Types of Poems

Here you'll find explanations of different types of poems, with ideas and prompts to try them yourself! To learn more writing techniques, be sure to join our free email group.

Types of poems - how to write an acrostic poem

An acrostic poem is one where the first letters of the lines spell out a word or words if you read them vertically. For example, here is an acrostic poem by Edgar Allan Poe. You can see that if you read the first letters of the lines from top to bottom, they spell out the name "Elizabeth."

Elizabeth it is in vain you say
"Love not" — thou sayest it in so sweet a way:
In vain those words from thee or L. E. L.
Zantippe's talents had enforced so well:
Ah! if that language from thy heart arise,
Breathe it less gently forth — and veil thine eyes.
Endymion, recollect, when Luna tried
To cure his love — was cured of all beside —
His folly — pride — and passion — for he died.

Try it! Write your own acrostic poem.

Choose a word to be your poem's topic, and write it vertically, from top to bottom. Then turn each letter into a line of poetry about that topic.


  • Write an acrostic using your first name or the first name of someone you love.

  • Write an acrostic about your town or city, with the lines spelling out its name.

  • Write an acrostic about spring, summer, autumn, or winter, with the lines spelling out the name of the season.

Types of poems - how to write blank verse

Blank verse is unrhymed poetry written in a regular meter, usually iambic pentameter. Iambic pentameter is a rhythm that sounds like: bah-BAH bah-BAH bah-BAH bah-BAH bah-BAH.

An iamb is a rhythmic unit made of an unstressed syllable followed by a stressed one. An iamb has the rhythm bah-BAH, as in the words "forget," or "begin." Iambic pentameter is a line of poetry that consists of five iambs.

Here are examples of two sentences written in iambic pentameter:

  • Forget the car, I'll take the train to work.

  • At school today, he caught a nasty cold.

Do you hear the rhythm? bah-BAH bah-BAH bah-BAH bah-BAH bah-BAH.

Much of Shakespeare's dramatic work is written in blank verse. Here's an example, taken from Hamlet. (You will see that Shakespeare's use of iambic pentameter is not mechanical—he varies the rhythm for effect).

Good now, sit down, and tell me, he that knows,
Why this same strict and most observant watch
So nightly toils the subject of the land,
And why such daily cast of brazen cannon,
And foreign mart for implements of war;
Why such impress of shipwrights, whose sore task
Does not divide the Sunday from the week;
What might be toward, that this sweaty haste
Doth make the night joint-labourer with the day:
Who is't that can inform me?

Try it! Write your own blank verse.

Below are some lines written in iambic pentameter that you can use in your own poem, if you want, to start you off or give you ideas.

  • Last night I had a dream about a girl

  • Before today I didn't know your name

  • The leaves were dark against the glowing sky

  • My mother always lied about her age

Types of poems - how to write a sestina

A sestina is a poem with 39 lines. The final words of the first six lines are repeated in the other lines, in a specific pattern. You can read a famous example of a sestina here.

Sestinas can be very haunting to read. The same words keep coming back like echoes. And they are a lot of fun to write, like working out a puzzle.

An easy way to write your own sestina is to use this Sestina-Planning Tool.

Try it! Write your own sestina.

Here are some prompts you can use to give you ideas for your sestina.

1) What is a vivid memory that keeps replaying over and over in your mind? Choose six words that capture the sights, smells, and feelings of that memory. Use them as the six end-words for your poem. In your poem, you might describe the memory and some of the different moments when it has suddenly come back to you.

2) What's your favorite time of year? Make a list of words you strongly associate with that season, and use this list to get ideas for your poem and your six end-words. Then write a sestina about the season.

Tips for choosing your end-words:

- Try to choose words that are related to your poem topic in some way or that help to create a certain mood.

- You will be using these words a lot. So try to choose words that are easy to use in different types of sentences.

- Once you start writing, you might decide to change your end-words. No problem! Just remember to apply the changes everywhere in the poem in order to maintain the pattern.

More types of poems

How to write a sonnet

How to write a limerick

How to write narrative poetry

How to write found poetry

How to write a ballad

How to write haiku