Introduction to Poetry

Illuminating yet mysterious, exciting yet elegant: classical poetry never goes out of style. From the lyrics in people’s favorite songs to Robert Frost’s nature-themed poems to Basho’s haiku to Shakespeare’s sonnets to Li Bai’s Tang Dynasty poems to Homer’s epics, the rhythm is there, the rhyming is usually there too—this is the living and breathing culture of classical poetry.

Writing classical poetry is surprisingly easy for beginners and students, as you will see below. The first step to really connecting with it, however, is for you to find a poem or poet, dead or living, who resonates with you:


Classic Books Written in Poetry


Poetry Teaching Tools


Start Writing Poetry

Students of any age thrive when they have a well-structured environment with clear boundaries and common-sense rules on the one hand and opportunities for wide-open creative engagement on the other hand.

Classical poetry, also known as formal poetry or traditional poetry, is perfect for this. That’s why it was used as the cornerstone of education in past centuries, as well as in different cultures. It can be as simple as counting syllables in the line (like haiku writing) and, optionally, leads on to more challenging and fun techniques such as rhyming or alliteration. For the ambitious students, it could lead to the use of the English language’s natural stresses to form metrical patterns, such as iambic pentameter, as well as more complex ones such as the one used in Edgar Allen Poe’s “The Raven.”

Here are resources for introducing beginners or students of any age to classical poetry:

You may also dive right into the specific poetry forms:







Rondeau Redoublés

Rubaiyats (Persian form)



Terza Rimas



Poetry Activity – High School Poetry Competition

Participate in the Society of Classical Poets’ annual International High School Poetry Competition. It is only $5 to enter and contains many examples of past winners. The annual contest usually begins Sept. 1 and ends Dec. 31. See a previous year’s contest page here.


Deeper Dive into Poetry Writing



CODEC Stories:

2 Responses

  1. James Sale

    Great resources – well done, Evan – this is all becoming very substantial. It takes a long time to build a cathedral and you have to start one piece at a time! Then people say, “Wow, lucky you, that doesn’t fall down – how did you manage that?’

  2. Murray Alfredson

    There are some important poetic forms, one family of which has been used in English for perhaps 1500 years, and certainly still in the 20th and 21st centuries. Another is classical, and in its quantitative form dates back a further 1000 years or so:

    I use forms from both of these families.

    1. Alliterative verse, called by CS Lewis alliterative metre. Both Lewis and his friend JRR Tolkien, scholars of Old English have written the best descriptions of this and its ‘rules’. I have seen it described wrongly by authors who do not understand, including in my copy of The Princeton encyclopedia of poetry and poetics.

    2. Classical Greek forms. A number of these have been adapted to accentual verse by 18th century German poets, Klopstock and Hoelty, and used extensively since in German, by such as Goethe, Schiller, Hoelderlin, Platen, Moerike and into the twentieth century. I have seen little of these in English poetry, though Tennyson did give Alcaics a bash. A number have written Sapphics. I have used Alcaics and Asclepiads, and am beginning to use elegiac couplets. I have read of some of these forms used also by Coleridge and Auden, among others.

    I should very much like to see your vision of formal poetry widened somewhat.


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