Poems can be found in these three main genres of poetry: lyric, narrative, and dramatic.
There are so many different kinds of poems that it is very difficult to define the word. A poem is a composition which uses words that either sound a certain way or infer certain emotions, so that the meaning of the poem is portrayed in an imaginative and emotional way.
Understanding the Types of Poems
Lyric poetry is especially song-like and emotional. Sonnets and odes are examples of poems that are lyrical in nature. Lyric poems do not tell a story, but focus on more personal emotions, attitudes, and the author’s state of mind.
Authors of note in this category would include:
- Christine de Pizan
- Teresa of Ávila
- Antonio Machado
- T. S. Eliot
- John Keats
- Elizabeth Barrertt Browning
Following is one of the most famous sonnets of all time from William Shakespeare, Sonnet Number 18:
Shall I compare thee to a summer’s day?
Thou art more lovely and more temperate:
Rough winds do shake the darling buds of May,
And summer’s lease hath all too short a date:
Sometime too hot the eye of heaven shines,
And often is his gold complexion dimmed,
And every fair from fair sometime declines,
By chance, or nature’s changing course untrimmed:
But thy eternal summer shall not fade,
Nor lose possession of that fair thou ow’st,
Nor shall death brag thou wander’st in his shade,
When in eternal lines to time thou grow’st,
So long as men can breathe, or eyes can see,
So long lives this, and this gives life to thee.
John Keats also wrote lyric poetry. Following is an example from his lyric poem Ode on a Grecian Urn:
What men or gods are these? What maidens loth?
What mad pursuit? What struggle to escape?
What pipes and timbrels? What wild ecstasy?
Elizabeth Barrett Browning’s famous How Do I Love Thee is yet another famous example of a lyric poem:
How do I love thee? Let me count the ways.
I love thee to the depth and breadth and height
My soul can reach, when feeling out of sight
For the ends of Being and ideal Grace
I love thee to the level of everyday’s
Most quiet need, by sun and candle-light.
I love thee freely, as men strive for Right;
I love thee purely, as they turn from Praise.
I love thee with the passion put to use
In my old griefs, and with my childhood’s faith
I love thee with a love I seem to love
With my lost saints, – I love thee with the breath,
Smiles, tears, of all my life! – and, if God choose,
I shall but love thee better after death.
A narrative poem tells a story, usually of human interest, and includes the epic, which is a long story, and the ballad, which was originally meant to be sung while dancing.
Well-known examples of poems that are ballads include:
- The Canterbury Tales by Geoffrey Chaucer
- The Raven by Edgar Allan Poe
- Hiawatha by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow
Following is an excerpt from The Canterbury Tales by Chaucer:
Experience, though noon auctoritee
Were in this world, were right ynogh to me
To speke of wo that is in mariage;
For, lordynges, sith I twelf yeer was of age,
Thonked be God, that is eterne on lyve,
Housbondes at chirche dore I have had fyve –
For I so ofte have ywedded bee –
And alle were worthy men in hir degree.
Following is the last stanza of Edgar Allan Poe’s poem, The Raven.
And the raven, never flitting, still is sitting, still is sitting
On the pallid bust of Pallas just above my chamber door;
And his eyes have all the seeming of a demon’s that is dreaming,
And the lamp-light o’er him streaming throws his shadow on the floor;
And my soul from out that shadow that lies floating on the floor
Shall be lifted – nevermore.
Dramatic poetry is any drama that is written in verse that is meant to be recited. It usually tells a story or refers to a situation. This would include closet drama, dramatic monologues, and rhyme verse.
Examples of dramatic poetry would come from:
- Christopher Marlowe
- Ben Jonson
Here is an excerpt from the opening of Christopher Marlowe’s Tamburlaine the Great:
From jigging veins of riming mother wits
And such conceits as clownage keeps in pay
We’ll lead you to the stately tent of war,
Where you shall hear the Scythian Tamburlaine
Threatening the world with high astounding terms
And scourging kingdoms with his conquering sword.
Following is an excerpt from a dramatic poem called Song of the Furies by Aeschylus:
P and lead the dance of Fate!
Lift the song that mortals hate!
Tell what rights are ours on earth,
Over all of human birth.
Swift of foot to avenge are we!
He whose hands are clean and pure,
Naught our wrath to dread hath he;
Calm his cloudless days endure.
But the man that seeks to hide
Like him , his gore-bedewèd hands,
Witnesses to them that died,
The blood avengers at his side,
The Furies’ troop forever stands.
A haiku is a Japanese form of poetry with three lines of 5, 7, and 5 moras. A mora is a sound unit, like a syllable, but is not identical to it. Most people just say it is a syllable because it doesn’t translate well to English.
Here is an example of a haiku:
Falling to the ground,
I watch a leaf settle down
In a bed of brown.
The best known Japanese Haiku is a poem by Basho called old pond which translates to:
old pond . . .
a frog leaps in
A limerick is a five-line poem with the rhyme scheme a-a-b-b-a, and is intended to be funny.
Following is an example of a limerick by Edward Lear:
There was an Old Man with a beard,
Who said, ‘It is just as I feared!
Two Owls and a Hen,
Four Larks and a Wren,
Have all built their nests in my beard!’
Many limericks feature Nantucket, including this one by an anonymous author:
There was an Old Man of Nantucket
Who kept all his cash in a bucket.
His daughter, called Nan,
Ran away with a man,
And as for the bucket, Nantucket.
Find your favorite type of poetry by enjoying examples of all types. Regardless of your selection, you can be sure that you will always find a unique experience.