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Closed Form Poetry: Definition & Examples

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  • 0:01 Open & Closed Form Poetry
  • 0:46 Types of Closed Form Poetry
  • 5:15 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Angela Janovsky

Angela has taught middle and high school English, Social Studies, and Science for seven years. She has a bachelor's degree in psychology and has earned her teaching license.

This lesson describes the basic differences between two forms of poetry: open and closed. Then we'll look closer at closed form poetry and some specific types and examples.

Open and Closed Form Poetry

What do you think of when you hear the word poetry? Usually strong emotions of love, sadness, anger, or admiration come to mind for most people. Most poems do focus on those intense emotions; however, there is much more to poetry than the subject matter. The form, which is the structure and shape of a poem, usually plays a crucial role.

There are two main forms of poetry: open and closed. Closed form poetry, also known as fixed form, consists of poems that follow patterns of lines, meter, rhymes, and stanzas, whereas open form poetry does not. When writing a closed form poem, the poet follows specific rules to fit a model. Next, we will look at some examples of closed form poems.

Types of Closed Form Poetry

There are many types of closed form poems. Each one follows a model based on several varying factors, and each serves a different purpose according to the effect the poet wishes to create. Here are some of the most common forms.

Sonnet

The sonnet has been very popular ever since the 16th century. It is a poem consisting of 14 lines written in iambic pentameter (five pairs of stressed and unstressed syllables), which follow a specific rhyme scheme (the pattern of end rhyme).

There are two main types of sonnets: the Italian sonnet and the Elizabethan or Shakespearean sonnet. The Italian sonnet splits the poem into two parts: the first eight lines follow the rhyme scheme ABBAABBA, and the final six lines are either CDECDE, CDCDCD, or CDCCDC. On the other hand, the Elizabethan sonnet is divided into three quatrains (which are four line stanzas) and one couplet (a two-line stanza). The rhyme scheme for the English sonnet is ABAB CDCD EFEF GG.

Here is an example of a Shakespearean sonnet. See if you can identify the rhyme scheme.

'Sonnet 18'

Shall I compare thee to a summer's day?
Thou art more lovely and more temperate:
Rough winds do shake the darling buds of May,
And summer's lease hath all too short a date.
Sometime too hot the eye of heaven shines,
And often in his gold complexion dimmed;
And every fair from fair sometime declines,
By chance, or nature's changing course, untrimmed.
But thy eternal summer shall not fade,
Nor lose possession of that fair thou ow'st
Nor shall death brag thou wand'rest in his shade,
When in eternal lines to time thou grow'st
So long as men can breathe or eyes can see,
So long lives this, and this gives life to thee.

Villanelle

A second common type of fixed form poem is the villanelle. The villanelle consists of 19 lines divided into five tercets (three line stanzas) and one quatrain. The rhyme scheme is ABA ABA ABA ABA ABA ABAA. In addition, certain lines are repeated throughout the poem. The first line reappears as lines 6, 12, and 18, and the third line reappears as lines 9, 15, and 19.

Read the following excerpt by Dylan Thomas and note the repetition of lines and the rhyme scheme:

'Do not go gentle into that good night'

Do not go gentle into that good night,
Old age should burn and rave at close of day;
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.
Though wise men at their end know dark is right,
Because their words had forked no lightning they
Do not go gentle into that good night…..
And you, my father, there on the sad height,
Curse, bless, me now with your fierce tears, I pray.
Do not go gentle into that good night.
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

Limerick

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