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Find Your Favourite Type of Poetry

April 12th, 2013 Books/Audio/Video

Poetry has long been a creative and delicate way to express sentiments. This form of writing has changed throughout time, going from formal pieces to sentences that no longer have to rhyme. Here are a few of the most notable types of poetry. 

Ode The ode began in ancient Greece as a form of praise. It was typically set to instruments, and consisted of three basic parts: the strophe, the anti strophe and the epode. The strophe and the anti strophe contradicted each other in a sort of debate, and the epode summarized the two. Eventually, the musical aspect was eliminated and the style was adopted by the Romans and later by the English in the 17th century. Famous odes include "Ode To a Loved One" by Greek poet Sappho, "Ode To my Brother" by Roman poet Catullus and "Imitations of Immortality" by English poet William Wordsworth in the 18th century. Odes are typically written to glorify an individual, situation or concept, and are directly dedicated to that which inspires it. 

Haiku ​This style of poetry, which officially began in Japan in the 19th century, requires a set amount of syllables. Haikus have three lines: The first line is five syllables, the second is seven and the third is five again. This structure allows for a wide variety of tone in poems - ranging from funny to serious. The haiku came to America through beat poets who repurposed it for the 1950s. Beat poets didn't necessarily stick to the form: Jack Kerouac wrote haikus that stuck to the three-line structure but varied in syllables. Today, haikus are sometimes shared via social media, as the word limit fits into tweets and status updates. 

Sonnet The sonnet is another form of poetry with a preset structure. Though sonnets are perhaps best known as being a favorite of Shakespeare's, they were first written in Italy. Traditionally, they're made up of 14 lines and a strict rhyme scheme. Currently, the Pertrarchan sonnet, the Spenserian sonnet and the Shakespearean sonnet are the most popular versions, but there are several variations that change both the rhyme scheme and the number of lines. Shakespeare didn't name his sonnets, preferring to label them with numbers. One of his most famous is "Sonnet 130," which is dedicated to his mistress. 

Free verse One of the more recently popular forms of poetry is the free verse, or expressionist poetry. Though it's widespread today, it can be traced back to works found in the Bible. Free verse doesn't restrict the poet to any amount of words, lines or rhyme schemes. The poet William Carlos Williams wrote one of his most famous poems in the form of a free verse note to his wife. The note, "This Is Just To Say," which he stuck to the refrigerator, regretfully admitted to eating plums he presumed were her's. It's an example of the plain but profound manner in which free verse poems are written. 

Slam poetry Slam poetry is the modern version of spoken word performances. Spoken word is the earliest form of poetry, predating the written word akin to spreading history via oral tradition. Slam poetry is merely poetry performed. It allows poets to add new meaning to their works with tone and physical gestures. Allen Ginsberg performed slam poetry along with Jack Kerouac in the 1940s and '50s during the Beatnik era. 

In order to better understand the different types of poetry, try your hand at a sonnet or haiku. Each form holds different challenges for respective poets.