Guest Blogger Alyse Knorr: Six Poetic Forms at a Party

A poem’s form consists of the structural “rules” concerning
elements like meter, rhyme, alliteration, or repetition. Each poetic form is
like a different shaped vase into which water (language) can be poured. Each
form has its own particular way of shaping meaning and progressing through a
thought. Each has a unique system of organization and a different approach to
creating beauty.
But on top of all of that, I’ve also always felt like each
poetic form has its own personality—something ineffable that comes off the page
and interacts with the reader in a vivid, colorful way. To illustrate what I
mean by “personality,” I thought it might be fun to render a sketch of a party
populated by six of my favorite forms. So here you have it, without further
ado—a party of forms, hanging out at some house chock-full of wine within the
pages of the Princeton Encyclopedia of
Poetry and Poetics
The Villanelle
keeps following you around telling you the same joke over and over again, the
exact same way, but somehow it gets funnier every time. For some reason, by the
end of the night, you actually can’t wait to hear it for the 10th
time. And that makes you feel like you might be going a little crazy.
Every time you talk to the Sestina, you get the mystifying feeling that you’ve heard what
she’s saying before already. Each sentence is new, but the whole conversation
has some kind of déjà vu quality you can’t quite shake.
The Sonnet pins
you into a corner and tells you a wandering, fairly non-sensical argument for
12 minutes, then soberly sums it all up with a perfect, mystical conclusion in
The Haiku sits
silently all night long, until one moment she approaches you, crouches down,
and whispers a tiny, beautiful statement directly into your ear. When you beg
her to tell you more, she shakes her head solemnly, smiles, and points at a
tree out the window.
The Pantoum
doesn’t want to talk, he just wants to dance—preferably to pop, hip hop, or
anything else with a strong hook and a repetitive chorus.
You haven’t seen the Erasure
all night, but when you finally find him, he’s in your office re-painting the

Now it’s time for you to join the party. Sign up for my four-night “Forms of Poetry” 49 Writers class, and I’ll introduce you to all of
these forms and more. We’ll talk about the cultural history and traditions
behind each form, current mutations and experimentations with each form, and
the best techniques for success in each form. All levels are welcome—if you
know none of these forms, great. If you know all of them, that’s great, too—I’ll
help you fine-tune.
Alyse Knorr has taught creative writing to individuals ages 8 to 80, of all levels and all genres, and is passionate about bringing out the best in her students. As a poet, she extremely sound-focused and spent three years studying meter, rhyme, and syntax while earning her Master of Fine Arts in Creative Writing degree from George Mason University. She currently teaches English at the University of Alaska Anchorage and is finishing up her fifth book.
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