The Three Types of Poetry

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Poetry throughout history has always been divided in some form. Today, there are hundreds of forms developed around the world with each culture and region specializing in its own version of the craft. However, we are still able to put poetry into non-specific genres due to their overall themes. Poetry enthusiasts today divide the craft into three main topics: lyric, narrative, and dramatic.

Little is known about literature in the ancient past. However, we do know that poetry has existed for thousands of years. We also have records showing the overall themes of such writings. In Ancient Greece, for example, we know that poetry was divided into three main types of poetry by the great philosopher Aristotle; they were comedy, tragedy, and epic. He claimed comedy was simply an imitation of what is inferior and possibly laughable. He claimed the other two, tragedy and epic, were similar in that they both portray suffering and produce effects and emotions in their readers. The only difference between the two was epic was said to be a one verse poem while tragedy was in narrative form.

Today, poetry and literature scholars believe that poetry does indeed contain three main genres. However, the three are known as lyric, narrative, and dramatic, not comedy, tragedy, and epic. Each of these genres can then be saturated with sub-genres and then sub-sub-genres depending on the rhyme scheme, rhythm, meters, style, and even emotion.

Lyric poetry are poems focused on thought and emotion. The poems may be songs–and songs may be any other genre. The main sub-divisions include elegy, ode, and sonnet. Lyric poetry does not tell a story. Major lyric poems include “Go, Lovely Rose” by Sappho and Shakespeare’s Sonnets.

Narrative poetry is a poem which tells a story. Most commonly, the stories involve heroic events or are of cultural or national (or some degrees even local) importance. Subdivisions of narrative poetry include ballads and epics. “The Divine Comedy” by Dante, “Raven” by Edgar Allan Poe, and “Odyssey” by Homer are just a few of the major narrative pieces.

Dramatic poetry is written in verse that is meant to be spoken. It generally tells a story, but can also simply portray a situation. The majority of dramatic poetry is written in blank verse. The authors Christopher Marlowe, Ben Jonson, and William Shakespeare have all written important dramatic works.

Although there are three main types of poetry, each can be divided into hundreds, possibly even thousands of genres. If you haven’t found one you enjoy, chances are you will, just keep looking!

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