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What is poetry?
A poem should reflect the craft of the poet, not the poet themselves.

There is no one single thought, sentence, or even paragraph that can define what a poem is. Poetry is multi-levelled, multi-defined and multi-flavoured. There is a kind of poetry for every writer and a kind of poetry for every reader.

If a person who had never met poetry came across Haiku they would say poetry is descriptive, exact, succinct.

Another person not having any experience of poetry that happened upon the epics would say poetry is a rhythmical and very long form of writing, often rhymed and metrical.

If those two persons should meet, each believing they 'know' what poetry is undoubtedly a conversation about poetry would have each believing that they were arguing with a fool! Both would be right!

After years of looking at many forms of poetry and enjoying the challenge of attempting to write in as many styles as I meet along my literary path I can say this about poetry.

Poetry is: rhymed, unrhymed, alliterated, unalliterated, exact in the number of syllable, inexact in the number of syllables, precise in the length of each line, imprecise in the length of lines, rhythmical, unrhythmic, metred, unmetred, black and white, grey, flowery, romantic, realistic, comical, theatrical, ordinary, dramatic, honest, dishonest, cold, warm, hot, thin, slippery, reminiscent, onomatopoeic, bland, bright, long, short, modern, concrete, post-modern, historical, ancient, futuristic and much much more.

A poem is a piece of writing that is not prose. It usually can be described by using several terms from the above list. Each poem or group of poems would be described differently.

I have written Haiku, Limerick, Free Verse, Acrostic, Clerihew, Ballad and...can't remember them all off the top of my head but others too.

I feel that a poem should be crafted with care by the poet, careful selection of words and phrases, careful choice of shape and length and style. A poem should reflect the craft of the poet, not the poet themselves. A poem should project the idea, thought or image that the poet wants it to project upon the screen of the readers mind. If the reader 'doesn't get it' that is not the readers error but rather the poets. The poet must wield the tools of his trade as carefully as Michaelangelo wielded a brush and a brain surgeon his scalpel.

So perhaps a poem can better be defined by the work of the craftsperson who creates it.

A poem is an imaginative piece of writing. The careful use of words, sounds and phrases and an attention to the details of the appearance and presentation of each unit, individually, in groups and in the poem as a whole sets the poem apart from its cousin prose.

Poetry has no obvious practical use unlike its cousin prose, rather it is decorative, reflective, creative and crafted in any one of a myriad of styles.

When read aloud poetry has a quality that is reminiscent of music and song, both of which have many levels and styles of their own.

copyright 21/7/2003

  Poetry Styles and Forms The main features of a plain old 'garden variety' poem are:
a)It should have a natural rhythm... ( but then again just for effect when writing about something awful you might want to write absent of rhythm.. that's what I mean about learn the rules so you can enjoy breaking them)
b)Generally there are rhymes, either visual rhymes (words that look like they rhyme) or auditory rhymes (ones that sound likt they rhyme).
c)The rhymes are usually patterned. ie. lines 1 & 2 rhyme 3 & 4 rhyme etc more complicated patterns of rhyme add interest such as lines 1, 2, 5 rhyme and 3, 4 rhyme.... etc..

Paragraphs in poems are called stanza's or verses, but paragraph will do just fine!

There is no definitive number of lines to a poem. No definitive number of anything really unless you choose to call your poem a haiku, sonnet, limerick, ballad etc. These words do define particular forms of poetry with exact forms.

Here are some simple forms of poetry which you can try. I have given an example of each kind so that you can see how they should look.


Acrostic poems are poems, which have one word where each letter of the word begins a line for the poem. These poems make great gifts when printed on fancy paper and set in a frame. Here are some examples of acrostic poems I wrote.


Made in Australia
Inventive mind
Creative thinking
Heart as big as the land
A man in the making
Ever seeking
Loving son


Frequently seen
Lovingly adored
Once seen never forgotten
Waking with the sun
Eager for the day
Resplendent glory


Free verse is a prose form of poetry. Free verse is just that.. free… unstructured.. no rules. Here is an example of a free verse poem I wrote

New Day

I woke to the sound of Suzi Quatro blaring in the bathroom
I felt compassion for my mother who woke the same way a generation ago..
Devil Gate Drive at 6 am is hard to take….
Karma.. what you send out comes back to you…
Oh well it could be worse…It could be Kizz at 6 am
My feet hit the floor and my mind seeks coffee…
Caffeine.. my friend….
Suzi blares louder as the bathroom door is flung open
BANG BANG…. Mum get up it is after six…
Yeh yeh I know….
Why does modern life torture us with early rising..
I pull on some clothes…
Good morning sweetie…. Have you got some lunch ready for school
Blechhhh no one eats packed lunches at high school……
Argue the point…. why? you cant make them eat…..
Ahhhhh coffee….
Good Morning World
© CRD 2002


Haiku is a traditional Japanese form of poetry. A haiku is a poem consisting of three lines. Each line has a specific number of syllables, ( word parts ie. Con/ sis/ting is three syllables). The
first and third lines have 5 syllables and the second line has seven syllables.

Haiku are traditionally about things in nature such as rocks, clouds, animals, water, wind, sun, mountains etc. Haiku traditionally signifies a specific season and a specific point in time. Here are some of my own Haiku for you to see:


Caterpillar eats
All the munchy-crunchy leaves
Butterfly appears


Rumble grumble rahhhhh
Lightning flashing all around
Crack angry sky heavy rain


Fairies teacup sweet
Dandelion tea to drink
Bobbing in the field


Limerick is a form of poetry most renown and named after the city said to be it's place of origin, Limerick, Ireland.

Limericks are poems of five lines. The lines have a specific rhyming pattern the pattern is lines one, two and five rhyme with one another and lines three and four rhyme with one another.

Limericks are traditionally very humorous and often about a specific person. However they seldom seem humorous to the person they are about.

Here are some examples of limericks I have written. I must add this is the one form of poetry I have always found a great struggle.

A Man on The Net

There was a man on the internet
He talked to women he never met
The women cried
The man soon died
What a sad end forever yet

Boy From Australia

There was a boy from Australia
He had a face like a Dahlia
His wife nearly cried
When he turned to the side
Cause his ears were like a trailer

The Clerihew was developed in the scribblings of schoolboy Edmund Clerihew Bentley. A Clerihew is a four line poem with two rhyming couplets with an AABB rhyming pattern.Clerihew are usually a
humourous biographical take on a particular person or subject.

An example of Clerihew:

Spiro Dimolianis
Was very fond of bananas
He ate banana cake, pudding and pies
Til he discovered his belly was not as big as his eyes

The Ode is a rhyming poem, usually humorous and often satyrical or sarcastic in nature, which is usually composed in 'honour' of a particular person, occasion or thing. Modern odes are generally rhythmical and almost ditty-like.

Example of an Ode:

An Ode to The Garbo

The Garbo Man drives a mighty truck
He has mighty skill and mighty pluck
Every Thursday morn at half past eight
I hear his truck roar at our front gate
Two arms swing out and lift up the bin
shaking all the rubbish and tipping it in
Plastic bags and old tin cans too
Then off next door to house number twenty two
The Garbo man works very very hard
never rising from his seat
while he goes from yard to yard

Blank verse is a non-rhyming poem. It is a formal poem in the sense that the structure must have a particular repeating beat (metrical feet) pattern. The metrical pattern can be in any order ie. stressed-unstressed-unstressed; unstressed-unstressed-stressed etc.

Essentially a Blank Verse poem is a sonnet of sorts which does not rhyme. The metre needs to remain the same throughout the poem and the poem can be any length and the lines can be any length though all the lines in a single poem need to have the same number of feet.

An Example of Blank Verse

Nature's Whisper

In sky scraper jungles of steel and glass
Upon busied streets of suited beggars
Neons mindlessly blinking in sunshine
Starched white faces with painted smiles
Treadmill people with treadmill lives milling
Mining and milling the mighty dollar
Nature's whisper is lost to their ears
Lost in the jungles of steel and glass
Nature's whisper silenced forever
Natures voice whispering let me breathe.

Sonnets are a traditinal form of poetry which has to pedigrees, one is the Italian Sonnet and the other is the English Sonnet.

Sonnets are generally 14 lines long and follow an Iambic Pentameter in the rhythm of each line and have one of several rhyming schemes.

Here is an example of a sonnet I wrote.

My Australia
A Sonnet

In youthful days I travelled round this land
climbing rocks and trees, mountains and hills too
swimming creeks, billabongs and rivers true
stretched on a beach feeling sun-warmed sand
dusty miles on distant roads low and high
seeing hailed crops and waving fields of green
forests tall, shrublands and deserts in sheen
in walking cross the land I felt her sigh

In her sigh I felt a shudder and pain
my heart ached for the losses seen and felt
tears welled in clouds stinging raindrops falling
gullies wide unleashed torrential drain
dusty trees arching skyward, verdant sveldte
A land, a love, a life, a death calling

copyright Cheryl O'Brien 8/11/2002; 30/08/03 & 25/09/03

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