Poetry Glossary

For other examples of these poetry forms, see Harps Unhung.

The information below comes from Harps Unhung and Poets Collective.

Poetry Terms

iambic – an iamb is an unstressed syllable followed by a stressed syllable; an iamb is a kind of poetic foot

trochaic – a trochee is a stressed syllable followed by an unstressed syllable; a trochee is a kind of poetic foot

meter – the number of poetic feet per line; e.g., iambic pentameter means five iambs per line (5 sets of unstressed-stressed syllables per line)

dactyl – a long syllable followed by two short syllables

anapest – two short syllables followed by a long one (or two unstressed syllables followed by a stressed syllable)

Poetry Forms


Any number of 8-line stanzas
Sprung rhythm: Lines 1,3,5,7 are pentameter; Lines 2,6 are tetrameter, Lines 4, 8 are trimeter
Interlocking rhyme: abac dbdc (efeg hfhg …)
Lines 4 and 8 are feminine rhyme (each has seven syllables, but the penultimate is stressed)

Abercrombie at M+T



Variation of the acrostic
The first word of each line reads as a single phrase or sentence
No specified meter or rhyme

Adagem at M+T


Ae Freslighe

Irish form (pronounced ay FRESH lee)
Any number of four-line stanzas
Lines 1, 3 end with a three-syllable word
Lines 2, 4 end with a two-syllable word
The first and last words of the poem are the same
Every line has seven syllables
Rhymed abab

Ae Freslighe at M+T



Three five-line stanzas
Rhymed abaab cdcdc effef

Alexandrine at M+T



10 lines
Tetrameter line + couplet, ends with tetrameter OR
Tetrameter line + triplet (Harps Unhung)
Rhymed abbaccdeed

Amphion at M+T


Arkaham Ballad

Any number of five-line stanzas
Lines 1, 3, 4: iambic tetrameter
Lines 2, 5: iambic trimeter
Rhymed: xabba xcddc xeffe (x = unrhymed)
Line 5 is repeated as the first three metric feet of the next stanza

Arkaham Ballad at M+T



Even number of five-line stanzas
Lines 1-4: trimeter
Line 5: hexameter
ababc dedec fgfgh ijijh …
Lines 1-4 are indented 9 spaces

Arnold at M+T


Byr a Thoddaid

Welsh form (pronounced bur uh TETH-aith)
Any number of four-line stanzas
Lines 1 and 2 rhyme.
The tenth syllable of Line 3 links to the sixth syllable of Line 4 by alliteration, assonance, or secondary rhyme.
The last syllable of Line 4 links back to the seventh, eighth, or ninth syllable of Line 3 by alliteration, assonance, or secondary rhyme

Byr a Thoddaid at M+T



Alternating iambic pentameter and iambic dimeter lines
The end declamatory couplet is iambic pentameter
Rhymed xaxa xbxb xcxc … dd (x = unrhymed)

Cavatina at M+T



Any number of quatrains
Iambic meter
* This is a form I developed.

Crescendo at M+T


Cyhydedd hir

Welsh form (pronounced cuh-HEE-ded heer)
Multiple possible forms:

  1. Any number of single lines made up of 19 syllables divided into 3 rhymed 5-syllable phrases and ending in a 4-syllable phrase carrying a linking rhyme to the next line:x x x x a x x x x a x x x x a x x x b
  2. A couplet of a 10-syllable line and a 9-syllable line; the fifth and tenth syllables of the 10-syllable line are echoed in rhyme mid-line of the 9-syllable line, which also carries a linking end-rhyme to be echoed in the end syllable of each succeeding couplet or stanza:x x x x a x x x x a
    x x x x a x x x b
  3. The couplet can be separated at the rhyme into tercets:x x x x a
    x x x x a
    x x x x a x x x b

    x x x x c
    x x x x c
    x x x x c x x x b

  4. The couplet can be separated at the rhyme into quatrains:x x x x a
    x x x x a
    x x x x a
    x x x b

    x x x x c
    x x x x c
    x x x x c
    x x x b



One 15-line stanza
Lines are centered on the page, giving a diamond shape
Rhymed abbcbccaccbcbba

Diatelle at M+T


Dickson Nocturne

One 12-line stanza
Lines 3, 7, 12 are the same
Rhymed aaBcccBddbdB

Dickson Nocture at M+T



Iambic pentameter (or hexameter, as in Harps Unhung)
Rhymed abcddcbab
The last three iambs of Line 2 are repeated as Line 9

Dionol at M+T



One 12-line stanza
Lines 1-4: alternating rhyme, iambic pentameter
Lines 5-8: “short and snappy free verse”
Lines 9-12: blank verse (unrhymed iambic pentameter)
Line 1 = Line 12

Dorsimbra at M+T


Dr. Stella

Any number of 8-line stanzas
Lines 2 and 6 end with feminine rhymes (trochaic, not iambic feet)
Rhymed abcdabcd

Dr. Stella at M+T



Any number of 7-line stanzas
Line 6 introduces a shift in thought that complements or strengthens Lines 1-5
Rhymed abcdcba

Line 1: dactyl, 2 trochees, iamb
Line 2: three iambs
Line 3: trochee, anapest, iamb
Line 4: three iambs
Line 5: three iambs
Line 6: four iambs
Line 7: iamb, anapest, iamb

Duni at M+T



4-6-5-5-5-10-10 or 4-6-5-5-5-10-1
Rhymed Axxxxxb Axxxxxb (A is a refrain)

Duodora at M+T


Elder Edda (fornyrðislag)

The Old English line was composed of two opposed word-groups or ‘halves’.

Each half was an example, or variation, of one of six basic patterns. The patterns were made of strong and weak elements, which may be called ‘lifts’ and ‘dips’. The standard lift was a long stressed syllable, (usually with a relatively high tone). The standard dip was an unstressed syllable, long or short, with a low tone.

The following are examples in modern English of normal forms of the six patterns:

A         falling – falling           kníghts in | ármour

4     1    4     1

B          rising – rising              the róar | ing séa

1      4      1     4

C          clashing                       on hígh | móuntains

1     4        4/3    1

D         a falling by stages       bríght | árchàngels

4      3     2    1

    b broken fall                bóld | brázenfàced

                                       4      3    1    2

E          fall and rise                 híghcrèsted | hélms

4        2   1       3

A, B, C have equal feet, each containing a lift and dip. D and E have unequal feet: one consists of a single lift, the other has a subordinate stress (marked `) inserted. (Tolkien, The Legend of Sigurd and Gudrún, p. 46).

“ ‘The norm of the strophe (for fornyrðislag),’ [Tolkien] said, ‘is four lines (eight half-lines) with a complete pause at the end, and also a pause (not necessarily so marked) at the end of the fourth half-line’ ” (Tolkien, The Legend of Sigurd and Gudrún, p. 48).

“One full lift in each half-line must alliterate. The ‘key alliteration’ was borne by the first lift in the second half… With the head-stave the stronger lift in the first half-line must alliterate, and both lifts may do so. In the second half-line the second lift must not alliterate” (Tolkien, The Legend of Sigurd and Gudrún, p. 49).

Alliteration refers to sounds, not letters; all vowels alliterate with one another.

Elder Edda at M+T
(See also Wulfkien)


Empat Empat

Malaysian form
Four 4-line stanzas
Stanza 1 Line 1 = Stanza 2 Line 2 = Stanza 3 Line 3 = Stanza 4 Line 4
Rhymed (per Harps Unhung): Abab cAca adAd eaeA

Empat Empat at M+T



One 10-line stanza that increases one syllable per line (Line 1 = 1 syllable, Line 2 = 2 syllables, etc.)
The last word should not be a preposition or conjunction
No rhyme scheme

Etheree at M+T



Muslim form
Pronounced “guzzle”
Any number of two-line stanzas (minimum of 5, typically no more than 15)
Each couplet ends on the same word or phrase (the radif), and is preceded by the couplet’s rhyming word (the qafia), which appears twice in the first couplet
The last couplet includes a proper name, often the poet’s.
In the Persian tradition, each couplet was of the same meter and length.

Ghazal at M+T



One 12-line stanza
Line 1 = Line 12
Line 2 = Line 11

Hexaduad at M+T



Type of Waka (the shortest type of waka; half of a sedōka)
3-line stanza

Katauta at M+T



Thai form
Three 4-line stanzas
Space between Syllables 5 and 6 on each line
Line 1 Syllable 5 rhymes with Line 2 Syllable 7 and Line 4 Syllable 5.
Lines 2,3 Syllable 5 rhyme with Line 1 Syllable 7
Lines 3-4 end rhyme.

Kloang at M+T



Two 6-line stanzas
Rhymed aabccb ddeffe

Logolilt at M+T


Luc Bat

Vietnamese form
Alternating lines of six and eight syllables

x x x x x a
x x x x x a x b
x x x x x b
x x x x x b x c
x x x x x c
x x x x x c x d …

No set length
The final even-numbered line links back to rhyme with the first line.
The first and last words of the poem should be the same.

Luc Bat at M+T



Persian form
Any number of 11-syllable couplets (occasionally 10)
Each couplet is end-rhymed (aa bb cc dd ..)

Mathnawi at M+T


Monchielle Stanza

Four 5-line stanzas
6 syllables per line
Line 1 is the same for all stanzas
Rhymed xxaxa

Monchielle Stanza at M+T



One 8-line stanza
No falling end words

Octodil at M+T



A series of quatrains (rhymed abab)
Lines 2 and 4 of a quatrain recur as Lines 1 and 3 of the succeeding quatrain
Each new quatrain introduces a new rhyme scheme (i.e., abab bcbc cdcd …)
The final stanza:

Lines 1 and 3 = Lines 2 and 4 of previous stanza
Line 2 = Line 3 of first stanza
Line 4 = Line 1 of first stanza

Pantoum at M+T



One 7-line stanza
The title and first word of each line start with the same letter
No set meter, syllable count, or rhyme scheme required

Pleiades at M+T


Retruecano (Glosa)

Any number of stanzas, beginning with a texto
The texto should summarize the theme of the poem; the number of lines in the texto = number of stanzas
Texto Line 1 = final line of Stanza 1; Texto Line 2 = final line of Stanza 2, etc.
Stanzas can be any number of lines, usually multiples of 2
Rhymed aabbcc

Retruecano (Glosa) at M+T



Typically 8 syllables per line
ABba abAB abbaA
A and B are repeated lines

Rondel at M+T


Rondel Grande

ababR cdcdR
8-8-8-8-6 per stanza

Rondel Grande at M+T



3 alternating rhyme quatrains
Lines 1-3: iambic pentameter
Line 4: iambic trimeter

Russell at M+T


Sacred Signia

One 10-line stanza
Lines 1, 3, 5, 7-10: iambic pentameter
Lines 2, 4, 6: iambic dimeter
Rhymed ababcbccaa

Sacred Signia at M+T



Usually 8 syllables per line; variations include iambic and trochaic pentameter

Saraband at M+T



Type of Waka (2 katauta)
6-line stanza
Frequently a “dialogue” poem

Sedōka at M+T



Iambic tetrameter
Rhymed aabbbCC ddeeeCC … CC

Sevenelle at M+T


Spenserian Stanza

Any number of 9-line stanzas
Lines 1-8: iambic pentameter
Line 9: iambic hexameter
Rhymed ababbcbcc

Spenserian Stanza at M+T



Two 6-line stanzas
Rhymed xxaxxa

Sweetbriar at M+T



Ancient Japanese form
Type of Waka
31 syllables (5-7-5-7-7)
tanka = “short song”

Tanka at M+T



Any number of cinquains
Lines 1-4 are iambic pentameter; Line 5 is iambic dimeter
Rhymed abbaC deedC fggfC …
Line 5 is a refrain for each cinquain

Tennyson at M+T


Terza Rima

Any number of 3-line stanzas
Each line has 11 syllables
Iambic pentameter optional
Chained rhyme: aba bcb ded d or aba bcb ded dd
Possible endings:

  • final line rhyming with middle line of previous stanza
  • final pair of lines, both rhyming with the middle line of the previous stanza
  • final tercet, using the same rhymes as the previous stanza but transposed

Dante’s Divine Comedy is written entirely in Terza Rima

Terza Rima at M+T


Than Bauk

Asian form
Any number of 3-line stanzas
Each line has four syllables
“Staircase” rhyme scheme:

The last word in Line 1 rhymes with a word in the middle of Line 2
The last word in Line 1 rhymes with the first word in Line 3
The last word in Line 3 acts as the end rhyme of Line 1 in the next stanza.

Than Bauk at M+T



No more than three sixains
ababcc dedeff ghghii

Veltanelle on M+T



Ancient Japanese poem
Lines 1-2: one subject, dependent clause
Lines 3-4: another subject, independent clause
Line 5: refrain or paraphrase, independent clause

Waka at M+T



Portmanteau of Beowulf and Tolkien
6-line stanza followed by a 4-line offset stanza
Each line has three alliterated or assonant stressed syllables
The first line of each offset stanza parallels one another
* This is a form I developed based on Beowulf and Tolkien’s poetry; see Elder Edda

Wulfkien at M+T



4 quatrains
Line 1 = Line 16
Line 5 = first 6 syllables of Line 1
Line 9 = first 4 syllables of Line 1
Line 12 = first 2 syllables of Line 1


Rhymed Abab cdcd efef gagA

Zanze at M+T