Narrative Poetry

Definition – Examples – How to Write

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Hello Lovelies, and welcome back to blog. Today, and for the next few weeks, we’re talking about the second Pillar of Genre. Let’s talk about Poetry.

How do you define what Poetry even is? Would you say that it has a meter or cadence? That it has to rhyme and have multiple verses? That it has to take a specific form? All of those things may be aspects of poetry, and yet poems exist that could also be said to have none of those qualities. Today we are going to go into Narrative Poetry, so let’s talk about it.

Narrative Poetry Definition

Narrative poetry is going to be the type of poetry that most people are familiar with. In fact, when I took poetry in high school, it was the only type of poetry they taught. This type of poetry is the poetry that holds the most shape and form and is a story told in the form of a verse. If, when we opened, you thought about anything with a hard structure, you thought first and foremost of narrative poetry.

Like Beowulf and other less daunting narrative poems, narrative poetry has a specific form it follows, and, as its name suggests, it tries to tell a completely self-contained story. Whether using a beginning, middle, end ideation like three-act structure, or something like a four act ideation following introduction, development, twist, conclusion, narrative poetry is going to be paired with a style of poetic verse for full effect. 

I also want to point out here that narrative poetry is going to be the type of poetry that is meant to be primarily read in a book or collection, perhaps more than any other style. The other poetic styles are largely meant to be performed in some way, and so the way that you consume the poetry really matters in how the poetry is being categorized. This puts part of the task onto you as the author to know how your audience will receive your work and to write and structure your poetry accordingly.

Examples

The Iliad by Homer

The Iliad is an epic poem that tells the story of the last year of the Trojan War fought between the city of Troy and the Greeks. Achilles is the main character and the greatest warrior in the world and leads the Myrmidons against the Trojans.

The Canterbury Tales by Geoffrey Chaucer

The Canterbury Tales tells the story of a group of pilgrims traveling from London to Canterbury to visit the holy shrine of St. Thomas Becket. This is a story made of stories: Each of the pilgrims takes a turn as a storyteller, with a banquet promised to the person who tells the best tale.

The Raven by Edgar Allan Poe

The Raven is a narrative of a young man who is bereaved by the death of the woman he loved. He finds self-destructive meaning around a raven’s repetition of the word ‘Nevermore’, until he finally despairs of being reunited with his beloved Lenore in another world.

How to Write Narrative Poetry

A narrative poem is a longer form of poetry that tells a complete story. Narrative poems contain all of the elements of a fully developed story, including characters, plot, (usually) conflict, and resolution. These poems are typically told by just one narrator or speaker, but as in The Canterbury Tales, they don’t necessarily have to be.

Narrative poems are written in verse and retain poetic devices and characteristics like meter and rhyme. Though some narrative poems may be written in blank verse (that is, in iambic pentameter but with no rhyme), most narrative poetry does retain a formal rhyme scheme such as ABCB, so decide early on what is going to work best for you.

Next Week

Now that we’ve gone over Narrative poetry, we are going to take a closer look at Dramatic poetry. Dramatic poetry is a lot like narrative poetry, but is of an older poetic style, meant for the stage. 

Discussion Questions

  1. What is your favorite poetry subgenre?
  2. Do you have a favorite poet or poem?
  3. What genre is your favorite to read in, and do you write in the same genre or a different one?
  4. What is the most important reason writers should be aware of genre and its conventions?
  5. What questions would you like to see me answer in a blog post or podcast episode?

Leave your answers in the comments section for this post!

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