General Considerations for Poetry Forms

I love poetry forms! They provide a gently disciplined way to force us to mold our ideas into a format. In the process, some really interesting insights can emerge. Not only do we reap the overall benefits of journaling, but we may also wind up with an original poem we really like! Who knows? We might even create an ode we can publish!

Rhyming poetry has gone through periods of time in which it was loved and hated by the literary elite. A decade or two ago, it seemed that serious poets rarely used any rhyme scheme. Now, with the popularity of rap music and spoken word artists, rhyming is popular again! In my opinion, that’s good! It’s true that racking your brain for rhyming words can result in a poem that sounds trite, but it can also be a lot of fun, and I think many of us lay poets (to distinguish us from the pros) really prefer to have our poems rhyme. And I think that among the general population, many folks have always liked for poetry to rhyme.

There are a few terms I’ll be using when describing poetry. One is that I will be listing rhyme formats by letters. This means that each successive line’s rhyme will be an a, b, c, or so on. A simple example:

My puppy is black and white

He usually wags his tail

He howls relentlessly all night

And keeps me awake without fail.

The lines in the verse above follow an abab rhyme scheme. In other words, white and night are the (a) rhymes and tail and fail are the (b) rhymes.

Another term we will use is “feet.” Each line of a poem has a number of feet. This can vary a lot from poem to poem, but some forms pay a lot of attention to how many “feet” each line has. To demonstrate what feet are, let’s look at the puppy poem again. When you read it aloud, you’ll find yourself accenting several syllables in each line, or….

my PUP-py is BLACK and WHITE

he U-sually WAGS his TAIL

he HOWLS re-LENT-lessly all NIGHT

and KEEPS me a-WAKE without FAIL.

In the example above, I have put the accented syllables in all caps. Each accented syllable is a “foot” so we see that in this simple example, each line has three feet.

A third term that comes up a lot in poetry forms is the syllable. Many poem forms count syllables. The most memorable is probably the haiku, which has lines of 5, 7, 5 syllables. Or, to take the puppy poem and make it into a haiku, we might say….

Puppy black and white

Wagging tail, howling all night….

Now I rarely sleep.

And with that crude beginning, we’re off. And by the way, don’t worry if these ideas seem new or odd. You will get used to them if you stick with me through this month of exploring the poetry forms as a vehicle to enhance our personal journaling journey.


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