C is for Closed Poetic Form

Written by Kerry E.B. Black

A closed poetic form refers to traditional patterns in poetry. There are required rhyme patterns, meters, line lengths, line groupings, and complexity within the genre. Some examples of closed-form poetry include haiku, limericks, and sonnets.

A haiku follows these conventions: Three line structure. The first and third lines contain five syllables and the second line contains seven. In Japanese, the syllables must have three sound units. Traditional subject matter is a Zen description of nature, usually without using direct verbiage to indicate the subject. (In other words, the name of the season may not be used to describe the season.)

A limerick follows these conventions: Five lines. The first, second, and last line rhyme with each other, and the third and fourth rhyme, in an AABBA pattern. The limerick often uses double entendre and host bawdy or comic meanings.

A sonnet is a lyric poem of fourteen lines. It is usually written in iambic pentameter, with rhymes arranged according to a defined pattern and often expresses love and romance. There are three common forms, Italian (or Petarchan), English (or Shakespearean), and Miltonic. The Italian sonnet has an eight line stanza (octave) followed by a six line stanza (sestet) The rhyming pattern for the octave runs abba, abba. In the sestet also has a rhyming pattern. The English sonnet uses three quatrains with a rhyming pattern followed by a final, independently rhymed couplet which turns the meaning of the poem. The Miltonic sonnet is similar to the Petrarchan sonnet, but it deals not only with love but also politics, religion, and personal matters.

Nursery rhymes use set patterns, too.

Open poetic form, which boasts no such restrictions.

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