Evolution of Poetry III – Different Flavors of Poetry

series 2 final

Apart from the forms of poetry that we discussed in the previous part of this series (read part 1 and part 2 here), StoryMirror now presents an article on the different flavors of poetry. Wish to hit social ills, poetry offers satirical tone. In a mood of some drama, Greek tragic verses are there. Or you can simply recline and indulge in a mood elevating word play in light poetry.

There are different types of poetry and the basis of the mood or description attributes it offers- like elegy, verse fable, narrative poetry, epic poetry, prose poetry, light poetry et al. If a poem deals with melancholy or lamenting the dead or mourning some sorrow, it is generally called an elegy. It is a serious reflection on something either dead or mythological- for example, Ovid wrote elegies comparing his exile to death. John Donne was known for writing elegies and for S.T. Coleridge, elegy could mean any serious meditative verse.

A famous example for elegy is Thomas Gray’s 1950 political poem ‘Elegy written in a Country Churchyard’. Gray was inspired to dedicate this poem to Richard West and his remembrance after death. The poem has a very stoic attitude to death and how soft or harsh death could be on mankind- more specifically on Gray himself:-

For thee, who mindful of th’ unhonour’d Dead

Dost in these lines their artless tale relate;

If chance, by lonely contemplation led,

Some kindred spirit shall inquire thy fate,

Haply some hoary-headed swain may say,

Oft have we seen him at the peep of dawn

Brushing with hasty steps the dews away

To meet the sun upon the upland lawn.

B. Yeats, Virginia Woolf, Alfred Tennyson, Edmund Spenser, Walt Whitman, Thomas Gray, John Milton et al, all have written elegies. It needs to be noted that in a more general sense, elegy is also rumination on something grotesque, strange or sorrowful.

An elegy stands clearly opposed to light poetry that is brief, light on mind, humorous. Though light poems can be on a serious topic too, but it certainly does not ponder over mournful and grotesque matters. These poems offer brilliant word plays and puns along with rhyme and alliteration. Poets like Horace, W. H. Auden and Alexander Pope etc. have excelled at light verse.

Another kind of poetry is verse fable. Didactic and moral in nature, verse poetries have a shorter length than its epic or narrative cousins and it generally involved anthropomorphized animals and objects- walking plants and speaking objects. Fables can be both in prose and verse.

Prose poetry is a poem written in a prose form instead of verse. So how is it poetry? Prose poems lose their structure of poetry but retain poetic attributes like emotional effects, imaginative beauty, imagery and using short and pithy sentences. Prose poems are “neither primarily poetry nor prose but is essentially a hybrid or fusion of the two, and accounted a separate genre altogether. On the other hand, the argument for prose poetry belonging to the genre of poetry emphasizes its heightened attention to language and prominent use of metaphor. Yet prose poetry often can be identified as prose for its reliance on prose’s association with narrative and on the expectation of an objective presentation of truth.” (1)

There is another flavor of poetry differentiated not on the basis of style or form but on the subject matter it targets on. Science fiction poetry or Speculative poetry, as the name suggests, engulfs a wide range of scientific, fantastic, horrific and mythological/ folkloric themes. Suzette Elgin defined the genre as “about a reality that is in some way different from the existing reality.” (2) Scifaiku is Japanese haiku sub- genre concentrating only on fantasy and horror. Satirical poems, another style, are also different not in form but content. Literature per se has the power to reflect society and hence, its ills, acting as a vehicle of satire. John Dryden and T.S. Eliot reflected sarcastic arrows on society.

Works Cited


Aditi Bhola 

Team StoryMirror


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