Specific poetic forms have been developed by many cultures. In more developed, closed or "received" poetic forms, the rhyming scheme, meter and other elements of a poem are based on sets of rules, ranging from the relatively loose rules that govern the construction of an elegy to the highly formalized structure of the ghazal or villanelle. Described below are some common forms of poetry widely used across a number of languages. Additional forms of poetry may be found in the discussions of poetry of particular cultures or periods and in the glossary.
Main article: SonnetAmong the most common forms of poetry through the ages is the sonnet, which by the 13th century was a poem of fourteen lines following a set rhyme scheme and logical structure. By the 14th century, the form further crystallized under the pen of Petrarch, whose sonnets were later translated in the 16th century by Sir Thomas Wyatt, who is credited with introducing the sonnet form into English literature. A sonnet's first four lines typically introduce the topic, the second elaborates and the third posits a problem - the couplet usually, but not always, includes a twist, or an afterthought. A sonnet usually follows an a-b-a-b-c-d-c-d-e-f-e-f-gg rhyme pattern. The sonnet's conventions have changed over its history, and so there are several different sonnet forms. Traditionally, in sonnets English poets use iambic pentameter, the Spenserian and Shakespearean sonnets being especially notable. In the Romance languages, the hendecasyllable and Alexandrine are the most widely used meters, though the Petrarchan sonnet has been used in Italy since the 14th century.
Sonnets are particularly associated with love poetry, and often use a poetic diction heavily based on vivid imagery, but the twists and turns associated with the move from octave to sestet and to final couplet make them a useful and dynamic form for many subjects. Shakespeare's sonnets are among the most famous in English poetry, with 20 being included in the Oxford Book of English Verse.
Main article: Shi (poetry)Shi (simplified Chinese: 诗; traditional Chinese: 詩; pinyin: shī; Wade–Giles: shih) Is the main type of Classical Chinese poetry. Within this form of poetry the most important variations are "folk song" styled verse (yuefu), "old style" verse (gushi), "modern style" verse (jintishi). In all cases, rhyming is obligatory. The Yuefu is a folk ballad or a poem written in the folk ballad style, and the number of lines and the length of the lines could be irregular. For the other variations of shi poetry, generally either a four line (quatrain, or jueju) or else an eight line poem is normal; either way with the even numbered lines rhyming. The line length is scanned by according number of characters (according to the convention that one character equals one syllable), and are predominantly either five or seven characters long, with a caesura before the final three syllables. The lines are generally end-stopped, considered as a series of couplets, and exhibit verbal parallelism as a key poetic device. The "old style" verse (gushi) is less formally strict than the jintishi, or regulated verse, which, despite the name "new style" verse actually had its theoretical basis laid as far back to Shen Yue, in the 5th or 6th century, although not considered to have reached its full development until the time of Chen Zi'ang (661-702) A good example of a poet known for his gushi poems is Li Bai. Among its other rules, the jintishi rules regulate the tonal variations within a poem, including the use of set patterns of the four tones of Middle Chinese The basic form of jintishi (lushi) has eight lines in four couplets, with parallelism between the lines in the second and third couplets. The couplets with parallel lines contain contrasting content but an identical grammatical relationship between words. Jintishi often have a rich poetic diction, full of allusion, and can have a wide range of subject, including history and politics. One of the masters of the form was Du Fu, who wrote during the Tang Dynasty (8th century).
Main article: VillanelleThe villanelle is a nineteen-line poem made up of five triplets with a closing quatrain; the poem is characterized by having two refrains, initially used in the first and third lines of the first stanza, and then alternately used at the close of each subsequent stanza until the final quatrain, which is concluded by the two refrains. The remaining lines of the poem have an a-b alternating rhyme. The villanelle has been used regularly in the English language since the late 19th century by such poets as Dylan Thomas, W. H. Auden, and Elizabeth Bishop.
Main article: TankaTanka is a form of unrhymed Japanese poetry, with five sections totalling 31 onji (phonological units identical to morae), structured in a 5-7-5-7-7 pattern. There is generally a shift in tone and subject matter between the upper 5-7-5 phrase and the lower 7-7 phrase. Tanka were written as early as the Asuka period by such poets as Kakinomoto no Hitomaro, at a time when Japan was emerging from a period where much of its poetry followed Chinese form. Tanka was originally the shorter form of Japanese formal poetry (which was generally referred to as "waka"), and was used more heavily to explore personal rather than public themes. By the tenth century, tanka had become the dominant form of Japanese poetry, to the point where the originally general term waka ("Japanese poetry") came to be used exclusively for tanka. Tanka are still widely written today.
Main article: HaikuHaiku is a popular form of unrhymed Japanese poetry, which evolved in the 17th century from the hokku, or opening verse of a renku. Generally written in a single vertical line, the haiku contains three sections totalling 17 onji, structured in a 5-7-5 pattern. Traditionally, haiku contain a kireji, or cutting word, usually placed at the end of one of the poem's three sections, and a kigo, or season-word. The most famous exponent of the haiku was Matsuo Bashō (1644–1694). An example of his writing:
- fuji no kaze ya oogi ni nosete Edo miyage
- the wind of Mt. Fuji
- I've brought on my fan!
- a gift from Edo