Narrative poems are poems that tell a story. Similar to most poetry, narrative poetry has an overall point or theme. The difference between narrative poetry and many other kinds of poetry is that narrative verses also have a plot. Overall, narrative poetry doesn’t place too many requirements on the writer, but there are certain kinds of narrative verse that do fall into categories. Poets have been writing narrative poems for centuries, and continue to write them today for personal and professional gain.
Writers of narrative poetry can enjoy a certain amount of flexibility, as these poems allow for various lengths as well as rhyming and non-rhyming styles. Generally, older examples of narrative poetry, which date back centuries, were written with the intention of being read aloud. As such, certain poetic characteristics like alliteration, kennings, and meter are common among narrative poems and even help distinguish the poems from regular prose.
Even though narrative poetry doesn’t impose many requirements as far as style is concerned, there are certain types of commonly written narrative poems. Examples include epics, idylls, ballads, and lyric poetry. Epics are long narrative poetry and are usually serious in nature, and idylls are shorter, descriptive pieces similar to pastoral poems and written about rustic life. Ballads are unique types of narrative poetry because they are set to music. Similarly, lyric poetry, which focuses on expressing feelings, was originally meant to be performed while a lyre was playing.
There are numerous examples of well-known narrative poems, many of which most people are introduced to in high school and college literature classes. “Out, Out” by Robert Frost, “The Raven” by Edgar Allan Poe, and “The Walrus and The Carpenter” by Lewis Carroll are examples of short narrative poems. "The Canterbury Tales" by Geoffrey Chaucer, "The Faerie Queen" by Edmund Spencer, and "The Rime of the Ancient Mariner" by Samuel Taylor Coleridge are examples of long narrative poems. “On Turning Ten,” by former Poet Laureate of the United States Billy Collins, is a more recent example of narrative poetry. Each of these poems tells the story of some person, event, or both.
Contemporary demand for narrative poetry is similar to that of other kinds of poetry, such as rhyming poems and free verse poems. Writers who are interested in publishing and being paid for their poems can search for poetry anthologies, magazines, and websites that accept narrative poetry submissions. Unlike shorter rhyming and free verse poems, narrative poems aren’t well-suited for the greeting card market, but poets can search for poetry contests hosted by publishers and other literary vehicles.