What is a 16 Line Poem Called?

by Amy

There is no specific, universally accepted term for a 16-line poem. Unlike more defined forms such as the sonnet (14 lines) or the haiku (3 lines), 16-line poems do not fall into a single, distinct category. However, several poetic forms can naturally extend to 16 lines, each with unique structural characteristics.

Common Poetic Forms that Could Be 16 Lines

Quatern: A quatern is a type of 16-line poem that consists of four quatrains. The defining feature of a quatern is the repetition of the first line in a specific pattern throughout the poem. Specifically, the first line of the first stanza is repeated as the second line of the second stanza, the third line of the third stanza, and the fourth line of the fourth stanza.

Extended Sonnet: While traditional sonnets are 14 lines long, poets sometimes extend them to 16 lines by adding an extra quatrain or couplet. These extended sonnets maintain the rhyme and meter patterns of traditional sonnets while providing additional space for thematic development.

Free Verse: Free verse poems do not adhere to a specific structure or rhyme scheme, allowing poets the freedom to write 16-line poems without the constraints of traditional forms. The flexibility of free verse makes it a popular choice for contemporary poets.

Structure and Characteristics


Four quatrains (four-line stanzas).

The first line of stanza one is repeated as the second line of stanza two, third line of stanza three, and fourth line of stanza four.

Typically follows an 8-syllable line structure.

Extended Sonnet

May follow traditional sonnet rhyme schemes such as ABABCDCDEFEFGG, with additional lines continuing the pattern or introducing a new rhyme scheme.

Maintains the meter, usually iambic pentameter.

Examples of 16-Line Poems

Example of a Quatern

Whispers of the night do call (A)
Gentle breezes sweep the land (B)
Moonlight casts a silver pall (A)
Dreams take flight by nature’s hand (B)

Gentle breezes sweep the land (B)
Stars like diamonds fill the sky (C)
Dreams take flight by nature’s hand (B)
Time stands still as night drifts by (C)

Stars like diamonds fill the sky (C)
Moonlight casts a silver pall (A)
Time stands still as night drifts by (C)
Whispers of the night do call (A)

Example of an Extended Sonnet

Shall I compare thee to a summer’s day? (A)
Thou art more lovely and more temperate: (B)
Rough winds do shake the darling buds of May, (A)
And summer’s lease hath all too short a date: (B)

Sometime too hot the eye of heaven shines, (C)
And often is his gold complexion dimmed; (D)
And every fair from fair sometime declines, (C)
By chance or nature’s changing course untrimmed; (D)

But thy eternal summer shall not fade (E)
Nor lose possession of that fair thou owest; (F)
Nor shall Death brag thou wanderest in his shade, (E)
When in eternal lines to time thou growest: (F)

So long as men can breathe or eyes can see, (G)
So long lives this, and this gives life to thee. (G)
To thee, my love, I give my soul’s embrace, (H)
Forevermore, we’ll share this sacred space. (H)

Purpose and Function

A 16-line poem allows poets to delve deeper into themes and emotions than shorter forms while maintaining a concise structure. This length provides flexibility and space for development without the extensive commitment required by longer forms like odes or epics. Poets might choose this format to explore complex ideas in a more contained manner.

Writing Tips for 16-Line Poems

Maintaining Cohesion: Ensure that each stanza contributes to the poem’s overall theme and message.

Using Repetition: Utilize repetition effectively, as seen in the quatern, to create rhythm and reinforce themes.

Balancing Structure and Content: Strive to balance structural requirements with the thematic and emotional content of the poem.


While there is no single term for a 16-line poem, various forms such as the quatern and extended sonnet can be adapted to this length. Understanding these forms and their characteristics allows poets to experiment with structure and express their ideas within a flexible yet defined framework. By exploring different poetic styles, poets can find the best way to convey their messages and engage their readers.

FAQs about Poetic Forms and Line Counts

1. What type of poem is 16 lines?

There is no specific term that universally designates a 16-line poem. However, several poetic forms can be structured to fit 16 lines, such as the quatern and extended sonnets. A quatern consists of four quatrains (four-line stanzas) with a repeating line, while an extended sonnet adds extra lines to the traditional 14-line form.

2. What is a poem with 17 lines called?

A 17-line poem does not have a widely recognized specific name. However, certain forms or variations can fit this line count. One example is the Haiku Sequence, which consists of a series of haikus (each with 3 lines), or the Renga, a collaborative linked-verse poetry form that often starts with a haiku and continues with alternating lines by different poets.

3. What are 15 line poems called?

A poem with 15 lines does not have a specific, universally recognized term. However, there are forms that can be adapted to this length, such as a Rondeau. A rondeau typically has 15 lines, divided into three stanzas with a rhyme scheme and a repeated refrain.

4. What is an 18 line poem called?

An 18-line poem does not have a specific, well-known name, but some forms can fit this length. For example, a Sestina is a 39-line poem that can be divided into six 6-line stanzas plus a final 3-line envoi, making 18 lines if you count a combination of two stanzas.

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