What Is The Style Of A Poem Called?

by Amy

The “style” of a poem refers to the unique manner in which a poet expresses ideas through their work. Poetic style encompasses a range of distinctive features and techniques used by poets, including form, structure, language, and tone. Each poet brings their own voice and approach to their writing, and these elements collectively contribute to the poem’s overall effect and meaning. Poetic style can be seen as the signature of a poet, differentiating their work from others and making it recognizable.

Common Poetic Forms and Styles

Understanding various poetic forms and styles is essential to appreciating the diversity and richness of poetry. Here are some of the most notable forms:


A sonnet is a 14-line poem with a specific rhyme scheme and meter, typically iambic pentameter. There are several types of sonnets, with the most famous being the Shakespearean (or English) sonnet and the Petrarchan (or Italian) sonnet.

Shakespearean Sonnet: This form consists of three quatrains followed by a couplet, with a rhyme scheme of ABABCDCDEFEFGG. An example is Shakespeare’s Sonnet 18, “Shall I compare thee to a summer’s day?”

Petrarchan Sonnet: This form is divided into an octave and a sestet, with a rhyme scheme of ABBAABBACDCDCD. An example is John Milton’s “When I Consider How My Light is Spent.”


A traditional Japanese form of poetry consisting of three lines with a syllable pattern of 5-7-5. Haikus often focus on nature and the changing seasons, capturing a moment in time with brevity and clarity. An example is Matsuo Basho’s famous haiku, “An old silent pond / A frog jumps into the pond— / Splash! Silence again.”

Free Verse

Poetry that does not adhere to a regular rhyme scheme or meter, allowing for more flexibility in expression. Free verse relies on the natural rhythms of speech and can vary widely in form and content. An example is Walt Whitman’s “Leaves of Grass,” which celebrates the human spirit and the natural world in a flowing, unstructured format.


A 19-line poem with a fixed form, featuring repeated refrains and a specific rhyme scheme (ABA ABA ABA ABA ABA ABAA). The repetition of lines creates a haunting, musical quality. An example is Dylan Thomas’s “Do not go gentle into that good night.”


A humorous five-line poem with a distinctive rhythm and an AABBA rhyme scheme. Limericks are often playful and whimsical, sometimes featuring absurd or nonsensical content. An example is Edward Lear’s “There was an Old Man with a beard.”


A lyrical poem that praises or glorifies an event, individual, or element of nature, often with an elevated style and formal structure. Odes are characterized by their serious tone and rich imagery. An example is John Keats’s “Ode to a Nightingale.”


A mournful, melancholic poem, usually written in remembrance of someone who has died. Elegies reflect on themes of loss, mortality, and grief, often moving from sorrow to consolation. An example is Thomas Gray’s “Elegy Written in a Country Churchyard.”


A long narrative poem detailing the adventures and deeds of heroic figures. Epics often encompass grand themes such as the struggle between good and evil, the fate of a nation, and human endurance. An example is Homer’s “The Iliad.

Characteristics of Poetic Styles

Each poetic style is defined by key characteristics that set it apart. Here are some defining features of the mentioned styles:

Sonnet: Structured rhyme scheme (ABABCDCDEFEFGG for Shakespearean), iambic pentameter, themes of love, beauty, time, and mortality.

Haiku: Conciseness, 5-7-5 syllable structure, focus on nature and seasons, evoking a moment or feeling.

Free Verse: Lack of regular rhyme and meter, flexibility in form, varied themes, emphasis on natural speech rhythms.

Villanelle: Repetition of refrains, strict rhyme scheme (ABA), themes of obsession, loss, and cyclical events.

Limerick: AABBA rhyme scheme, humorous or whimsical content, rhythmic meter.

Ode: Formal and elevated style, praise and glorification, rich imagery, and serious tone.

Elegy: Reflective and mournful tone, themes of death and loss, movement from grief to consolation.

Epic: Lengthy narrative, heroic figures, grand themes, formal and elevated diction.

Purpose and Function of Different Styles

Poets choose specific styles to align with the themes, mood, or messages they wish to convey. For instance:

Sonnet: Suitable for exploring themes of love and beauty due to its structured form and lyrical quality.

Haiku: Ideal for capturing a moment in nature with brevity and precision.

Free Verse: Offers flexibility for personal expression and modern themes.

Villanelle: Effective for emphasizing cyclical or obsessive themes through repetition.

Limerick: Perfect for light-hearted, humorous content.

Ode: Used to elevate and glorify its subject matter.

Elegy: Expresses grief and contemplation, moving towards acceptance.

Epic: Chronicles grand adventures and heroic deeds, often reflecting cultural values and collective history.

See also: What Rhymes With End For A Poem?

Identifying Poetic Styles

To identify the style of a poem, consider the following tips:

Structure and Form: Examine the number of lines, stanzas, and rhyme scheme. For example, 14 lines with a specific rhyme scheme often indicate a sonnet.

Language and Diction: Analyze the poet’s word choices and tone.
Formal and elevated language might suggest an ode or epic.

Rhyme and Meter: Identify any consistent rhyme patterns or metrical structures. The presence or absence of these can help distinguish between styles like sonnets and free verse.

Themes and Content: Reflect on the poem’s themes and subject matter. Humorous, whimsical themes might indicate a limerick, while reflective themes on mortality suggest an elegy.

Evolution of Poetic Styles

Poetic styles have evolved over time, influenced by cultural shifts and literary movements. For instance:

Romanticism: Emphasized emotion, nature, and individualism, leading to a resurgence of lyrical and narrative poetry.

Modernism: Focused on breaking traditional forms and experimenting with new techniques, giving rise to free verse and other innovative styles.

Postmodernism: Continued the experimentation of Modernism, often blending styles and incorporating diverse voices and perspectives.

Examples and Analysis

Sonnet Example: Shakespeare’s Sonnet 18 explores eternal beauty and love, using a structured rhyme scheme and iambic pentameter to create a rhythmic and harmonious expression.

Free Verse Example: Whitman’s “Leaves of Grass” exemplifies free verse with its flowing, unstructured lines that capture the essence of individual freedom and the natural world.

Villanelle Example: Dylan Thomas’s “Do not go gentle into that good night” uses repeated refrains to emphasize the theme of defiance against death, creating a powerful and emotional impact.


Understanding poetic styles is crucial for appreciating and analyzing poetry. Each style offers unique ways to explore themes, convey emotions, and create impact through structured or flexible forms. By exploring various styles, readers can deepen their understanding and enjoyment of poetry, discovering the diverse ways poets express their visions and connect with their audiences. Whether through the structured beauty of a sonnet or the free-flowing expression of free verse, poetic styles enrich the literary landscape, offering endless possibilities for creativity and expression.

FAQs about Poetic Style and Form

1. What is the style of a poem?

The style of a poem refers to the distinctive features and techniques that a poet uses to convey their message. This includes the form, structure, language, and tone of the poem. The style helps to create a unique voice for the poet and contributes to the overall impact of the poem.

2. What is the type of poem called?

The type of poem is called its form or genre. Different types of poems include sonnets, haikus, free verse, villanelles, limericks, odes, elegies, and epics. Each type has specific characteristics and conventions that define it.

Sonnet: A 14-line poem with a specific rhyme scheme, often written in iambic pentameter.

Haiku: A traditional Japanese form consisting of three lines with a syllable pattern of 5-7-5, often focusing on nature.

Free Verse: Poetry that does not adhere to a regular rhyme scheme or meter, allowing for more flexibility in expression.

Villanelle: A 19-line poem with repeated refrains and a specific rhyme scheme (ABA ABA ABA ABA ABA ABAA).

Limerick: A humorous five-line poem with a distinctive rhythm and an AABBA rhyme scheme.

Ode: A lyrical poem that praises or glorifies an event or individual, often with an elevated style.

Elegy: A mournful poem, usually written in remembrance of someone who has died.

Epic: A long narrative poem detailing the adventures and deeds of heroic figures.

3. How do you describe the form of a poem?

The form of a poem refers to its structure and how it is organized. Describing a poem’s form involves looking at several elements:

Line Length: The number of words or syllables in each line.

Stanza Structure: How lines are grouped together, such as in couplets, tercets, quatrains, etc.

Rhyme Scheme: The pattern of rhymes at the end of each line, usually noted using letters (e.g., ABAB, AABB).

Meter: The rhythmic structure of the poem, often measured in feet (i.e., iambic pentameter).

Repetition: The use of repeating words, phrases, or structures within the poem.

Form Type: Identifying if the poem follows a specific traditional form like a sonnet, haiku, or villanelle.

4. What do you call the way a poem looks?

The way a poem looks on the page is called its visual structure or layout. This includes the arrangement of lines and stanzas, the use of indentation, and any intentional spacing. The visual structure can affect how a poem is read and interpreted, contributing to its overall impact. It encompasses the poem’s form and how it visually presents itself, which can also include the use of white space and line breaks.

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