How Long Should A Poem Be?

Poems are a great way of expressing your emotions. Whether you wish to write an uplifting poem or one with a more serious theme, this writing style is a great creative output. 

How Long Should A Poem Be

This makes it sound as though it’s easy to write poetry. But the truth is that it can be difficult to write. You must consider including things such as metaphors, imagery, rhythm, and rhyme.

Not to mention, some people find it hard to be creative, especially when it’s tied to emotions.

You will also need to think about how long a poem should be. Luckily, it often doesn’t matter how long your poem is, as there is no set rule for most poem styles.

Continue reading to find out why this is.

How Long Should A Poem Be?

For the most part, the answer is simple: a poem can be as long as you want. Just make sure that it feels like it’s the right length. A poem should not feel incomplete when you’ve finished it unless this is the point you are trying to make.

There are loads of different examples of short and long poems. Paradise Lost (1667) is a famously long epic poem written by John Milton. This poem has a whopping 11,000 lines (approximately).

As you can imagine, it takes a long time to read!

On the other end of the spectrum, some poems are just a couple of lines long. Lines on the Antiquity of Microbes by Strickland Gillilan is known to be one of the shortest poems in the world. 

Gillian’s rhyming poem has just 2 lines and 3 words. The title is longer than the poem itself. Though poems written after this have been shorter, Gillian’s verse is perhaps the most famous example of a small poem.

However, if you are following a particular style of poem, it must be a particular length. This is because some types of poems have specific structural rules that you must obey.

Here are some of the main poem styles with strict structures:

Free Verse

If you prefer a more lucid form of poetry, free verse is an outstanding option. Unlike other styles, it does not obey a consistent rhyme or structure. Instead, you are free to do whatever you want.

Ultimately, free verse poetry can be as long or short as the author desires. 

Italian/Petrarchan Sonnets

There are two forms of sonnets: the Italian/ Petrarchan and the English/ Shakespearean. Both sonnet varieties are composed of 14 lines. Yet, how these lines are organized is traditionally different.

In Italian sonnets, the lines are divided into two stanzas, namely an eight-line stanza (an octave) and a six-line stanza (sestet). Consequently, the rhyme scheme of an Italian sonnet usually has a different rhyme scheme from that of an English sonnet. 

This poetry form is named after Francesco Petrarca, a famous Italian poet.

English/ Shakespearean Sonnets

Like Italian sonnets, the English or Shakespearean sonnet contains 14 lines. Traditionally written in iambic pentameter, the English sonnet contains 3 quatrains (4 line stanzas) and a couplet (a 2 line stanza), which is usually rhyming. 

Thus, if you intend to write an English/ Shakespearean sonnet, it must be 14 lines in length and it should follow this structure.

This poetry style is an allusion to William Shakespeare, one of the most iconic writers in history.


Haiku is a poetry style that originates from Japan. The haiku usually consists of just one stanza, though you can find some multiple stanza haikus. 

These stanzas contain just 3 lines, which have to contain a specific number of syllables. Namely, the first line is 5 syllables, the second is 7, and the third is 5 syllables long.

Though haikus may seem limiting, this art form is designed to challenge poets. If you wish to write haikus, they must obey these rules. If your poem is longer or shorter, it will not be considered a haiku.

Epic Poems

Epics are narrative poems, meaning that they contain a long story. Consequently, these poems tend to span entire books. However, there are some examples of short epic poems. If you write an epic poem, it will likely be at least a few pages long.

Alongside the aforementioned Paradise Lost, another famous epic poem is Homer’s Odyssey

Acrostic Poems

In this style of poetry, the first letter of each line forms a word or phrase. Consequently, the number of lines that this poem has will depend on the length of the chosen word.

This word normally has some form of important meaning to the contents of the poem.  

Poetry Structure Lingo

If you are new to the world of poetry, you might be confused by all of the terminologies that are used. Many of these terms refer to the length of a poem or a specific part of the writing.

How Long Should A Poem Be (1)

To help you understand poetry better, here are what some of the key poetry terms mean:

  • Stanza: Stanzas are a group of lines in a poem. They are usually separated by breaks. As a result, stanzas are comparable to paragraphs in prose writing.
  • Lines: A line is a set of words in a row. If a sentence continues onto another row, this will mean that the poem contains multiple lines.
  • Couplet: A couplet is a set of two lines that are in succession. Often, these lines contain end rhymes. 
  • Quatrain: This is a stanza that is formed of 4 lines.
  • Sestet: This stanza consists of 6 lines.
  • Octave: a stanza that features 8 lines.
  • Iambic Pentameter: This refers to a line that is 10 syllables long. This metric line consists of a pattern, with one syllable being unstressed and the next being stressed. 

Final Thoughts

Poetry is a style of writing in which you are free to follow whatever conventions you want. Whether you wish to follow a stricter structure or you want to adopt more of a freestyle approach, the choice is entirely up to you.

Therefore, your poems can be as long or short as you desire!

Alan Reiner

Alan Reiner

Hi, my name is Alan Reiner and I have been in the writing industry for almost seven years. I write articles that can span from 200 words all the way to 20,000 words every single day. How do I do it? With a lot of determination. All my way through school and college, I hated long-form assignments. I could never get into the groove of working on one piece for an extended period of time. My pieces were always late because I didn’t have the motivation to type them, let alone edit them.