Glossary of Poetry Terms


Ballad Stanza

A quatrain that rhymes abab or xaxa. The first and third lines usually have eight syllables and are written in iambic tetrameter. The second and fourth lines usually have six syllables and are written in iambic trimeter. The ballad stanza is shown schematically below, where u is an unstressed syllable, and S is a stressed syllable.

uSuSuSuS
uSuSuS
uSuSuSuS
uSuSuS


Ballade

The ballade (pronounced buh-LODD) is a form of poetry from medieval and Renaissance France. The poem or song was traditionally addressed to a prince or ruler. There are only three rhyme sounds in the poem and the rhyme scheme is ababbcbC ababbcbC ababbcbC bcbC, where C represents a repeated line (refrain). The first three stanzas have eight lines. The last stanza is a quatrain and it is the envoy. The envoy names the person the ballade is addressed to (usually a prince) and concludes the poem.


Blank Verse

Poetry that has a specific meter but no planned rhymes.


Blues Sonnet

A sonnet of fourteen lines, written in iambic pentameter. It contains four triplets and one concluding couplet. The rhyme scheme is AAa BBb CCc DDd ee, where the capital letters are repeated lines (refrains) that can vary a bit.


Cinquain

A poem or stanza containing five lines.


Couplet

Two lines of poetry, especially two lines that rhyme and contain the same number of syllables.


Cross Rhyme

A rhyme scheme in which the rhyming lines alternate, as in a quatrain with the rhyme scheme abab.


Crybin Sonnet

A variant of the Petrarchan sonnet that rhymes abba cddc efg efg.


Envelope Rhyme

A rhyme scheme in which a couplet is contained within two other rhyming lines: abba.


Haiku

A Japanese three-line form that has 5, 7, and 5 syllables per line. It is often about nature.


Iamb

A poetic foot of one unstressed syllable followed by one stressed syllable: uS.


Iambic Pentameter

A line of verse with five iambs: uSuSuSuSuS, where u represents an unstressed syllable, and S represents a stressed syllable.


Iambic Tetrameter

A line of verse with four iambs: uSuSuSuS, where u represents an unstressed syllable and S represents a stressed syllable.


Iambic Trimeter

A line of verse with three iambs: uSuSuS, where u represents an unstressed syllable, and S represents a stressed syllable.


Limerick

The limerick rhymes aabba, and the “a” lines are usually in anapestic trimeter, while the “b” lines are in anapestic dimeter. The following shows a schematic of a limerick, where S represents a stressed syllable, and u represents an unstressed syllable.

uuSuuSuuS
uuSuuSuuS
uuSuuS
uuSuuS
uuSuuSuuS


Monorhyme

The repetition of the same rhyme sound, throughout a stanza or an entire poem.


Pantoum

A Malay form consisting of linked quatrains. The second and fourth lines of one stanza become the first and third lines of the following stanza. The first and third lines of the first stanza are the second and fourth lines of the final stanza. A four-stanza poem would have this rhyme scheme: abab bcbc cdcd dada.


Parallel Sonnet

A form of poetry invented by Alan Steinle. It contains three four-line stanzas, followed by a triplet that rhymes aaa. The first line of the triplet summarizes or restates the idea of the first stanza, the second line summarizes the second stanza, and the third line summarizes the third stanza. The first three stanzas should express distinct yet related ideas. The three ideas can be related by the thesis-antithesis-synthesis structure, the first two stanzas can be corrected by the third stanza, or another way of relating the ideas can be used. Any rhyme scheme can be used for the first three stanzas. A parallel sonnet with cross rhymes would look like a Shakespearean sonnet, with the addition of one line: abab cdcd efef ggg. A parallel sonnet with envelope rhymes would look like this: abba cddc effe ggg.


Petrarchan Sonnet

An Italian sonnet that rhymes abba abba cde cde or abba abba cdc dcd.


Pindaric Ode

In The Ode Less Traveled, Stephen Fry outlines the Pindaric ode in this way: “the strophe states a theme, addresses a hero, king, muse, athlete, God or other such thing and praises them, celebrating their virtues and importance… ; the antistrophe can express doubt, another point of view, or some countervailing theme. The epode then tries to unite the two ideas, or comes down in favor of one view or the other. It is thesis, antithesis and synthesis to some extent, a dialectical structure. It derives actually from a Greek choric form in which the dancers would literally turn one way and then the other.”


Quatrain

A poem or stanza containing four lines. They may rhyme as abab, abba, or abcb.


Rhupunt

A Welsh form that has stanzas of three, four, or five lines. The last lines of the stanzas rhyme with each other. The rhyme scheme is aab ccb etc, or aaab cccb etc., or aaaab ccccb, etc. There are only four syllables per line.


Rondeau

A French form that includes variations from ten to fifteen lines. The form uses, as a non-rhyming refrain, the phrase that starts the first line of the poem. A common rhyme scheme is aabba aabR aabbaR, where R represents a refrain taken from the beginning of the first line.


Rondel

A French form with this rhyme scheme: ABba abAB abbaA(B), where A and B are repeated lines (refrains) and the last line (B) is optional.


Sestet

A poem or stanza containing six lines. Usually, it designates the last six lines of a Petrarchan sonnet.


Shakespearean Sonnet

A fourteen-line sonnet written in iambic pentameter, with the rhyme scheme abab cdcd efef gg, and usually containing a volta.


Sonnet

A form of poetry that originated in Italy and that usually contains fourteen lines. “Sonnet” means “little song” in Italian. The sonnet’s lines are usually written in hendecasyllables (eleven syllables) in Italian and Spanish and in iambic pentameter in English. Types of sonnets include the Petrarchan sonnet, the Crybin sonnet, the Shakespearean sonnet, the blues sonnet, and the parallel sonnet.


Stanza

A group of lines in a poem that stands apart from the rest of the poem.


Tanka

A haiku with two additional lines. The number of syllables per line is this: 5-7-5-7-7.


Tercet

A stanza containing three lines.


Trianglet Poem

A form of poetry in the form of two mirrored triangles. The number of syllables per line is 1-2-3-4-5-5-4-3-2-1. The rhyme scheme is AbcxddxcbA, where the x lines don’t have to rhyme and the A lines are the same one-syllable word.


Triolet

A French form with this rhyme scheme: ABaAabAB, where A and B are repeated lines (refrains).


Triplet

A stanza or poem containing three lines. Usually, it rhymes aaa.


Villanelle

A form of poetry that contains six stanzas: five tercets and one quatrain. The rhyme scheme is A1bA2 abA1 abA2 abA1 abA2 abA1A2, where A1 and A2 are refrains (repeated lines) that rhyme with each other and with a.


Volta

A change or turn in the direction of the ideas of a poem.


Zeno Poem

A ten-line poem with the rhyme scheme abcd efd ghd and the following number of syllables per line: 8-4-2-1-4-2-1-4-2-1