Poem Definition

A poem is a collection of spoken or written words that expresses ideas or emotions in a powerfully vivid and imaginative style, comprising of a particular rhythmic and metrical pattern. In fact, it is a literary technique, which is different from prose or ordinary speech, as it is either in metrical pattern or in free verse. Writers or poets express their emotions through this medium more easily, as they face difficulty when expressing through some other medium. It serves the purpose of a light to take the readers towards the right path. Also, sometimes it teaches them a moral lesson through sugar-coated language.

Types of Poem

Poem has many types, the most popular include:

  • Haiku – It is a type of Japanese poem, consisting of three unrhymed lines with mostly five, seven and five syllables in each line.
  • Free Verse – It consists of non-rhyming lines, without any metrical pattern, but follows a natural rhythm.
  • Epic – It is a form of poem, often written in blank verse, lengthy in size in which poet shows protagonist in action of historical significance or great mythic.
  • Ballad – It is a type of narrative poem narrates a story, often talks about folk or legendary tales. It may take a form of moral lesson or a song.
  • Sonnet – It is a form of lyrical poem containing fourteen lines with iambic pentameter and tone or mood changes after eighth line.
  • Elegy – A melancholic poem in which poet laments the death of a subject, however, consoles towards the end is called elegy.
  • Epitaph – A small poem used as an inscription on tombstone of dead person.
  • Hymn – This type of a poem praises spirituality or God’s splendor.
  • Limerick – This is a type of humorous poem with five anapestic lines in which first, second and fifth lines have three feet and third and fourth have two feet with a strict rhyme scheme of aabba.
  • Villanelle – It is a French styled poem with nineteen lines contains three-line stanza with five tercets and final quatrain. It uses refrain at first and third lines of each stanza.

Examples of Poems in Literature

Example 1

Haiku Poem:

While you decline to cry,
high on the mountainside
a single stalk of plume grass wilts.

(While you Decline to Cry by O no Yasumaro)

Look at this poem. It contains three lines, which show a typical structure of a haiku poem. It does not follow any formal rhyme scheme or proper rhythmical pattern.

Example 2

Epic Poem:

By the shore of Gitchie Gumee,
By the shining Big-Sea-Water,
At the doorway of his wigwam,
In the pleasant Summer morning,
Hiawatha stood and waited…

(The Song of Hiawatha by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow)

These are few lines from, The Song of Hiawatha, a classic epic poem that presents Indian legend of a loving, brave, patriotic and stoic hero, but bears resemblance to Greek myths of Homer. Longfellow tells sorrows and triumphs of the Indian tribes in details in this lengthy poem. Therefore, this is a fine example of a modern epic though other epics are Paradise Lost by John Milton and Iliad by Homer.

Example 3

Free Verse Poem:

After the Sea-Ship—after the whistling winds;
After the white-gray sails, taut to their spars and ropes,
Below, a myriad, myriad waves, hastening, lifting up their necks,
Tending in ceaseless flow toward the track of the ship:
Waves of the ocean, bubbling and gurgling, blithely prying,

(After the Sea-Ship by Walt Whitman)

This poem neither has rhyming lines, nor does it adhere to a particular metrical plan. Hence, it is free of artificial expression. It has rhythm and a variety of rhetorical devices used for sounds such as assonance and consonance.

Example 4


O what can ail thee, knight-at-arms,
Alone and palely loitering?
The sedge has wither’d from the lake,
And no birds sing…

And this is why I sojourn here
Alone and palely loitering,
Though the sedge is wither’d from the lake,
And no birds sing.

(La Belle Dame sans Merci by John Keats)

This poem presents a perfect example of a ballad—a folk style poem that typically narrates a love story. The language of this poem is simple. It contains twelve stanzas with four quatrains and rhyme scheme of abcb.

Function of Poem

The main function of a poem is to convey an idea or emotion in beautiful language. It paints the picture a poet feels about a thing, person, idea, concept or even an object. Poets grab the attention of the audience through the use of vivid imagery, emotional shades, figurative language and other rhetorical devices. However, the supreme function of a poem is to find out a method through which poets transform imagery and words into verse form to touch the hearts and minds of the readers. They can easily arouse the sentiments of their readers through versification. In addition, poets evoke imaginative awareness about things by using a specific diction, sound and rhythm.

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