Some Complex Poetic Forms Defined

Terza Rima
tercets of 10 or 11 syllables with an interlocking rhyme scheme: aba bcb cdc, etc.

Example: Shelley, Ode to the West Wind

The highly structured villanelle is a nineteen-line poem with two repeating rhymes and two refrains. The lines can be of any length, but form requires five tercets followed by a quatrain. The first and third lines of the opening tercet are repeated alternately in the last lines of the succeeding stanzas; then in the final stanza, the refrain serves as the poem's two concluding lines. The first and third lines of the first tercet rhyme; this same rhyme is repeated in every tercet (aba) and in the final two lines of the quatrain (abaa). Line 1 is repeated in full as lines 6, 12, ande 18; line 3 is repeated in full as lines 9, 15, and 19. Using capitals for the refrains and lowercase letters for the rhymes, the form could be expressed as: A1 b A2 / a b A1 / a b A2 / a b A1 / a b A2 / a b A1 A2.  (


Example: Bishop, One Art


The sestina follows a strict pattern of the repetition of the initial six end-words of the first stanza through the remaining five six-line stanzas, culminating in a three-line envoi. The lines may be of any length, though in its initial incarnation, the sestina followed a syllabic restriction. The form is as follows, where each numeral indicates the stanza position and the letters represent end-words:

(envoi) ECA or ACE

The envoi, sometimes known as the tornada, must also include the remaining three end-words, BDF, in the course of the three lines so that all six recurring words appear in the final three lines. In place of a rhyme scheme, the sestina relies on end-word repetition to effect a sort of rhyme.

Example: Mayers, All American Sestina

Rime Royal
requires stanzas with seven lines in iambic pentameter rhyming ababbcc


Example: Wyatt, They Flee From Me

The pantoum consists of a series of quatrains rhyming ABAB in which the second and fourth lines of a quatrain recur as the first and third lines in the succeeding quatrain; each quatrain introduces a new second rhyme as BCBC, CDCD. The first line of the series recurs as the last line of the closing quatrain, and third line of the poem recurs as the second line of the closing quatrain, rhyming ZAZA.

The design is simple:

Line 1
Line 2
Line 3
Line 4

Line 5 (repeat of line 2)
Line 6
Line 7 (repeat of line 4)
Line 8

Continue with as many stanzas as you wish, but the ending stanza then repeats the second and fourth lines of the previous stanza (as its first and third lines), and also repeats the third line of the first stanza, as its second line, and the first line of the first stanza as its fourth. So the first line of the poem is also the last.

Last stanza:

Line 2 of previous stanza
Line 3 of first stanza
Line 4 of previous stanza
Line 1 of first stanza


Example: Sarah Cortez, Tu Negrito