the general design or structure of a poem or literary work as a whole.
free verse (from the French term vers libre)
poetry in an open form, without rhyme and meter.
unrhymed iambic pentameter. The most common verse in Shakespeare's plays.
a group of lines whose pattern (number, meter, rhyme) recurs throughout a poem. Certain stanza forms are common in English verse: couplets (a two-line pattern of rhyme), triplets (three rhymed lines), quatrains (four-line stanzas, usually rhymed abab), ballad stanzas (four lines rhymed abcb, alternating four- and three-foot lines). The term stanza is loosely used for any group of lines set apart in a poem.
a fourteen-line poem, usually in iambic pentameter, in a fixed rhyme scheme. The sonnet originated in Italy. Early sonnets (through Shakespeare's time) were often about unrequited love.
English (Shakespearean) sonnet
a sonnet with a rhyme scheme of ababcdcdefefgg. The first twelve lines are quatrains; the last two form a couplet. A turn, or transition in the thought, usually comes at the start of line 13 or line 9.
Italian (Petrarchan) sonnet
a sonnet with a rhyme scheme of abbacddc in the octave (the first eight lines). The sestet (the last six) has a combination of two or three rhymes (e.g., cdcdcd, cddcdd, or cdecde). The turn usually comes in line 9, at the start of the sestet.
an iambic pentameter couplet, the first line ending in a light pause, the second more heavily end-stopped. Widely used in eighteenth-century poetry, heroic couplets lend themselves to witty satire and epigrammatic poetry. E.g. from John Wilmot, Earl of Rochester: Birds feed on birds, beasts on each other prey,//But savage man alone does man betray.//Pressed by necessity, they kill for food;//Man undoes man to do himself no good.
a sadly meditative poem, often expressing grief for the dead. E.g.: Walt Whitman's elegy on Abraham Lincoln, "When Lilacs Last in the Dooryard Bloom'd." Not to be confused with eulogy, a formal expression of praise, not necessarily for someone who has died.
a short poem culminating in a witty turn of thought. Usually rhymed and ironic in tone. E.g.: "Thy praise or dispraise is to me alike: / One doth not stroke me, nor the other strike" (Ben Jonson, "To Fool, or Knave"). The term is also used for a witty saying. E.g.: Oscar Wilde's definition of a cynic as "A man who knows the price of everything and the value of nothing."
a formal lyric, usually serious in tone, which expands upon a theme. Usually addressed to a subject which it praises or contemplates. Odes are an ancient Greek form which modern writers have imitated, notably eighteenth- and nineteenth-century English poets.