One of the fun things about poetry is its ability to break all the rules. However, you must have a good reason to break rules. And frankly, before becoming a rule breaker, it’s a good idea to know what the basic rules of traditional poetry are. After all, Pablo Picasso studied traditional artwork before he started doing his cubism thing.
So what are the basic rules of traditional poetry? I’ve listed them here for you.
The Three Basic Rules of Traditional Poetry:
- Rhyming words generally fall at the ends of lines.
- Each line should make sense by itself.
- Capitalize the first word of each line.
Try reading this poem, but please note, it breaks rules #1 and #2:
See? Did that make any sense? Not really. The line “Roses are red violets” sounds like roses and violets are the same thing, but that can’t be what the poet meant. “Sweet and so are” sounds like a dish of Chinese food. That line makes my tummy growl, but it certainly doesn’t make sense by itself.
Written correctly, the poem would look like this:
To fix the problem, use a proofreading symbol called “Line of poetry ends”. You can find this, along with other proofreading symbols, on the Proofreading Symbols page, right here on English Emporium.
However, you should remember that poetry is infamous for not following the rules. Once you’ve got the basics down, you may wish to break free from these three basic rules. Just make sure you have a good reason to break the rules whenever you choose to be creative.
- Poetry is usually single-spaced.
- It’s not a bad idea to give a poem a title, but it isn’t essential. Many traditional poems have titles though.
- Poems use lines, not sentences.
- When lines are split into sections, we call those stanzas.
- Traditional poetry doesn’t indent stanzas.
- In poetry, punctuation is optional. It’s up to the poet to decide whether or not a punctuation mark is needed. When used, punctuation should be applied for a good reason (to make the reader deliberately pause, for example).
- Not all poems rhyme, but when they do, they often use a rhyme scheme (see link for details).