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OEA English: Poem Types


A Ballad is a poem that tells a narrative story similar to a folk tale or legend which
often has a repeated refrain. Ballads are often set to music. Pop and rock
musicians today often write and record ballads.

The Cremation of Sam McGee by Robert Service


Epitaphs are poems about the dead that are written to be on a tombstone; this means they are usually very short.

Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Free at last. Free at l’ast. Thank God Almighty I’m Free at Last.


Shorter poems of intense feeling and emotion. Some are modern free verse poems and others are more “old-fashioned” poems that have rhythm and rhyme.  Types: sonnet, ode, and elegy.

Oh Caption! My Captain! by Walt Whitman


A fourteen-line lyric written in iambic pentameter. Sonnets follow a rigid rhyme scheme. Typical rhyme schemes for sonnets are the Shakespearian or English sonnet (abab cdcd  efef gg) or the Italian or Petrarchan sonnet (abba abba cdc cdc OR abba abba cde cde).

Sonnet 18: Shall I compare thee to a summer's day? by William Shakespeare


Concrete poems are written in such a way that they make a picture of the thing being written about. Concrete poetry experiments with the very materials of the poem itself: words, letters, format. The final product does what it says in that its words, letters, and format demonstrate the poem’s meaning. Concrete poems rely heavily on the visual or phonetic to get across their meaning.


These are very short, witty poems that make a pithy pronouncement about something. Usually they are written as a couplet.

As long as war is regarded as wicked, it will always have its fascination. When it is looked upon as vulgar, it will cease to be popular. Oscar Wilde


A poem that tells a story. Narratives may or may not rhyme, but they almost always follow the plot structure of a short story.

The Highwayman by Alfred Noyles


An extensive, serious poem that tells the story about a heroic figure.
The Odyssey by Homer.

Free Verse

Modern poetry that has no regular pattern of rhythm, rhyme or line length. Free verse poems experiment with words to create images for the reader.


A parody is a mockery of another piece of literature; it copies the style and voice, and sometimes language of the original for comedic effect. Parodies can exist in any genre, not just poetry.


A Found poem is created by using “found” words (words and phrases in the environment, newspaper, etc.)