Category Archives: Poetic Forms

What is confessional poetry?

Confessional poetry is a style of poetry, rather than a specific poetic form.  In other words, poets who write confessional poetry may choose a specific form or to make up their own.  Confessional poetry is a term that refers to the subject matter that poets choose to write about.

Here’s a good introduction to this type of poetry from


What is a prose poem?

Prose poetry is a relatively new poetic form, unlike forms we’ve already studied, like the sonnet or the ballad.   A prose poem is a poem written in prose (ordinary written language) rather than verse.  How does this work?

Typical features of a prose poem:

  • it works with sentences rather than lines
  • it can look like a paragraph or fragmented short story but acts like a poem
  • it still uses similes, metaphors, figurative language
  • it still relies on connotative meanings of words
  • it does away with the line as the unit of composition
  • it can be modeled on other kinds of writing, for example a dialogue, a shopping list, a memo, a newspaper article

Also, we may also want to think about a prose poem as:

  • a poetic form that blurs boundaries
  • a poetic form that is a hybrid form
  • a poetic form that some consider subversive, less privileged: why?
  • a poetic form that has developed fairly recently and become more popular in the 21st century

Definition adapted from Lehman, David. Best American Prose Poems. NY: Scribner, 2003. 





What is a ballad?

You may already know the term ballad in relation to music.  A ballad in music is a slow song that conveys a lot of emotion.  The musical term ballad comes from the poetic form ballad, a poem that tells a story.

Typical features of a ballad:

  • a poem that tells a story
  • an event-driven poem
  • typically written using stanzas of four lines, with a rhyme scheme of abab or abcb
  • may feature dialogue as well as narration
  • may have a conversational style
  • may focus on lost love, tragic events, or the supernatural


Today’s class goal: to explore the similarities and differences between Anonymous’s “My Boy Willie” and Gwendolyn Brooks’ “We Real Cool.”

What is imagism?

The poems we’re reading today, William Carlos Williams’ “The Red Wheelbarrow,” ” This Is Just to Say” and Amy Lowell’s “Aliens” are examples of imagist poetry.

What is imagism?  According to the Poetry Foundation’s website it is “an early 20-th century poetic movement that relied on the resonance of concrete images drawn in precise, colloquial language rather than traditional poetic diction and meter.”

Amy Lowell’s criteria for imagist poetry was based on six specific principles:

“1. To use the language of common speech. . . .

2. To create new rhythms. . . .

3. To allow absolute freedom in the choice of subject. . . .

4. To present an image. . . .

5. To produce poetry that is hard and clear, never blurred nor indefinite.

6. Finally, most of us believe that concentration is of the very essence of poetry.”

Another way for us to think about imagist poems is to ask ourselves, what do imagist poems not do?  What don’t they focus on? What is it like for us as readers to read these poems?  Are they satisfying–why or why not?