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Genres of literature

I. Poetry – 'Poetry is the spontaneous outflow of powerful feelings’ (William Wordsworth). Poetry
is intensified language using vivid imagery, regular rhythm, rhyme scheme and figurative
expression. However, some poems intentionally avoid the use of rhymes (blank verse)
and ignore rhythm (free verse)

Types of Poetry

A. Lyric Poetry – uses strong feelings and emotions

1. Simple lyric – it includes a wide variety of poems that do not fall under
the other types of lyrics
2. Song – short lyric poem meant to be sung and has a melodious quality. The
song can be sacred or secular. Under sacred songs are hymns, anthems
and oratorios
3. Ode – most majestic type of lyric poetry, it is exalted in tone and expresses
enthusiasm and lofty praise for a person, object, event or idea.
Examples include John Keats’ Ode on a Grecian Urn, and Percy Bysshe
Shelley’s Ode to the West Wind
4. Elegy- this is a lament for the dead. It voices the personal grief of the author
over the loss of a loved one. Thomas Gray’s Elegy Written in a Country
Church yard is a good example of this.
5. Sonnet – a lyric poem of fourteen lines with a formal rhyme scheme or
pattern. The Italian Francesco Petrarch was the first important poet to use
it though Shakespeare popularized it in the English speaking world
6. Haiku – a three line poem consisting of a total of 17 syllables (usually allotted
5-7-5) originating in Japan and refined by poet Basho in the 17th century.
Its theme is usually about nature.

Dewdrops, let me cleanse

In your sweet fleeting waters
These dark hands of life

7. Limerick – a short humorous five line poem.The rhyme scheme is


Once a chemist I knew, Molly Cule

Taught atomic collisions in school
Bouncing hard colored balls
Off rectangular walls ...
Now she's tripled her pay, playing pool!

8. Epitaph – an inscription on gravestones originally in verse form. An epitaph

should be memorable and should speak of the deceased in some way.

Nature, and nature's laws,

Lay hid in night,
God said, let Newton be!
And all was light. — from the grave of Newton, a poem from Alexander Pope

9. Cinquain – a five line poem invented by Adelaide Crapsey. It has 2 syllables

in its first and last lines, and four, six and eight in the three intervening

With faint dry sound,
Like steps of passing ghosts,
the leaves, frost crisp’d, break from the trees
And fall.”

- “November Night” by Adelaide Crapsey

B. Narrative Poetry – tells a story in verse form

1. Epic – celebrates the exploits of a hero and the development of a nation

a. Greece – The Iliad and The Odyssey both by Homer

b. Rome – Aeneid written by Virgil
c. Spain – El Cid
d. Germany- The Nibelungenlied and The Volsunga Saga
e. Italy – Dante Alighieri’s Divine Comedy
f. Finland – The Kalevala
g. India- The Ramayana and The Mahabharata
h. Babylon- The Epic of Gilgamesh
i. Philippines has several The Life of Lam-ang of the Ilocos region;
Ibalon of the Bicol region

2. Ballad – a short simple narrative poem composed to be sung as it was

transmitted orally from generation to generation. Themes of ballads
revolve around hapless love, revenge, death, cruel family, a historical
event and a legendary character.

3. Metrical Tale – a narrative poem longer than the ballad. It relates real or
imaginary events about ordinary people in a simple language.

4. Metrical Romance – a long rambling love story in verse form. It is usually

about the adventures of knights and lords and their ladies during the age
of chivalry. Virtues of honor, courage, truth and reverence for women are
the themes involved in metrical romances.

Examples include Idylls of the King by Lord Tennyson, the Arthurian

Legends with the stories of the Knights of the Round Table and the
exploits of Robin Hood and his merry men.

C. Dramatic Poetry – in dialogue form, it narrates in poetic form conversations between

characters. It is meant to be performed on stage.

a. Tragedy – the hero dies or struggles with suffering throughout.

Example – Hamlet, Julius Caesar etc.
b. Comedy – funny elements are found in the play- such as mistaken
identities, wrong attributions etc.
example – Midsummer Night’s Dream, Comedy of Errors
c. Tragicomedy – a mixture of both tragedy and comedy

II. Prose is discourse which uses sentences, forming paragraphs, to express ideas, feelings
and actions. The subject matter of prose usually concentrates on the familiar and the
ordinary. Though focusing on the ordinary, topics in prose may also be about
heroism, beauty, nobility and love. Prose maybe narrative in form and in some
instances may also center on the presentation of an idea, a concept or a point of
view. In this latter form, its main purpose is to give information, instruction or

A. Fiction – “ a series of imagined facts which illustrates truths about fiction.”

1. Short Story – a brief, artistic form of prose fiction which is centered on a

single, main incident and is intended to produce a single dominant

2. Novel – an extensive prose narrative ranging from a hundred pages to epic

like length. The plot is complicated, characterizations profound and
themes are many.

B. Non-fiction – deals with facts and information. It may be expository or may

also be narrative in form.

1. Essay – a prose composition of moderate length, usually expository. It aims

to explain or clarify an idea, a theory or a point of view.
2. Memoir- a short sketch of an incident in real life. Diaries may also fall
under this genre. Anne Frank’s Diary is a good example.
3. Biography/autobiography – the events and incidents of an individual’s life
as narrated by the person himself (autobiography) or by another person
Autobiographical examples include Mein Kampf by Adolf Hitler and The
Story of My Life by Helen Keller .
4. Non-fictional story- is a narrative prose based on real life incidents like
The Perfect Storm.