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What Are the Different Types of Non-Rhyming Poems?

Alan Rankin
Alan Rankin

Poetry is typically noted for its rhyme, including rhyme schemes that are sometimes quite complex. There are, however, many kinds of non-rhyming poems. One of the most famous is the haiku, a short Japanese poetry form much admired by many Western poets. Others are more concerned with the shape the poem takes on the page, such as concrete poetry and the acrostic. Blank verse and free verse are non-rhyming formats used by many modern poets.

One of the oldest forms of literature, poetry may predate the written word itself. Ancient bards often used rhyme to make their oral histories easier to remember during eras when most people were illiterate. Poets of the Middle Ages created complicated rhyme and rhythm schemes, such as iambic pentameter, beloved of Shakespeare, and the terza rima, invented by Dante. Many poets, particularly those of the modern era, dispensed with rhyme and focused on other aspects of the poem. Some of these poems were whimsical novelties, while others are listed among the greatest ever written.

Walt Whitman wrote "Song of Myself" in free verse, one type of non-rhyming poetry.
Walt Whitman wrote "Song of Myself" in free verse, one type of non-rhyming poetry.

Haikus are non-rhyming poems consisting of three lines, each containing a set number of syllables: five, then seven, and then five again. The format developed from a poetry-game called renga created by Japanese poets of the 12th century. Technically, a haiku should only be a serene contemplation of nature; if other subjects are invoked, the poem is a senryu. This distinction is often ignored by Western poets, many of whom admire the haiku for its order and brevity. The 17th-century Japanese poet Basho is considered a master of the form.

Other poems are based on the structure of the work, and a rhyme scheme may not be necessary or desired. Concrete poetry, sometimes called shape or size poetry, tries to create an image through the placement of the words; a poem about birds, for example, may resemble a bird spreading its wings. While some concrete poems do rhyme, most do not. The diamante is a concrete poem in the shape of a diamond. The acrostic, a word game in which lines are arranged so they form words when read horizontally, sometimes takes the form of a poem.

Blank verse is non-rhyming poetry that clings to an internal rhythm, such as iambic pentameter. Lines in blank verse must be written carefully to match the overall rhythm of the poem. Free verse, as the name implies, imposes no such strictures, allowing poets to express themselves any way they like. Some of the greatest modern poets preferred this form, including T.S. Eliot, e.e. cummings, and Allen Ginsberg. Eliot’s “The Waste Land,” Ginsberg’s “Howl,” and Walt Whitman’s “Song of Myself” are all acclaimed non-rhyming poems.

Discussion Comments


@DylanB – I dislike poetry that rhymes. It just seems too elementary for me.

I feel that free verse is the best type of poetry. I have written dozens of short poems in this style, and it has allowed me to truly convey what I'm observing or feeling without the restrictions of rhythm and syllable counting.

I don't even like blank verse, because it means you have to adhere to a certain number of syllables per line. I like to strip all form away and write freely, because that is the only way I can fully express myself.


I had a boyfriend who was into writing non-rhyming love poems, but I just didn't get them. I'm just one of those people who prefers poems that rhyme, and anything else is just meandering prose.


I have a book of concrete poetry for kids. My daughters love the fact that the words make shapes, and the poems are actually about the subjects of the shapes.

I've also seen some pretty impressive concrete poetry for adults. It's an art form when someone can make beautiful poetry fit into a certain shape without sacrificing the quality of the flow.


Don't Japanese haikus lose something in translation to English? I'm fairly certain that the number of syllables would change, and that would affect the entire poem.

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    • Walt Whitman wrote "Song of Myself" in free verse, one type of non-rhyming poetry.
      By: air
      Walt Whitman wrote "Song of Myself" in free verse, one type of non-rhyming poetry.