Poetry is literary work, which expresses feelings and ideas with special intensity through distinctive style and rhythm. It can be thought of in terms of different genres and sub-genres based on the subject matter, style, or other broader literary characteristics.
The most famous examples include Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales and Homer’s Iliad and Odyssey. Both told stories through epic poetry. However, the term narrative poetry is more often attributed to smaller works with more appeal to human interest. Other narrative poetry is found in Scottish and English ballads and Baltic and Slavic heroic poems, which are performance poetry with roots in preliterate oral tradition. An interesting speculated point here is that the distinguishing features of poetry from prose, which include kennings and alliteration may once have been memory aids for the bards, who recited the traditional tales.
Other notable narrative poets are: Dante, William Langland, Shakespeare, Edgar Allan Poe, Alfred Tennyson and Robert Burns.
Unlike epic and dramatic poetry, lyrical poetry does not tell a story but is more personal in nature. These poems tend to be shorter, melodic and contemplative portraying the poet’s own feelings, perceptions and state of mind rather than depicting characters and actions.
This type is a major form of narrative literature. Often defined as lengthy poems regarding events of importance or heroic renown in the culture of the time. In a continuous narrative these poems recount the life and works of heroic or mythological characters. This type of poetry has become less common in the 20th century, although Derek Walcott’s epic, Omeros utilized the style.
Using satire this style of poetry can be a powerful vehicle, often written for political purposes, such as in Roman times by Juvenal or John Dryden, a Tory in England or John Wilmot in the 17th century.
The term elegy, originally denoted a type of poetic meter commonly describing a poem of mourning. Elegies are melancholy, mournful and plaintive – a lament for the dead or a funeral song, a reflection on a death or sorrow. However, they can also reflect something the author finds strange or mysterious.
Fables are an ancient literary genre often set in verse. They are succinct stories featuring anthropomorphized animals, plants, inanimate objects or even forces of nature, which illustrate a moral lesson. (See: https://mandyevebarnett.com/2018/01/08/) Verse fables use a variety of rhyme and meter patterns. The most famous fabulist is Aesop.
This poetry is drama written in verse, which can be spoken or sung and is found in many cultures, such as Greek tragedy from the 6th century B.C. It may have influenced Sanskirt drama and Indian bianwen verse dramas in China. It is also found in Persian literature.
Also known as fantastic poetry, of which macabre or weird poetry is a major sub-classification, this genre deals thematically with subjects ‘beyond reality’. Through extrapolation in science or horror fiction, commonly appearing in magazines of those genres.
The ‘father of speculative poetry’ is of course, Edgar Allan Poe, whose Eureka: A Prose Poem anticipated the Big Bang theory.
This is a hybrid genre with attributes of prose and poetry. However, it maybe indistinguishable from micro-story as some examples appear to modern readers as poetic, prose poetry originated in 19th century France. It has gained popularity since the late 1980’s with several journal’s devoted to it.
Sometimes referred to as light verse as well as light poetry, it attempts to be humorous. These poems are brief and can be either frivolous or serious subject based and often feature word play, including puns, adventurous rhyme or heavy alliteration. English light verse is usually formal incorporated in limerick, clerihew or double dactyl. Although this genre can be thought of as casual it can make a serious point in subtle or subversive ways.
Which style do you write?
Have you read any of these genres?
I read the Iliad and Odyssey in school for my ‘A’ level exam (English school) Greek and Roman Mythology course.