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Poetry for teenagers can be organized by theme, style, or genre. Common themes include romantic love, friendship, loneliness, inspiration, and humor. Free verse, blank verse, and many types of rhymed verse make up the three main style divisions of poetry.
Billy Collins created a program for high schools called Poetry 180 while he was Poet Laureate of the United States from 2001 to 2003. This anthology collects 180 easily accessible poems intended to be enjoyed, not analyzed. Poetry 180 is a great starting place because, after reading the anthology, adolescents can look for more works by the authors that they liked most.
Of all the styles of poetry available, rhymed verse is the most easily recognizable form. Rhymed verse follows a specific rhythm, or meter, as well as a prescribed rhyme scheme. There are many forms of rhymed verse, each with their own meter and rhyme scheme, including sonnets, limericks, and villanelles.
Blank verse is poetry that follows a specific meter but does not rhyme. Most of William Shakespeare’s plays are written in blank verse. Christopher Marlowe, John Milton, and Alfred, Lord Tennyson are also well known for this type of poetry.
Free verse is a style of poetry which focuses on sound without following a strict meter or rhyme scheme. The best known free verse poet is Walt Whitman. Many teenagers find this style easier to accept, since it resembles normal speech closer than other poetry styles.
Categorizing poetry by theme is much more fluid than categorizing by style. The majority of poetry for teenagers can be classified as love poetry, including romance, desire, unrequited love, and forbidden love. Examples include the balcony scene in Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet and Elizabeth Barrett Browning’s Sonnets from the Portuguese.
Loneliness, sadness, and despair are other familiar themes in poetry for teenagers. Some favorite poets of these themes are Sylvia Plath, Anne Sexton, and T. S. Eliot. Although some poems with these themes have rhyme and meter, many free verse poems use short, disjointed lines to emphasize the speaker’s loneliness.
Poetry for teenagers can also be divided into various genres, including epic, lyric, narrative, and dramatic. The most popular genre of poetry for teenagers is lyric poetry. Instead of telling a story or commenting on a situation, lyric poetry tries to encapsulate a feeling through its words, sound, and rhythm. Lyric poems are also typically shorter than those of any other genre.