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Three Genres of Poetry

By Gary R. Hess. Category: Poetry
Poetry Genres

The great philosopher Aristotle suggested that poetry is divided into three genres: comedy, tragedy and epic. Aristotle claimed comedy is an imitation of what is inferior in a way that is laughable. He then said that both tragedies and epics are made to portray suffering in a way to produce certain effects with the only difference between the two being epics used a one-verse form and is narrative.

Today, poetry is still considered the owner of the three main poetic forms: lyric, narrative, dramatic. Each form can then be divided into many subdivisions, each consisting of a rhyme scheme, rhythm and/or style.

Lyric
An emotional writing focusing on thought and emotion - can consist of a song-like quality. Subdivisions include elegy, ode and sonnet. Lyric poetry does not attempt to tell a story. Popular lyric poems include the works of Sappho, "Go, lovely Rose" by Edmund Waller and the many sonnets of William Shakespeare.

Read more about lyric poetry.

Narrative
A poem which tells a story. Includes the subdivision epic, a long story which tells of the heroic ideals of a particular society, and ballad, which generally tell of an event of interest such as a crime. Ballads were originally intended to be sung while dancing. Popular narrative works are "The Canterbury Tales" by Geoffrey Chaucer, "The Divine Comedy" by Dante, "Hiawatha" by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, "Raven" by Edgar Allan Poe, "The Rape of Lucrece" by Shakespeare and "The Rape of Lock" by Alexander Pope.

Read more about narrative poetry.

Dramatic
Any drama written in verse which is meant to be spoken, usually to tell a story or portray a situation. The majority of dramatic poetry is written in blank verse. Other forms of dramatic poetry include, but are not limited to, dramatic monologues, rhyme verse and closet drama. Important dramatic works include those by Shakespeare, Ben Jonson and Christopher Marlowe.

These three genres--lyrical, narrative, and dramatic--create an important presence in writing around the world and make up every type of poetry ever created.

This is because each of these three genres can easily be divided into sub-groups and those sub-groups into more sub-groups and so on and so fortch. Essentially, they can make up an endless amounts of styles using endless amounts of techniques. New styles are created almost every day with the most famous being picked up by poetry journals around the world.

With the emergence of the internet, the amount of poetry being read around the world has only increased and will continue to increase at the same pace for years to come.