Forms Workshop [DRAFT]

Why Forms?

Several reasons, some merely historical

On the minus side, some say that forms are

Apologists for forms say that

Types of Form

Hundreds! They can be classified as

Also there are conceptual forms (haiku, for example) and borrowed forms (fugue, quartet, collage).

Alan Reynolds has sorted his poems by form and has written about them. See formally yours

Use of Forms

There are risks associated with using Forms. Nowadays it may be necessary to explicitly point out the Form to readers, even if you don't use Obscure Forms. Also some magazines (especially in the USA) have a bias against forms, though imported forms seem more acceptable. And badly written formal verse can be identified faster than bad free-form can.

Sonic forms seem to be accepted as more natural and less easily missed than the alternatives. Other forms can pose problems that readers can't solve - see Some Experiments in Form.

The Future of Forms

In the USA Forms died out for a while. A decade or so ago an attempt was made to revive them, but that movement's petered out. It's not uncommon for a yearly anthology of Best US poetry to have no formal pieces. In the UK modernism never really took hold. The Forward anthology of 2004 has about 10 formal poems compared with about 30 free-form pieces and 17 pieces that have boxed-shaped, equally-sized stanzas - see The Legacy of Form


Updated May 2004
Tim Love

Back to list of articles