends the lines of each of the 6-line stanzas, but in a different (prescribed) order each time. The poet chooses the end words, and their order, in the 1st stanza (that he writes. Hint: In writing a sestina, it is not a good idea to write the opening stanza 1st.).

Terza rimaEdit

Main article: Terza rima

Terza rima is a form consisting of tercets (3-line stanzas) that use chain rhyme in the pattern A-B-A, B-C-B, C-D-C, D-E-D. There is no limit to the number of stanzas. A terza rima poem concludes with either a single line or a couplet that rhymes with the middle line of the last tercet. Terza rima can be written in any regular meter; in English, iambic pentameter is most common.


Main article: Villanelle

A villanelle has only 2 rhymes. The 1st and 3rd lines of the beginning stanza are rhyming refrains that alternate as the 3rd line in each successive stanza and form a couplet at the close. A villanelle is 19 lines long, consisting of 5 tercets and a concluding quatrain.

See alsoEdit


  1. Heroic couplet, Encyclopædia Britannica, Encyclopædia Britannica Inc., Nov. 27, 2012.

External linksEdit

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