Just What Exactly Is The Definition Of A Stanza?

The term ‘stanza‘ is most often used in poetry. It is derived from a similarly spelled and pronounced Italian word that translates roughly as “room.”

A stanza is a set of lines within a poem that are grouped together. Stanzas are usually set apart from one another by use of indentation or blank lines. As such, they are much like how articles, stories, and novels are broken down into paragraphs, so in a way, stanzas are the paragraphs of poetry.

Stanzas sometimes have a regular rhyme or even a metrical scheme, depending on the format of the poem and the creative choices of the poet. However, there are no hard or fast rules requiring this to strictly happen.

Stanzas come in many unique forms. Many stanzaic forms prove quite simple, as four-line quatrains are very common. However, something like the Spenserian stanza is actually quite complex. Some poems, particularly fixed-verse poems, like sestinas, are actually defined by the form and number of the stanzas. Shakespearean sonnets are known commonly to have three quatrain stanzas followed by a couplet stanza, often employing iambic pentameter. The quatrains follow an alternating rhyme scheme while the concluding couplet has both lines rhyme with one another for the finishing punch or touch.

In concrete poetry or shape poetry, there are no such things as stanzas. Rather, the typological effect of the words is more important because the words create a shape that reinforces the meaning of the poem. For example, the poem below is entitled The Wine Glass

Who hath wo? Who hath Sorrow!
Who hath contentions? Who
hath wounds without cause?
Who hath redness of eyes?
They that tarry long at the
wine! They that go to
seek mixed wine! Look
not though upon the
wine when it is red,
when it giveth its
color in the
when it
moveth itself
the last
it biteth like a
serpent, and stingeth like an adder