The Elements of Poetry Part 3: Form

For week three of National Poetry Month, April, I will continue my brief introductions to the four elements of poetry. These four elements are Prosody, Rhyme, Form, and Diction. The third in the four-part series I will discuss on the elements of poetry is Form. Form is one of the things that distinguishes poetry from prose. The structural elements of form include the line, the stanza, and larger combinations such as cantos. These structural elements combine into larger structures of poetic forms like sonnets or haikus.

The most common form in contemporary poetry is free verse. There is no set rhythm, rhyme, or pattern to the poem. One could say it is free of all structure. Blank verse has no rhyme but its rhythm is in iambic pentameter. Other forms include sestinas, villanelles, and terza rima. Many forms have specific rhythms, rhyme schemes, and refrains making the different forms unique. Structured poetic forms are less frequent in contemporary poetry.

Visual presentation is also an important characteristic of poetic form. Deciding where to place words, lines, or groups of lines on the page can add further effect to the poem and its meaning. For example, a poem about losing control may have words and lines move around the page in a spiral. Choosing whether to align the words to the left, center, right, or combination of all three on the page is another stylistic choice. A structured form or visual creative positioning of words is not required to write poetry. I will always encourage writers to play around with different ideas when writing poetry. Poetry provides more freedom of expression than prose.

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