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.
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.