By Katie Austin

Study Proccess

Ever since sixth grade, I've really liked poetry. I was in creative writing, and it was the only thing I'd write! When this project came about, I knew that I wanted to study this, and find the rules of formal poetry since I'd always done structured-free verse. I'm currently in the process of creating an instructional anthology telling how to write each style of poem I study, and then examples of each, but as there is no time to present it in 10 minutes, these are excerpts. At the beginning of this study, I had wanted to research invented poetry, but I realized it just didn't have the same romantic feel of classical poetry, so I'm not going to anymore. So far, I've research 37 types of classical poems.

History of poetry

The word poetry comes from the Greek word poesis, meaning creating or making. It is a beautiful ancient art form. In fact, that’s just what it was invented for! Poets used to just use words they thought were beautiful to hear, since it was not yet written. That’s right, it predates you and me, and even came before literacy! It was originally sung or simply even spoken.

As time passed, it was brought down through generations until written language was established. Troubadours and actors were the people most likely to teach their children poetry. With it now able to be recorded, structures became more and more complex. Today, there are thousands of styles.

During the middle ages, three main genres appeared. They were epic poetry, lyric poetry, and dramatic poetry (comedies and tragedies were considered a part of this category). A large percent of poems from this time period are about courtship and love. Many minstrels and bards discovered secular poetry and helped it spread across Europe with their work. Without these performances, it is unlikely poetry would be so widespread today.

The Romantic Era came after this. It was a large movement in the 1700’s, with the exact years of the start unknown. Folklore was suddenly very popular again, and this era encouraged individualism. Many poems from this time circle around amazement of the things in nature, idealism, passion, and interests in the supernatural. They reject logical ideas and organization of traditional writing. This time is credited with being the birth of the “tortured, melancholy writer” stereotype.

The next major time period in poetry was the Victorian Era. It was between the years of 1837-1901, the years of the reign of Queen Victoria. While this is usually associated with conformity and social repression, it was actually an important time for development of poetic ideals. The sonnet regained its popularity, which affected poets in future generations. Many female poets emerged during this time.

Modern poetry began around the beginning of the 20th century, when Thomas Hardy and Yeats became popular. Hardy was slightly more traditional, while Yeats liked trying and adapting new styles.

The subjects of most 30’s poems were violence, political issues, injustice, and war. In the 40’s, romantic post-war poet groups sprung up everywhere. This was also the dawn of regionalism in poetry. During the 50’s, there were three main categories of poets. The first was The Group. These people had weekly meetings and worked together on pieces. The second category was The Movement. They were anti-modernism and anti-internationalist. They were known for the absence of romantic elements in their work. The last and final were the Extremist Art. They were represented by Sylvia Plath. Their poetry was very controversial. In 1960-1970, many poets used hallucinatory drugs such as acid and LSD for inspiration in writing. Two examples of these people were Allen Ginsberg and Gregory Corso.

Today, poetry is still a constantly growing and changing art. It is very modern, yet holds to some of the oldest traditions. I hope you enjoy it as much as I do!


A pantoum is a much rarer form of poetry than many of these. It is Malay, from the 15th century. It is considered by many poets to be very difficult to get the lines to flow without seeming repetitive. It is composed by a series of quatrains, with no limit to how many you can have. The second and fourth lines of a stanza become the first and third lines of the next stanza. Though the lines do not change, the meaning should eventually change as the poem goes on. The structure looks like this:




And so on. The last stanza combines its own lines with the lines of the very first stanza (but only the lines which were not repeated yet).


All the Same End, Katie Austin

Our lives will tick on,

Like the monotonous turn of clockwork.

Death will come for even the Swan,

Just like everyone else in this sad little cirque.

Like the monotonous turn of clockwork

Both the pigeon and the swan will meet the end of times

Just like everyone else in this sad little cirque.

Death does not care for the beauty of your songs' chimes.

Both the pigeon and the swan will meet the end of times

Be you a songbird or be you a fowl

Death does not care for the beauty of your songs' chimes.

Death does not care if you spent your time with a smile or a scowl

Be you a songbird or be you a fowl

We'll all end up the same way.

Death does not care if you spent your time with a smile or a scowl.

We'll all meet the same grave someday.

We'll all end up the same way.

Death is not prejudiced by our beauty.

We'll all meet the same grave someday.

This I tell you truly.

Death is not prejudiced by our beauty.

Our lives will tick on

This I tell you truly:

Death will come for even the Swan.


A sonnet is a popular structure originating in the 13th century. They are often associated with Europe, especially Italy. This form follows a logical structure. It has 14 lines, as well as traditionally having an iambic pentameter, following Shakespeare's style, though it is not required. In most English and Italian sonnets, this means there are 10 syllables per line. In French sonnets, there are usually 11 per line. Some noteworthy poets who wrote sonnets are Giacomo Da Lentini (the inventor), and William Shakespeare (wrote 154 of them). The most common rhyme schemes are as follows:



Sonnet 18, William Shakespeare

Shall I compare thee to a summer's day?
Thou art more lovely and more temperate:
Rough winds do shake the darling buds of May,
And summer's lease hath all too short a date:
Sometime too hot the eye of heaven shines,
And often is his gold complexion dimm'd;
And every fair from fair sometime declines,
By chance, or nature's changing course, untrimm'd;
But thy eternal summer shall not fade
Nor lose possession of that fair thou ow'st;
Nor shall Death brag thou wander'st in his shade,
When in eternal lines to time thou grow'st;
So long as men can breathe or eyes can see,
So long lives this, and this gives life to thee.


A sestina is a strictly ordered style of poetry. Instead of a rhyme scheme, they use the same words at the end of each lines (but in differing places) in every stanza. There are six stanzas following the pattern, and then one tercet at the very end that has a different set of rules, but still has the repeated words. The patterns goes as follows (the numbers represent the different ending words):

  • First stanza: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6
  • Second stanza: 6, 1 5, 2, 4, 3
  • Third stanza: 3, 6, 4, 1, 2, 5
  • Fourth stanza: 5, 3, 2, 6, 1, 4
  • Fifth stanza: 4, 5, 1, 3, 6, 2
  • Sixth stanza: 2, 4, 6, 5, 3, 1

The last tercet is more complicated. It has words in the middle of the lines, as well as at the end. There can be other text in between these repeated words. Its pattern goes like this:

  • First line: 2, 5
  • Second line: 4, 3
  • Third line: 6, 1


Sestina d'Inverno, Anthony Hecht

Here in this bleak city of Rochester,

Where there are twenty-seven words for "snow,"

Not all of them polite, the wayward mind

Basks in some Yucatan of its own making,

Some coppery, sleek lagoon, or cinnamon island

Alive with lemon tints and burnished natives,

And O that we were there. But here the natives

Of this grey, sunless city of Rochester

Have sown whole mines of salt about their land

(Bare ruined Carthage that it is) while snow

Comes down as if The Flood were in the making.

Yet on that ocean Marvell called the mind

An ark sets forth which is itself the mind,

Bound for some pungent green, some shore whose natives

Blend coriander, cayenne, mint in making

Roasts that would gladden the Earl of Rochester

With sinfulness, and melt a polar snow.

It might be well to remember that an island

Was a blessed haven once, more than an island,

The grand, utopian dream of a noble mind.

In that kind climate the mere thought of snow

Was but a wedding cake; the youthful natives,

Unable to conceive of Rochester,

Made love, and were acrobatic in the making.

Dream as we may, there is far more to making

Do than some wistful reverie of an island,

Especially now when hope lies with the Rochester

Gas and Electric Co., which doesn't mind

Such profitable weather, while the natives

Sink, like Pompeians, under a world of snow.

The one thing indisputable here is snow,

The single verity of heaven's making,

Deeply indifferent to the dreams of the natives,

And the torn hoarding-posters of some island.

Under our igloo skies the frozen mind

Holds to one truth: it is grey, and called Rochester.

No island fantasy survives Rochester,

Where to the natives destiny is snow

That is neither to our mind nor of our making.

Copyright © 1990 by Anthony E. Hecht.


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"Sestina D'Inverno." Sestina D'Inverno. Rochester Art Drop, Sept. 2010. Web. 16 Dec. 2013. <http://artdrop.democratandchronicle.com/content/sestina-dinverno>.

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