Form Poems

A form poem has a fixed scheme. You have to follow it like a road map and hope it leads you to a destination. In sum, a form poem has a pattern that sets it apart from other types of rhymed poems like the ballad or ode whose lengths or styles vary.

The form poems we will discuss in this chapter had their origins in France, typically in the fourteenth century, or were introduced into Europe through France. That means they do not naturally suit the English language. Consequently, these forms —which tend to operate on only a few rhymes or which repeat entire lines — are considered the most difficult to compose.

Before you become discouraged, however, consider this: The act of attempting to write any form poem will help you craft powerful lines and stanzas. Even if your goal is to write only free verse, you will write a more structured, impressive free verse if, every now and then, you sharpen your skills by composing a few form poems.

To help you do that, I have devised step-by-step methods to demystify the various forms. You'll be able to compose them, too, or, if you already are familiar with them, compose them more easily than you have in the past. Let's see how.

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