Writing poetry is an incredibly artistic form of writing, partly because of the format. We all know about rhyming poetry. Some insist that a poem must rhyme to be a poem. If you remember the poetry section of high school english classes, you remember that there are sonnets and haikus that have their own format and subject material. So, clearly, there are different kinds of poems. What, then, qualifies as a poem?
What Makes a Poem
I am far from being an expert in poetry. But I did take a college level poetry writing class. I learned about feet and pentameter and a bunch of other terms that I no longer remember. However, what I do remember is that it is all about the rhythm. Each line and syllable contributes the the structured rhythm of the poem.
Then, you find out there are epic poems and freestyle poems that may not have a distinct rhythm. All the rules are gone, but it’s still a poem. How? Because each word was specifically chosen. This is where the art comes in. The format of a poem may include a strict pattern of syllables, or it may simply be carefully chosen words.
Different Poem Formats
The traditional rhyming and metric poems are what we are used to. But the freestyle poems, prose poems, and image poems are less frequently seen. A paragraph still does not qualify as a poem just because you say so. The rule mentioned above still applies, the writer chooses words with intent.
I think one of my favorite kinds of poems is an image or shape poem in which the shape of the stanza is a picture which relates to the poem. Clearly the poem format is just as important as the words themselves. In fact, a poem is the only written work in which the author has complete control over where the lines end or start and how the poem is generally displayed in publication. Page breaks and line breaks as well as margins, in any other work, are determined by the publisher.
Feel free to look at poetryfountation.org to find great poems and learn more about how to write poetry. Try your hand at a few, even if you don’t plan on becoming a poet, you can gain a lot from being more particular about your word choice. Try a poem about what is going on in the world or what’s happening in your life.