If you're seeing this message, it means we're having trouble loading external resources on our website.

If you're behind a web filter, please make sure that the domains *.kastatic.org and *.kasandbox.org are unblocked.

Main content

The elements of a poem | Reading

Let's talk about how poems work! Poetry is a special kind of writing—if ordinary writing is like talking, then poetry is like singing. Poets write lines, and where they end is called a line break. Groups of lines form stanzas. The voice telling the poem is the speaker. Poems can rhyme or not rhyme.

Want to join the conversation?

  • cacteye blue style avatar for user KaoSoi
    who has an idea of not ryming poems i dont really know that they even exist can anybody show me more examples?
    (24 votes)
    Default Khan Academy avatar avatar for user
  • duskpin sapling style avatar for user Tricia Morgan

    In the morning
    Blue birds sing
    The sun
    Wakes up
    My alarm clock is ringing
    In the morning
    In the morning
    Mom is running on the treadmill
    Sister making breakfast
    Enjoying my morning
    (41 votes)
    Default Khan Academy avatar avatar for user
  • aqualine ultimate style avatar for user bernardomoreno
    what are some poems that have been turned into songs?
    (20 votes)
  • sneak peak purple style avatar for user raziyah.macy
    My teacher says that having a lot of "ings" is bad. If you need to use them is it bad?
    (12 votes)
    Default Khan Academy avatar avatar for user
    • duskpin tree style avatar for user Me
      In writing that's not poetry, repetition should usually be avoided (there are always exceptions though). It gets difficult to read a sentence with a lot of the same prefixes or suffixes.
      For example: John was playing cards when a knocking came abruptly. Opening the door quietly, John found a child singing softly.
      Note that "ing" and "ly" is repeated more than it should be. There are pretty much always better ways to say something.
      For example: John was playing cards when a knock came from the door. Quietly, he opened it and found a child there singing.
      Repeating a lot of words can seem disorganized or like your rambling on about the ringing, stinging, clinging sound. Plus, it gets hard to say.
      (25 votes)
  • starky tree style avatar for user Aislynn
    At night
    sleep tight,
    On school morning
    not all is boring,
    After every noon
    the sun will set soon,
    During the evening
    rest and feel meaning,
    Because as the sun disappears from the sky
    A new day will come,
    and today will wave goodbye.

    Not the best at poems, I tried though :)
    (24 votes)
    Default Khan Academy avatar avatar for user
  • blobby green style avatar for user henryskim21
    In meadows green where dreams take flight,
    A melody whispers through the night.
    I'll weave a poem, a tapestry grand,
    With words that dance upon the sand.

    In azure skies where birds do soar,
    Imagination knows no bounds to explore.
    I'll paint a canvas with vibrant hue,
    A symphony of thoughts, both old and new.

    Through whispered winds and rustling leaves,
    I'll tell a tale that the heart believes.
    Of love's sweet touch and passions deep,
    Where secrets lie and promises keep.

    In moonlit nights and starry embrace,
    I'll find the words to fill this space.
    A gentle rhythm, a poet's song,
    To heal the wounded, to right the wrong.

    With ink-stained fingers, I'll write my plea,
    To touch your soul, to set it free.
    For in these lines, a connection we share,
    A glimpse of beauty beyond compare.

    So let the verses flow and the imagery bloom,
    As I paint this world with words in bloom.
    For in this poem, a piece of my heart,
    A testament to the power of art.
    (22 votes)
    Default Khan Academy avatar avatar for user
  • hopper cool style avatar for user Nuuukes
    How can poems be about nothing at all?
    (16 votes)
    Default Khan Academy avatar avatar for user
    • spunky sam orange style avatar for user Elder Fauth
      The poem could be talking about random jamboree, or it could be jumping around topics, i.e talking about summer, then randomly switching the topic to shoes, then jumping to markers, then rain, etc. Poems like these are usually classified as "silly poems," and are not really meant to be taken seriously.

      Hope that helps!
      (5 votes)
  • aqualine seed style avatar for user Melody
    Just a poem:

    Tears can symbolize so many things.
    It can symbolize happiness.
    and joy.
    Or, it can symbolize pain.
    Or yearning.
    One hot, salty tear,
    Dripping down your chin,
    Can mean
    So much.
    Think of it.
    Just one small tear,
    Can symbolize two opposites.
    Or joy.

    Hope you liked this poem=)
    (15 votes)
    Default Khan Academy avatar avatar for user
  • aqualine sapling style avatar for user Achikachan
    What is a fairytale? I think it means like tales with magic right? I'm too bad at english but i'm more than ten years old😥
    (12 votes)
    Default Khan Academy avatar avatar for user
    • aqualine ultimate style avatar for user Wolfy
      Fairytales usually fall under the genre of Fantasy, or fiction. Fairytales include things like dragons, knights, fairy's, goblins, orcs, unicorns, etc. When reading literature, you'll find yourself drawn to specific genres, and all a genre is, tells you about things the story will contain.
      (3 votes)
  • duskpin tree style avatar for user Laila
    I trudge
    thru the snow and mud
    to a haven of golden light.
    lavender air
    books everywhere
    a place to sit and hide
    from the world outside
    the books on shelves
    calling to be read
    I look outside
    and I think
    I will stay a little longer tonight.
    (11 votes)
    Default Khan Academy avatar avatar for user

Video transcript

- [Instructor] Hello, readers. Let's talk about poems. Poetry is a special kind of writing. If ordinary writing is like talking, then poetry is like singing. Poetry is a way of making art with language. Poems can express huge ideas or feelings. They can be about the sound or rhythm of language, or they can be goofy, little jokes. It's like any other kind of writing. Poems can be about everything or they can be about nothing at all. They can be funny, or sad, or sweet. They can rhyme. They can very much not rhyme. And all of that is, in my opinion, absolutely wonderful. I think of some poems as condensed ideas that contain a lot of ideas in small amounts of text. So every word matters a lot. There's a little light bulbs representing ideas. So I'm gonna look at a couple of poems today in order to describe some parts of a poem. Let's begin with the poem "Cat" by Marilyn Singer. It goes like this. Cat. I prefer warm fur, a perfect fire to lie beside a cozy lap, where I can nap, an empty chair when she's not there. I want heat on my feet, on my nose, on my hide. No cat I remember dislikes December inside. So the person who wrote this poem, Marilyn singer, is the poet for stories. The person who writes the poem is an author, but for poems, the writer is a poet, but who is telling the poem? Who's speaking? The person whose voice we hear in a poem is called the speaker, which is another thing I like about poetry. When you're having trouble understanding a poem, read it aloud. Part of the pleasure of poetry for me is hearing the words bounce around as you say them. And then this poem, I'm pretty sure the speaker is a cat. Now you'll notice there are only three sentences in this poem, but they're separated into 15 lines. You can see these lines have anywhere from one to four words in them. Lines can be as long or as short as a poet likes, but here the poet is creating these line breaks to indicate pauses and rhythms, right? Like normally we wouldn't start a new line here, if this were prose, which is what we call all other forms of writing. Prose uses normal sentences and paragraphs, right? The poet is choosing to create line breaks in order to change the way the sentence or the line looks on the page. Poetry is not just about how it sounds. Sometimes it's about how it looks as it's written. Now, in addition, the poet is also using spaces to scoot these three phrases over as well as this word inside. The words themselves are scooted in. They're curled up and feeling cozy, like a cat by a fire in the middle of December. You'll also notice that some but not all of the lines rhyme with each other. And let's take a moment to think for a second. What is rhyming really? One way to think about it is when the ending sound of a word matches the other ending sound of a word like lap and nap, or when a bunch of sounds match each other throughout a pair of words like remember, and December, I want to be super clear about this part because I was already out of high school before I learned this thing, but poems don't have to rhyme. They can, but they definitely don't have to. I have one more poem part to describe to you. And to do it, I wanna use Billy Collins poem "Litany" which sounds like a fancy poem at first, but then becomes much more conversational. I'll end by reading the first three stanzas, which are these paragraph looking things. Not all poems are broken into stanzas, but this one is. So those are some parts of the poem. To review, a poet writes lines. The place where each line ends is called a line break and a group of lines together in a paragraph is called a stanza. The voice that tells us the poem, the poem's narrator is called the speaker. Some poems rhyme, others don't. Cool. Here's a snippet of "Litany" by Billy Collins. Litany. You are the bread and the knife, the crystal goblet and the wine. You are the dew on the morning grass and the burning wheel of the sun. You are the white apron of the baker and the marsh birds suddenly in flight. However, you are not the wind in the orchard, the plums on the counter, or the house of cards. And you are certainly not the pine scented air. There is just no way that you are the pine-scented air. It is possible that you are the fish under the bridge. Maybe even the pigeon on the General's head, but you are not even close to being the field of corn flowers at dusk. There's more, but I'd love it if you looked it up and read it aloud yourself. You can learn anything. David out.