Other Forms and Traditions in Poetry by Shmoop


Other Forms and Traditions in Poetry, a la
Shmoop. While gazing out your bedroom window, you
just witnessed a bluebird land on a nearby tree branch, whistle a little tune, and then
fly away. It’s the most beautiful thing you’ve ever
seen. Okay, so you don’t get out much.
Nevertheless, you know you want to write a poem about your experience… …to share that moment of simple beauty with
the rest of the universe. The only question is… what type of poem
do you write? There are seemingly too many options… like
when you stop in at a 7-11 for a snack to take on your road trip. Don’t give us that look, Corn Nuts. We’re
going with the beef jerky this time. You’ve got your structured poems… …your sonnets, your villanelles, your sestinas… …but then there’s also free verse.
The structured poems are nice, because they’re a great way to nod to the tradition of the
old guard… …and when you can cohesively and effortlessly
fit your thoughts and feelings into a predetermined format… …it’s a good way to strut your stuff and
show off your mad rhyming skillz. On the other hand, you’re not sure you want
such restrictions placed on your description of that bluebird. Shouldn’t your poem be at least as footloose
and fancy free as your fine feathered friend? A villanelle might be the right fit. The 19-line form would give you plenty of
space in which to communicate what you felt when you laid eyes upon your new avian pal. Better yet… a sestina. Those puppies are
39 lines long. With that much room, you could describe to
your reader everything from the colored markings on the bluebird’s belly… …to that strange look it shot you, as if
to say, “You’re going to write a poem about me, aren’t you?”
Then again, there are no restrictions on free verse. If you wanted to, you could write 39 pages. Although, as far as we know, the only people
who’s been able to write that much about birds is the Audubon Society.
At the end of the day, it doesn’t really matter which you choose. No form is better or worse than any other. It’s all about listening to your gut…
and letting the subject matter be your guide. As a matter of fact… …you are now so intrigued by this idea of
having different ways of writing your poem… …that you decide you’re going to forget
about that stupid bluebird and write a poem about that topic instead.
Aw. Somebody’s feelings are hurt.

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