Poetic Genre

What's your favourite kind of poetry? Do you like poetry that makes you feel all warm and fuzzy inside, poetry that brings a tear to your eye, or poetry that makes you want to take action in society? Usually, we pick out poetry based on our mood or how we want to feel while reading it. But how do we know what to expect from a poem? We check out its genre.

Poetic Genre Poetic Genre

Create learning materials about Poetic Genre with our free learning app!

  • Instand access to millions of learning materials
  • Flashcards, notes, mock-exams and more
  • Everything you need to ace your exams
Create a free account
Table of contents

    Understanding genre is not only helpful for us when we are trying to choose what poetry we want to read; it is also key to being able to analyse it. Let's look at poetic genres, some definitions, and examples so that we have a solid foundation from which to begin exploring poetry in more depth.

    Poetic genre: elements of poetry

    If we want to analyse a poem, we first need to identify its elements, starting with the bigger picture before moving on to the smaller details.

    The main poetic elements include:

    • Genre
    • Form
    • Sound and sound effects
    • Poetic devices
    • Themes

    Genre is one of the broadest poetic elements, which is why it is at the top of our list. A poem's genre depends on the other poetic elements and how they come together in the poem.

    If a poem explores themes of heroism, is told from a third-person perspective, follows a formal structure, and is very, very long, then it is likely an epic poem, one of the oldest genres in poetry.

    Poetry genre definition

    Getting comfortable with genre is vital to honing your poetry analysis skills. Here is a simple definition to get us started:

    Genre: a label used to group works of art or literature that have similar features.

    Genre was introduced as a way of classifying works of ancient Greek literature. The Greek philosopher Aristotle (384–322 BCE) identified poetic genres in Poetics (c. 350 BCE), including lyric poetry and epic poetry.

    Lyric poetry: a genre of poetry that is emotional, expressive, and has a musical quality.

    Today, genre remains the primary way of identifying different types of literature. Think of how difficult it would be to find your way around a library that wasn't organised by genre!

    Having a solid understanding of genre is helpful when analysing poetry because it gives you starting points for what to look for.

    If you already know that a poem is a lyric poem, you know that it will contain poetic elements that give it a musical quality.

    We can use genre to:

    • Predict certain features in a poem
    • Draw comparisons and contrasts between different poems
    • Understand the context in which the poem was written
    • Interpret meanings in poetry

    Remember! The accepted features of genres can change over time, and the boundaries between genres are not always clear. Poems can share features with one or multiple genres, challenge genre traditions, or even defy traditional genre conventions altogether.

    Poetic genre, an organised library, StudySmarterFig. 1 - Understanding genre can help us find, write, and analyse works of poetry.

    Poetic genre and form

    Because both poetic genre and poetic form have a lot to do with how we expect poems to be presented, there are overlaps between the terms. However, they are not exactly the same.

    Poetic genre describes how a poem can be categorised according to various shared features. Poetic form, on the other hand, specifically refers to a poem's structure and arrangement on the page.

    Poetic form: the overall structure of a poem determined by factors such as its length, rhyme scheme, meter, and number of stanzas.

    Because some poetic genres follow stricter structural rules, they may also be referred to as poetic forms, but this is not the case for all poetic genres.

    Epic poetry may refer to both a poetic genre and a poetic form because epic poetry often follows strict structural rules.

    Lyric poetry, on the other hand, does not follow a single traditional structure. It is a poetic genre, not a poetic form.

    Poetry genres examples

    We've already taken a brief look at two poetic genres: epic poetry and lyric poetry. Let's take a look at some more examples of poetic genres that you will likely come across in your studies. We will also take a look at some others that may be a little off the beaten track, such as the emblem poetic genre.

    Satirical poetry

    Satirical poetry is another classical genre that uses satire to critique and ridicule human behaviour, thought, and society.

    Satire: a method of using humour and wit to critique and ridicule human behaviour, thought, and society.

    Satirical poetry can range from subtle and lighthearted to scathingly critical and often focuses on topics such as religion, politics, the economy, and culture.

    Examples of satirical poetry include:

    • 'The Rape of the Lock' (1712) by Alexander Pope (1688–1744).
    • 'London' (1738) by Samuel Johnson (1709–84).
    • 'Interview' (1926) by Dorothy Parker (1893–1967).
    • 'Thank You for Waiting' (2017) by Simon Armitage (1963–present).


    An elegy is a more melancholy poetic genre. Dating back to Ancient Greece, elegies began as a poetic form written in elegiac couplets.

    Elegiac couplet: two lines of poetry containing a line of dactylic hexameter followed by a line of pentameter.

    Dactylic hexameter: a line of poetry containing six 'dactyls' (a stressed syllable followed by two unstressed syllables).

    Pentameter: a line of poetry containing five stressed syllables.

    Today, poems do not have to follow a specific structure to be considered elegies. Elegies are characterised by their exploration of themes of death and grief.

    Sometimes elegies end on a more positive note as they come to terms with their sorrow. Elegies are often written in the first person, adding to their personal and expressive nature.

    Examples of elegies include:

    • 'Elegy Written in a Country Churchyard' (1751) by Thomas Gray (1716–71).
    • 'In Memoriam A.H.H' (1850) by Alfred Lord Tennyson (1809–92).
    • 'O Captain! My Captain!' (1865) by Walt Whitman (1819–1892).
    • 'Because I could not stop for Death' (1890) by Emily Dickinson (1830–1886).

    Poetic genre, a bunch of memorial flowers, StudySmarterFig. 2 - Elegies reflect on the passing of loved ones and the concept of death itself.


    You have probably heard of a serenade before – a song or poem performed to a loved one during the night. If the serenade successfully wooed its audience, an aubade might be on the cards.

    The less familiar aubade is a song or poem that laments the speaker's separation from their lover, often symbolised by the rising sun putting an end to a night of passion.

    Examples of aubade poems include:

    • 'The Sun Rising' (1633) by John Donne (1572–1631).
    • 'Aubade' (1977) by Philip Larkin (1922–1985).
    • 'Aubade with Burning City' (2016) by Ocean Vuong (1988–present).

    The aubades by Philip Larkin and Ocean Vuong are examples of how authors can play with traditional genre features to create new meanings. Philip Larkin's aubade explores the restless mind of someone who can't sleep and is waiting for the sun to rise. Ocean Vuong's aubade is about two lovers during the Vietnam war in 1975 having a moment of intimacy despite the violence and destruction surrounding them.

    Pastoral poetry

    The genre of pastoral poetry emerged from ancient Greece when poets such as Theocritus, who lived in the third century BCE, wrote romanticised descriptions of the lives of shepherds in the mountains.

    Although the popularity of the genre has waxed and waned, pastoral poetry has remained a significant genre. Pastoral poetry commonly deals with themes of life, death, love, and nature's beauty, which is often compared to urban life.

    Examples of pastoral poetry include:

    Remember! Poems may belong to multiple genres. Percy Bysshe Shelley's 'Adonais' is a pastoral elegy, a poetic subgenre that combines features of two genres, pastoral poetry and elegies.

    Emblem poetry

    Emblem poetry combines an illustration (or 'emblem') with text exploring moral and religious themes.

    The genre originated in sixteenth-century Italy when a publisher added woodcut prints to the poems of Andrea Alciato (1492–1550) in his Book of Emblems (1531) collection.

    Woodcut prints: printed images made with the painted surfaces of carved wooden blocks.

    The only emblem poetry book written in English is Emblemes (1866) by Francis Quarles (1592–1644), an English poet who combined religious poems with pictures.

    Poetic Genre - Key takeaways

    • A poetic genre is a label used to group works of poetry with similar features.
    • Genre was introduced as a way of classifying works of literature in Aristotle's (384–322 BCE) Poetics (c. 350 BCE).
    • We can use genre to predict certain features in a poem, draw comparisons and contrasts between poems, understand the context in which the poem was written, and interpret meanings in poetry.
    • Poems can share features with one or multiple genres, challenge genre traditions, or try to defy them altogether.
    • Poetic genres include satirical poetry, elegy, aubade, pastoral poetry, and emblem poetry.
    Frequently Asked Questions about Poetic Genre

    What are some genres of poems?

    Some poetic genres include satirical poetry, elegy, aubade, pastoral poetry, epic poetry, and lyric poetry.

    What are examples of poetic genres?

    Examples of poetic genres include satirical poetry, elegy, aubade, pastoral poetry, epic poetry, and lyric poetry.

    What is a poetic genre?

    A poetic genre is a label used to group together poems with similar features. 

    What is a poetic type?

    A poetic type describes the form of a poem, which is how a poem is structured and organised on the page. 

    What does genre mean in poetry?

    In poetry, genre is used to identify poetry that shares similar features. 

    Test your knowledge with multiple choice flashcards

    Which Italian poet wrote The Divine Comedy (1320), featuring Virgil as a character?

    What sort of world does pastoral poetry typically portray?

    Elegies today have a set meter and rhyme scheme. Is this true or false?

    About StudySmarter

    StudySmarter is a globally recognized educational technology company, offering a holistic learning platform designed for students of all ages and educational levels. Our platform provides learning support for a wide range of subjects, including STEM, Social Sciences, and Languages and also helps students to successfully master various tests and exams worldwide, such as GCSE, A Level, SAT, ACT, Abitur, and more. We offer an extensive library of learning materials, including interactive flashcards, comprehensive textbook solutions, and detailed explanations. The cutting-edge technology and tools we provide help students create their own learning materials. StudySmarter’s content is not only expert-verified but also regularly updated to ensure accuracy and relevance.

    Learn more
    StudySmarter Editorial Team

    Team Poetic Genre Teachers

    • 8 minutes reading time
    • Checked by StudySmarter Editorial Team
    Save Explanation

    Study anywhere. Anytime.Across all devices.

    Sign-up for free

    Sign up to highlight and take notes. It’s 100% free.

    Join over 22 million students in learning with our StudySmarter App

    The first learning app that truly has everything you need to ace your exams in one place

    • Flashcards & Quizzes
    • AI Study Assistant
    • Study Planner
    • Mock-Exams
    • Smart Note-Taking
    Join over 22 million students in learning with our StudySmarter App