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Writing, Reading and Understanding Poetry

Writing, Reading and Understanding Poetry

Author: Nikki Hansen

To introduce what poems are and discuss different forms of poetry, including haikus and free verse. To review how to analyze, read and write poetry.

This pack includes:
3 video components. 1 discusses haikus, 1 is an example of free verse and 1 is a video-slideshow by me which discusses how to read, write and analyze poetry.

There are also texts components which define and introduce the terms.

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What is a Poem?

What exactly is a poem?

A poem is a literary form of art.  In a poem, language is used for its aesthetic (beautiful) qualities, as well as to evoke an image or idea.  

There are a variety of different poems.  They come in all different shapes and sizes, similar to the people who write them. Not all poems are 14 lines, not all poems rhyme, not all poems are about love.

Take, for example, the haiku. A haiku is a popular form of unrhymed Japanese poetry.  A haiku is structured in a 5 - 7 - 5 pattern. This means that the first line will have 5 syllables, the second line will have 7 syllables and the last line will have 5 syllables. 


You rice field maidens!

The only things not muddy

Are the songs you sing.

Another form of poetry is free verse.  Free verse poems refrain from meter patterns, rhyme, or any general pattern.  In other words, free verse is composed of varying, typically unrhymed lines having no fixed metrical pattern.  

Example (Carl Sandburg):

The fog comes

on little cat feet.

It sits looking

over harbor and city

on silent haunches

and then moves on.

A Powerful Example of Free Verse

This is "El Guante" - an award winning spoken word performer from the twin cities. This is an example of free verse at its best!

How to write a Haiku

This video discusses what a haiku is, and how to read it.

Other Types of Poems

What are some other common forms of poetry?

Limericks are a fun, and commonly encountered, form of poetry.  The consists of 5 lines, and follow a strict rhyme scheme (aabba).  These types of poems are intended to be funny or witty.


I know an old owl named Boo

Every night he yelled "Hooo!"

Once a kid walked by

And started to cry

and shouted, "I don't have a clue!"

The sonnet is a well known form of poetry.  You are certain to encounter sonnets in any class that talks about poetry. A sonnet consists of 14 lines and follows a set rhyme scheme and logical structure. They are traditionally written in iambic pentameter and contain approximately 10 syllables in each line. 

The rhyme scheme is as follows: a b a b c d c d e f e f gg

An example of a sonnet:

From fairest creatures we desire increase

That thereby beauty's rose might never die, 

But as the riper should by time decease,

His tender heir might bear his memory:

But thou contracted to thine own bright eyes, 

Feed'st thy light's flame with self-substantial fuel,

Making a famine where abundance lies,

Thy self thy foe, to thy sweet self too cruel:

Thou that art now the world's fresh ornament,

And only herald to the gaudy spring,

Within thine own bud buriest thy content,

And, tender churl, mak'st waste in niggarding:

Pity the world, or else this glutton be, 

To eat the world's due, by the grave and thee.

Source: sonnet #1, Shakespeare

Writing, Analyzing and Reading Poetry

This video slide show discusses tips and advice on how to write, read and analyze poetry.