Stanzas in poetry are vitally important. The term stanza refers to a group of lines in a poem. It is poetry’s basic building block and poems can be made up of any number of stanzas. 


Stanzas in poetry are vitally important. The term stanza refers to a group of lines in a poem. It is poetry’s basic building block and poems can be made up of any number of stanzas. 

Example of a stanza
Example of a stanza

There are many different types of stanzas in poetry. They are often classified by the number of lines they contain. 

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1 line stanza 

A stanza of one line is often called a monostich.

Here is an example of a monostich poem:

Bravery runs in my family.


2 line stanza

A stanza of two lines is called a couplet. Couplets are sometimes used to signify the end of the poem like in some sonnets.

Couplet examples:

“Their Sex Life”

One failure on
Top of another


And here is a sonnet by Sylvia Platch that uses a couplet to end.

Sonnet: To Time

Today we move in jade and cease with garnet
Amid the ticking jeweled clocks that mark
Our years. Death comes in a casual steel car, yet
We vaunt our days in neon and scorn the dark.

But outside the diabolic steel of this
Most plastic-windowed city, I can hear
The lone wind raving in the gutter, his
Voice crying exclusion in my ear.

So cry for the pagan girl left picking olives
Beside a sunblue sea, and mourn the flagon
Raised to toast a thousand kings, for all gives
Sorrow; weep for the legendary dragon.

Time is a great machine of iron bars
That drains eternally the milk of stars.


3 line stanza 

A stanza of three lines is called a tercet. There are many poetic forms that are made up of one or more tercets, like 

Tercet example

Haiku example tercet by Joel Kim Booster

“I’m huge on Twitter.”
– An ancient proverb that means
Lonely in real life. 

Source: EATING SALAD DRUNK by Gabe Henry

4 line stanza 

A stanza of four lines is called a quatrain. They can be rhymed or unrhymed. The most common rhyme schemes for a quatrain are ABAA, AAAA, ABAB, and ABBA.

Quatrain examples

One of my favorite all-time poems is a quatrain. It is Piet Hein’s first published Grook:

5 line stanza 

A stanza of five lines is called a quintain. Classic poetic forms that consist of quintains include Limericks, Doditsu, and tankas. See examples of these forms in action below.

Quintain examples

Example of a quintain in a doditsu poem:

Five Minutes to Five
Thursday afternoon is dead,
phones become silent and wait
until five minutes to five
to ring, on Friday

by Judi Van Gorder

6 line stanza 

A stanza of six lines is called a sestet. Shadorma is made up of a single sestet, while the Sestina employs six sestets throughout the form before ending in a trecet.

Sestet examples

Example sestina by Corey Bryan

“split pea soup”

living in this house gets harder in the winter,
we just live here now, the two of us, me and babby.
well, I guess it’s not just us, always sleeping is the cat.
whenever it gets a little gloomy out we get out the split peas
something feels so wrong about making soup in the light.
whenever i ask if she needs help cooking she lets out a laugh

god, how warm i feel when i hear her laugh
her smile and the soup makes a summer day in winter.
in our kitchen our landlord put up a light
that is absolutely horrendous and red. “i hate that light, babby”
“yeah, i know. but it does give a nice red hue to the split peas.
they look like blood clots” she laughed and that woke the cat.

stretching her black and white body, complaining, the cat
meows. drowsily, she almost falls out of her chair and i laugh.
“i thought cats were smart, but Eloise is dumb as those split peas”
“don’t be mean!” she scolds. i shut up at look at the winter
landscape through the window. “it’s snowing, babby!”
i tell her. it’s coming down softly. “well the snow’s light

“and you know it’ll never stick if it’s that light.” 
she’s such a realist. so instead i go ask the cat.
“i need the real news from you Eloise. babby
says the snow won’t stick, will it?” from the kitchen i hear her laugh
the cat meows and i smile. “she says it’s gonna be a white winter!”
“she’s just telling you so you give her a treat. these split peas

are too small. what is even the point of split peas?
peas are small enough.” she turns around to find the light
switch. she turns the blood clot light off. “winter
is harsh enough without that stupid red light. the cat
hates it too. i think it makes her mad like a bull.” i laugh
and think about Eloise charging up and sprinting at babby.

“do you think you’d be a good matador, babby?”
i ask but i think i know the answer. it’s no. the split peas
are really boiling now. “i’d be the best” and a little laugh
escapes. she knows she’d be shit too. i turn the light
back on. “turn it off” “one sec, i wanna see if the cat
would really charge us.” what’s not to love about winter?

each day inside we laugh. myself, the cat and babby
the gloomy days of winter, stepping on spilt split peas
in the blood clot light, attacked by the charging cat

7 line stanzas and up 

A stanza of  seven lines is called a septet

A stanza of eight lines is called an octave

A stanza of nine lines is called a nonet, or Spenserian

A  stanza of ten lines is called a dizain

A stanza of fourteen lines is a sonnet

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Sam and Corey started Poetry is Pretentious to demystify poetry. More importantly, their 5th grade teacher told them they couldn’t go through life as a team. 18 years later they’re here to prove her wrong.


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