Poetry 101 - What is poetry? Different types of poetry? Examples of poems and more!

Whether you're new to the world of poems or an avid reader already - find out more about all things poetry! In this post you'll learn what poetry is, the different types of poems, examples of great poems and more.

Dead Poets Society Poetry Quote
Dead Poets Society (1989)

My introduction to poetry


At a young age I never understood poetry.


I couldn't enjoy the way it was taught at school. I never studied poets I connected with so I thought it wasn't for me. I struggled to relate to words that made no structural sense. I got drained and my mind always trailed away when reading poems.


Put it simply, poetry was boring. Or so I thought. Not fully knowing that the face of poetry is so much more diverse and engaging.


Now? I believe that


Poetry is phenomenal.


It is unique in power. The way it stirs our voices, expresses truths and opens new worlds. Leaving lasting impact on those who hear us.


Alas, if you're someone who isn't into poetry... I'm here to open up a whole new world to you. As someone who went from not really understanding the art form, to self-publishing my first poetry book, I can tell you it's well worth it!


This post will let you discover the wonders of poetry, the different styles and so much more!


Poetry 101: Discover everything you need to know


(Jump to section)


What is poetry? Some definitions


The literary world is still often in debate about what a poem actually is. Some swear poems must have rhythm and rhyme, whilst others also consider styles such as rap, psalms and spoken word as different forms of poetry.


One useful definition of a poem is ‘a piece of writing in which the expression of feelings and ideas is given intensity by particular attention to diction (sometimes involving rhyme), rhythm, and imagery.’


For me, I think of poetry as the art of words. The ability to convey and express deeper meaning (often succinctly and with great nuance) using different writing styles and techniques.


Poets use their words, lines and stanzas to convey thoughts and emotions or to depict stories in a creative and often succinct way that creates imagery for the reader. From the distinct styles of Shakespeare, Larkin and Hughes to the more contemporary voices we hear today, poetry is a vast and exciting art form.


Some more definitions of poetry:

Poetry (derived from the Greekpoiesis, "making") is a form of literature that uses aesthetic and often rhythmic qualities of language—such as phonaesthetics, sound symbolism, and metre—to evoke meanings in addition to, or in place of, the prosaic ostensible meaning. (Wikipedia)
Poetry is literary work in which the expression of feelings and ideas is given intensity by the use of distinctive style and rhythm; poems collectively or as a genre of literature. (Oxford Languages)
Poetry is the art of rhythmical composition, written or spoken, for exciting pleasure by beautiful, imaginative, or elevated thoughts. (Dictionary.com)
A quality of beauty and intensity of emotion regarded as characteristic of poems. (Oxford Languages)
Poetry is a style of writing that uses a formal organization and that is often divided up into lines or stanzas, or it refers to something beautiful. (Your Dictionary)

Different types of poetry


From sonnets to soliloquies, odes, elegies and more, discover the diversity of poetry! In this section, I've described the different types of poetic forms and some of their main or most popular uses. These types of poems all produce contrasting responses from the reader, depending on the poet's intentions. You may already be familiar with some forms whilst others will be quite new. Here are the different types of poetic forms:


Blank verse

Blank verse is poetry written with a specific meter (rhythmic structure) that does not rhyme.


Free verse

Free verse is poetry that does not have a prominent rhyme scheme, meter or musical form.


Rhymed poetry

Rhymed poetry refers to a poem that rhymes. Poets can use a range of contrasting rhyming patterns throughout their work.


Lyric poetry

Lyric poetry is a vast category of poetry that concerns our feelings and emotions.


Sonnet

A sonnet is a fourteen line poem which usually concerns the theme of love. There are different styles of sonnets, the most well-known being the Shakespearean sonnet.


Soliloquy

A soliloquy is a monologue in a play where the character speaks outwardly to themselves, to express inner thoughts that are unknown to the audience. Though not always poems, the most famous soliloquies such as those by William Shakespeare, are.


Limerick

A limerick is a single stanza poem, consisting of five lines, with an AABBA rhyme pattern. The subject of limericks are usually short tales or descriptions.


Epic poetry

Epic poetry refers to lengthy, narrative poems. Due to the length, these long poems usually explore the extraordinary tales and adventures of characters.


Narrative poetry

Narrative poems are those which tell a story. A good example of a narrative poem would be Samuel Taylor Coleridge’s well-known The Rime of the Ancient Mariner.


Haiku

A haiku is a unique style of poetry originating from Japan. The poem consists of only three lines, of which the first line has has five syllables, the second line has seven syllables, and the third line has five syllables.


Pastoral poetry

Pastoral poetry concerns the natural world, rural life, and beautiful landscapes. A pastoral poem will often depict open areas.


Elegies

An elegy is a poem that deals with the theme of death or loss. This can also include themes such as mourning, redemption or consolation. You may often hear an elegy read at a funeral or memorial.


Ode

An ode is a poem written as a tribute to a specific subject.


Ballad

A ballad is a melodious form of poetry. It is a narrative that can be poetic or musical and is usually rhymed.


Villanelle

This is a nineteen-line poem that consists of five tercets (three lines) and a quatrain (four lines). This style of poem usually has a specific internal rhyme scheme.


As you read more poetry, you'll become more familiar with the different forms and may find that you naturally enjoy one style of poems more than others. Similarly, as a poet, you may prefer to write in blank verse instead of using rhyme. That is simply the variety of enjoying great poetry!


Examples of poetry


Now that you're familiar with the different types of poetry, I've put together some well-known poems (as well as a personal one from my poetry book). I believe these poems are accessible regardless of your level of knowledge in poetry.


Have a read, enjoy and see if you can determine what type of poem each example below is!


'Fire and Ice' a poem by Robert Frost


Some say the world will end in fire, Some say in ice. From what I’ve tasted of desire I hold with those who favor fire. But if it had to perish twice, I think I know enough of hate To say that for destruction ice Is also great And would suffice.



'Dreams' a poem by Langston Hughes


Hold fast to dreams For if dreams die Life is a broken-winged bird That cannot fly.

Hold fast to dreams For when dreams go Life is a barren field Frozen with snow.



'Talking In Bed' a poem by Philip Larkin

Talking in bed ought to be easiest, Lying together there goes back so far, An emblem of two people being honest. Yet more and more time passes silently. Outside, the wind's incomplete unrest Builds and disperses clouds in the sky, And dark towns heap up on the horizon. None of this cares for us. Nothing shows why At this unique distance from isolation It becomes still more difficult to find Words at once true and kind, Or not untrue and not unkind.



'Sonnet 18' a poem by William Shakespeare


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 dimm'd; And every fair from fair sometime declines, By chance or nature’s changing course untrimm'd; 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.



'The Flame Within' a Words of Faith poem


She has a beauty that shines from within,

A light that never grows dim.


Her candle goes not out by night

And the radiance inside her -

Ever bright.


When the wind blows

Her flame - it holds.


She thrives, she sparks.

She glows, she grows.


Poetic devices and techniques


A distinguishing feature of poetry is the literary devices used by poets to create meaning in their work. A poet will often rely on a range of techniques to give their writing that poetic flair.


Literary techniques used in poetry:


Below are some prominent techniques that are characteristic of many of the poems that we read today. Indeed, it may be difficult to find poems that don't utilise at least one of these devices!


Symbolism

This is when one symbol is used to represent another meaning.


Metaphor

A metaphor is a technique where one thing is compared to another, by stating they are the same.


Imagery

Poetry can often deal with abstract ideas and thoughts, therefore creating imagery for the reader is essential. Imagery is the use of language to create a sensory experience for the reader. If used well, this should provide readers with great insights into the senses as well as external and internal emotions.


Sound

The careful selection of words will determine the overall sound of the poem when it is read aloud. Techniques such as alliteration and assonance influence sound and can be used to create meaning or draw the listener's attention to a specific point.


Spoken word poetry


Spoken word poetry is such that is written with the intention to be performed to an audience. This style of poetry caters to those who may not enjoy reading and are more visual learners.


I'm a big believer that poetry is written to be performed, just as much as it is to be read. Not only does this add greater emotion to the poem, is also connects you to the heart of the poet as they bring their words to life.


Below I have linked some engaging poetry performances that you can enjoy watching or simply listening to!


George the Poet and Sophia Thakur for Black Lives Still Matter


Rachel Long reads from 'My Darling from the Lions


Faith performs a spoken word poem for women


Suli Breaks - The Graveyard


Poets and Spoken Word Artists to Watch! [Full Post]

Poetry performance

If you're interested, click the link above to watch even more of my favourite poetry performances!


Poetry books


A poetry book is a collection of poems written by one or more poets. There are many different types of poetry books including collections, anthologies and chapbooks. These can be structured by theme, year of writing or in some cases at the editor's choice.


The perk of a poetry book is the ease with which you can read it. You can read through in one sitting, or slowly dissect through each page. On your commute. At the waiting room. In the quiet night before bed. There's always a great moment to get stuck into a new poetry book.


Below you'll find a selection of diverse poetry books for you to dive into.


Poor by Caleb Femi

In Poor, Caleb Femi combines poetry and original photography to explore the trials, tribulations, dreams and joys of young Black boys in twenty-first century Peckham.


My Darling from the Lions by Rachel Long

Rachel Long’s much-anticipated debut collection of poems, My Darling from the Lions, announces the arrival of a thrilling new presence in poetry.


Words of Faith by Faith Olajuyigbe

In her newest release, Faith takes readers on a profound poetic journey with the intent to challenge growth. Through simple yet skillful use of language and imagery, the reader is stimulated, intrigued and moved.


Poetry Books You Should Read - Recommendations [Full Post]

Poetry Books to read

Click the link above to read my detailed list of poetry book recommendations!


Quotes about poetry


I hope some of these quotes will fuel your fascination with poetry! Here, you can read what some of the greatest writers, poets and thinkers have had to say about the unique power of poems. It's what we stay alive for!

"We don't read and write poetry because it's cute. We read and write poetry because we are members of the human race. And the human race is filled with passion. And medicine, law, business, engineering, these are noble pursuits and necessary to sustain life. But poetry, beauty, romance, love, these are what we stay alive for." John Keating (Dead Poets Society)
"Poetry is boned with ideas, nerved and blooded with emotions, all held together by the delicate, tough skin of words." Paul Engle
"Poetry lifts the veil from the hidden beauty of the world, and makes familiar objects be as if they were not familiar." Percy Bysshe Shelley
"Poetry is the spontaneous overflow of powerful feelings: it takes its origin from emotion recollected in tranquillity." William Wordsworth
"Poetry is finer and more philosophical than history; for poetry expresses the universal, and history only the particular." Aristotle
"Poetry is emotion put into measure. The emotion must come by nature, but the measure can be acquired by art." Thomas Hardy
"Poetry and beauty are always making peace. When you read something beautiful you find coexistence; it breaks walls down." Mahmoud Darwish
"To me, art begets art. Painting feeds the eye just as poetry feeds the ear, which is to say that both feed the soul." Susan Vreeland
"I would define, in brief, the poetry of words as the rhythmical creation of Beauty." Edgar Allan Poe

What do you have to say about poetry?


Further poetry sources


In this section, I've detailed some great resources for those keen on finding out more about poetry. From online blogs and poetry magazines to informative guides and short courses, you'll learn everything you need to know about the world of poetry!


Poetry Foundation

"The Poetry Foundation, publisher of Poetry magazine, is an independent literary organization committed to a vigorous presence for poetry in our culture. It exists to discover and celebrate the best poetry and to place it before the largest possible audience."


Write Out Loud

"Write Out Loud is a national (indeed, international) hub for participation in poetry, encouraging everyone who writes poetry – from still-too-nervous-to-do-open-mic to Nobel Prize winner – to share their words with others."


The Poetry Platform

"A new online space for writers to take centre stage and showcase their work loudly and proudly for all to see!"


Poets In Autumn

"The Poets In Autumn Tour is a tour that features the top Christian spoken word artists in the nation. Each artist featured has created their own demand and has reached millions online utilizing the vehicle of spoken word to convey hard hitting transparent messages that challenge and encourage audiences."


Masterclass on Poetry

"Learn About Poetry, Different Types of Poems, and Poetic Devices With Examples."


National Poetry Day

"National Poetry Day is the annual mass celebration on the first Thursday of October that encourages all to enjoy, discover and share poetry."


The Poetry Project

"Since 1966, The Poetry Project has expanded access to literature, education, and opportunities for sharing one's creative work in a counter-hierarchical, radically open space and community."


Poemsource

"Hi! I'm Joanna Fuchs. I've written more than 900 original greeting card poems and rhymes for all occasions, traditional, sentimental, good old-fashioned poetry to touch the heart."


Shakespeare Birthplace Trust

"The Shakespeare Birthplace Trust is the independent charity that cares for the world’s greatest Shakespeare heritage sites in Stratford-upon-Avon, and promotes the enjoyment and understanding of his works, life and times all over the world."

I hope this poetry guide has been very helpful! If you've learnt something new or discovered some new poets to enjoy then leave a comment below. Feel free to also share some tips and great poetry that you enjoy reading.


- Faithful xoxo

About the Author:


Faith Olajuyigbe Poet

Faith is a Birmingham based writer. She has a background in drama with a focus on writing poetry, blogs and more.

Through her work, she explores themes such as love, life, faith, passion and purpose. Faith is a true creative at heart and also enjoys videography and editing.


Her debut poetry book, Words of Faith, is available to purchase in store and on Amazon.


Contact: www.wordsoffaith.co.uk

Instagram: @faitholajuyigbe

Twitter: @faitholajuyigbe

Facebook: @faitholaj

YouTube: Faith Olajuyigbe


Words of Faith: A collection of poems and verses written to challenge growth.

Buy the book on Amazon or Shop direct.

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