15 Types of Short Poetic Forms With Examples

Updated on May 14, 2019
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I am a poet. I love reading poems. You can check out my book on Amazon Store: "Piece of Mind-Everyone has an Untold Story by Centfie."

Intro to Short Poetic Forms

Short poetic forms are fun. This article will outline 15 short poetic forms and examples from classical poets. I've also squeezed in a few of my poems. You will find prompts after each poem to give you writing ideas. You may interchange the prompt for any other type of short poem. The following list is made up of poems normally confined to less than 50 lines. Thus, you can read within seconds or a few minutes. The stanzas of a long poem can consist of a number of short poems. For instance, a long poem made up of several tankas or haikus.

  1. Acrostic
  2. Rispetto
  3. Cinquain
  4. Haiku
  5. Limerick
  6. Naani
  7. Nonet
  8. Pantoum
  9. Spenserian
  10. Sonnet
  11. Tanka
  12. Triolet

Types of Short Poetic Forms Infographic

1. Acrostic poem

An acrostic poem has several variations, but the main idea is that one or two letters of every line combined spell out a word.

1. The first letters of each line spell out a word if read vertically downwards

2. The first letter of each line and the last letter make a word

Example:

Paranoid by Centfie

Precaution. Peering pessimistically through window

Afraid, fearful – what’s hatching in the shadow?

Reflex reaction. I reach for a panga for protection.

Approaching door silently and with caution

Needlessly nervous, turning knob like a robber

Overhead my protector trembles, waits to clobber

I hit with hate the head of an enemy in absentia

Discovering again that it is just paranoia!


Acrostic Poem Prompt

Think about what you are feeling right now or who you are thinking of. Write the word that comes to mind vertically. For every letter write a short phrase which describes your thoughts on the issue.

2. Rispetto Poem

Rispetto is a short poetic form of Italian origin comprising of 11 syllables per line. It has 8 lines. Rispetto uses the ababccdd rhyme scheme. However, you can apply other variations of the rhyme scheme.

Example:

Rispetto by Sara Teasdale

Was that his step that sounded on the stair?
Was that his knock I heard upon the door?
I grow so tired I almost cease to care,
And yet I would that he might come once more.

It was the wind I heard, that mocks at me,
The bitter wind that is more cruel than he;
It was the wind that knocked upon the door,
But he will never knock nor enter more.

Rispetto Poem Prompt

Find rhyming words for your rispetto poem under the theme of love.

Here are some examples to get you going: love, heart, dove, smart, key, see, view, dew with the rhyme scheme:ababccdd

3. Cinquain Poem

"Cinq" refers to the number 5 in French suggesting the properties of this type of poem. The cinquain is consists of one stanza with five lines. The first line has two syllables and so does the last line. The following lines have even number of syllables by adding 2 more syllables as you go. Therefore, the second line has 4, the third has 6 and the fourth has 8 syllables. How fun is this?

Example:

November Night by Adelaide Crapsey

Listen. .
With faint dry sound,
Like steps of passing ghosts,
The leaves, frost-crisp'd, break from the trees
And fall.

Cinquain Poem Prompt

Think of two words with two syllables each which you would like to say to someone.

One of those words is the first line, and the other is the last line. Think of three sentences to explain these words.

4. Haiku Poem

Haiku originates from Japan. It has 3 lines only. The whole poem has a total of 17 syllables. The first and last lines have 5 syllables. The second line has 7. The haiku often describes nature.

Example:

Haiku by Basho Natsuo

An old silent pond...

A frog jumps into the pond,

splash! Silence again.

Haiku Poem Prompt

Think about something in nature that you have seen recently e.g. an animal, the weather. Write two lines about it. Write a totally different line which has nothing to do with the above, like your present feeling. Fix them to attain the 17 syllables of Haiku.

5. Horatian ode Poem

The name Horatian ode was derived from the poetic style of a Latin poet called Horace. This type of short lyric poem usually depicts the themes of poetry, love and friendship in a sad tone and full of irony. It has two or four lines per stanza and doesn't have to rhyme.

Example:

Excerpt from Soracte Ode a Poem by Horace Translated by John Dryden

To-morrow and her works defy,

Lay hold upon the present hour

And snatch the pleasures passing by

to put them out of fortune's power

To-morrow and her works defy,


Nor love, nor love's delights disdain;

Whate'er thou get'st to-day, is gain.

Horatian Ode Prompt

Write about the love that went sour. Address the object of your love and provide a word of wisdom from the experience. Also, celebrate the end of the relationship.

6. Limerick Poem

The Limerick is a lovely looking poem when done right. It's an awesome short poem comprised of five lines. Limericks are good for children songs and funny music. The rhyme scheme for limericks is aabba. The lines of the Limerick poem have a regular meter consisting of two short syllables and one long syllable.

Example:

The famous children's song Hickory Dickory Dock

Hickory, dickory, dock,
The mouse ran up the clock.
The clock struck one,
And down he run,
Hickory, dickory, dock.

Limerick Poem Prompt

Have you heard or seen a funny thing recently? Convert the funny thing into a poem of five lines by using your own words.

7. Naani Poem

The Naani poem has its roots in India. It's a modern day type of poem. It has four lines only. The entire poem can have 20-25 syllables. there is no restriction concerning the theme of the poem.

Example:

A Naani poem by Bolimuntha venkata Ramana Rao

Nectation of pen

On the white paper

Lattice

A poem

Naani Poem Prompt

Scroll through your messages and find four awesome phrases, then paraphrase them to sound poetic. Remember, it should have less than 25 syllables, but not less than 20.

8. Nonet Poem

The nonet is an awesome 9-line poem whose syllables trickle down in descending order until they are done. The first line has nine syllables and the last line has one.

Example:

Kicked from the Inside by Centfie

Amazing; you growing inside me

Adventures end others begin

Flutters and tummy movements

Responding to my touch

Kicked from the inside

Alive and kicking

You are a

Marvel

Babe

Nonet Poem Prompt

Write a sentence with 9 syllables to define a one-syllable word, which is the last line of your poem. Form middle sentences to define or describe the word using shorter phrases.

9. Ottava Rima Poetic Form

Ottava rima is a short Italian poetic form applied with a stanza of 8 lines with 11 syllables each. It was used to tell stories about heroic deeds or used in religious and drama songs. Over the years many variations have cropped up which use 10 syllables instead of 11. The Ottava rima can form a long verse where each stanza applies this form.

Excerpt from Orlando Furioso Canto 1 Poem by Ludovico Ariosto

ARGUMENT
Angelica, whom pressing danger frights,
Flies in disorder through the greenwood shade.
Rinaldo's horse escapes: he, following, fights
Ferrau, the Spaniard, in a forest glade.
A second oath the haughty paynim plights,
And keeps it better than the first he made.
King Sacripant regains his long-lost treasure;
But good Rinaldo mars his promised pleasure.

Ottava rima Poem Prompt

Who do you admire? Write a poem about heroic acts that this person has done and explain the lessons learnt.

10. Pantoum Poem

The pantoum poetic form originates from Malaysia. It comprises of quatrains (4-line stanzas.) It has a series of repetitive lines with a regular rhyme scheme. The first is abab followed by bcbc and so on. The second line is the first line of the next stanza. The fourth line is the third line of the following stanza. The first line of the poem is the last line of the last quatrain. Pantoums have no length limit but are usually short given how keenly the poet needs to write the repetitive sentences while maintaining the flow.

Example:

Excerpt from the poem entitled Pantoum by John Ashbery

(Note: quoted here are the first two stanzas and the last two, the poem has 8 quatrains)

Eyes shining without mystery,
Footprints eager for the past
Through the vague snow of many clay pipes,
And what is in store?

Footprints eager for the past
The usual obtuse blanket.
And what is in store
For those dearest to the king?

......

Why the court, trapped in a silver storm, is dying
Some blunt pretense to safety we have
And that soon gotten over
For they must have motion.

Some blunt pretense to safety we have
Eyes shining without mystery,
For they must have motion
Through the vague snow of many clay pipes.

Pantoum Poem Prompt

You need the first line, the second line and the last line and you already have some stanzas, therefore, thinks of something that's been on your mind a lot lately and write three sentences to define or analyze it. the rhymes and other lines will follow once you get the major theme of the poem.

11. Sonnet Poetic Form

The Sonnet has roots in Italy. It has 14 lines, a regular rhyme scheme and iambic metres of 5 foot. We can't say "Sonnet" without thinking about Shakespeare. He made the Sonnet poetic form his trademark by using it in dramatic dialogues found in most of his literary works.

Example:

Sonnet Liii What is Your Substance, Whereof are You Made by William Shakespeare

What is your substance, whereof are you made,
That millions of strange shadows on you tend?
Since everyone hath, everyone, one shade,
And you, but one, can every shadow lend.
Describe Adonis, and the counterfeit
Is poorly imitated after you;
On Helen's cheek all art of beauty set,
And you in Grecian tires are painted new.
Speak of the spring and foison of the year,
The one doth shadow of your beauty show,
The other as your bounty doth appear;
And you in every blessed shape we know.
In all external grace you have some part,
But you like none, none you, for constant heart.

Sonnet Poem Prompt

Write an answer to one of Shakepeare's sonnets. Start with the one used in the example above. What is Your Substance? What are you made of? Then, the last two lines give a twist contrary to the previous 12.

12. Spenserian Poetic Form

The Spenserian was invented by Edmund Spenser while writing epics. A Spenserian stanza can be read as a standalone poem. It has a rhyme scheme of ababbcbcc. The first 8 lines give a story and the last line concludes it. Check out an example from Spenser himself.

Example:

Excerpt from The Faire Queen by Edmund Spenser

So pure an innocent, as that same lambe,
She was in life and every vertuous lore,
And by descent from Royall lynage came
Of ancient Kings and Queenes, that had of yore
Their scepters stretcht from East to Westerne shore,
And all the world in their subjection held;
Till that infernall feend with foule uprore
Forwasted all their land, and them expeld:
Whom to avenge, she had this Knight from far compeld.

Spenserian Poem Prompt

Every day (starting today) write one or two sentences to summarize an observation of someone's good qualities. In eight days or so, you'll have your Spenserian stanza.

13. Tanka Poetic Form

The Tanka is a trite 31-syllable poem originating from Japan. The five lines of the poem can read as one single line in traditional forms. the syllable count is spread as follows: 5/7/5/7/7. It's awesome for children songs.

Example:

Yearning for the Emperor Tenji by Princess Nukata

While, waiting for you,
My heart is filled with longing,
The autumn wind blows— 
As if it were you— 
Swaying the bamboo blinds of my door.

Tanka Poem Prompt

Which is the longest SMS you have ever sent to someone? A straight-from-the-heart message, not forwarded or copy-pasted, but your own word. Make it read as one continuos sentence. Separate it into 5 lines and continue from there.

14. Triolet Poetic Form

The triolet is a short poetic form with eight lines and constant repetitive rhymes. This short poem originates from France. The poet repeats the first line in line 4 and 7. Then, line 2 is the same as line 8. The end words of the first and second line are therefore repeated making it easy to complete the rhyme scheme. The other lines have to rhyme with these words.

Example:

How Great My Grief by Thomas Hardy

How great my grief, my joys how few,
Since first it was my fate to know thee!
Have the slow years not brought to view
How great my grief, my joys how few,
Nor memory shaped old times anew,
Nor loving-kindness helped to show thee
How great my grief, my joys how few,
Since first it was my fate to know thee?

Triolet Poem Prompt

Which two words can you use to describe your life right now, at this very moment? Now make them the basis of your poem. Answer the why, how, when and what involved in the current situation of your life.

15. Villanelle Poetic Form

The Villanelle is a short poetic form with origins in Italy, from the word "Villano" a meaning "peasant." Traditional themes focused on obsessions, love and heroics. It's a 19-line poem of which the first fifteen comprise of 5 tercets. (A tercet is a three-line stanza or poem e.g the haiku.) The last stanza has four lines. It has repetitive lines and rhymes whereby the first and third line of the first tercet are repeated in turns until the last stanza. Therefore, the rhyme scheme is abaabaabaabaabaabaa. It's no surprise that a well-written Villanelle is musical.

Example:

If I Could Tell You by W.H. Auden

Time will say nothing but I told you so,
Time only knows the price we have to pay;
If I could tell you I would let you know.

If we should weep when clowns put on their show,
If we should stumble when musicians play,
Time will say nothing but I told you so.

There are no fortunes to be told, although,
Because I love you more than I can say,
If I could tell you I would let you know.

The winds must come from somewhere when they blow,
There must be reasons why the leaves decay;
Time will say nothing but I told you so.

Perhaps the roses really want to grow,
The vision seriously intends to stay;
If I could tell you I would let you know.

Suppose the lions all get up and go,
And all the brooks and soldiers run away;
Will Time say nothing but I told you so?
If I could tell you I would let you know.


Villanelle Poem Prompt

What's your greatest obsession, addiction or love? Think about two lines to define this obsession, those will form your refrain. From there, you can fill in the other lines.

These are 15 short forms which have already been invented. There are more out there. Some of them were created centuries ago. How about this? Create your short poetic form and then name it and share it with me below. Also, share other interesting types of short poems which are not included in this list.

Questions & Answers

    © 2019 Centfie

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