April Is National Poetry Month

Apr 18, 2018 By Caitlin L, Writer Intern
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I would define poetry as the rhythmical creation of beauty -- Edgar Allen Poe

Along with prose, poetry has long served as a form of artistic expression, both in oral and written formats. The oldest poem, the Babylonian Epic of Gilgamesh, dates back to 2000 BC.

Over the centuries, many types of poetry have developed, each with their own patterns and rhyme schemes.

A Month For Poetry

April is recognized as National Poetry Month in the US. It was established in 1996 by the Academy of American Poets, a non-profit organization dedicated to “fostering an appreciation for contemporary poetry and supporting American poets.”

Today, the organization heads several educational programs, runs a magazine, and hosts several prestigious contests for both seasoned and rising poets. During the month of April, the Academy encourages poetry readings in classrooms and in the public to spread appreciation of poetry among students and continue the legacy of American poets of the past. 

Each type of poetry is unique in its own way. Here are some of the types of poetry that exist today.

Epics

Epics are one of the earliest forms of poetry. Typically novel-length, epics follow the journey of a hero.

A classic example is the Odyssey by Homer, which tells the story of Odysseus, a Greek war hero who had been cursed by the gods. Over the course of 20 years, he encounters monsters such as Circe, Scylla, and the Sirens as he attempts to return home to his beloved wife Penelope.

Haiku

The haiku’s short length makes it the most popular form of poetry. With only three lines, a 5-7-5 syllable pattern, and a focus on nature, haikus are the most approachable for students who want to get started on poetry.

Haikus originated in Japan, and were mostly used during festivities and important events. It became popular after it became mandatory for all scholars to learn to read and write these poems. After it was brought to America, many American poets such E.E. Cummings began to publish haikus.

Sonnets

Sonnets have two forms: Italian and Shakespearean sonnets. Sonnets are often rigid in structure, containing exactly 14 lines and a definitive rhyme scheme.

Italian sonnets are often called Petrarchan sonnets, after writer Francesco Petrarch, who wrote sonnets to a woman he loved. The first eight lines of a Petrarchan sonnet pose a conflict, and the remaining six lines attempt to resolve or respond to the conflict. Because of Petrarch, many sonnets are about love. In contrast, Shakespeare took Italian sonnets and wrote them in his own style, creating another form of the sonnet.

Besides epics, haikus, and sonnets, many other types of poetry exist, such as limericks, ballads, and allegories. In addition, free verse is a popular format, which does not have any guidelines and allows complete freedom to the poet. Check out a few poets we had profiled on Youngzine in the related section.

Sources: Poets.org, Wikipedia, holidayscalendar.com, webexhibits.org