Stanzas work for a poem the way paragraphs work for stories---breaking up the focus of each section of the total work. They are made up of lines, and depending on the number of lines used---two, three or four---they are called different things. An examination of the parts, such as couplets, tercets and quatrains, can give you a better idea of what stanzas are all about. It is these variants that show readers that stanzas can be long or short, and rhyming or absent of rhyme. They are the structures through which stanzas are created.
A stanza is a section in a poem separate from other sections in the work. It is always made up of two or more lines of poetry. For the most part, stanzas within a poem are all the same length and will follow in both meter and rhyme. Their function is to work similarly to paragraphs in non-poetic works, providing readers with a new topic in each one, yet one that connects it to the entire work.
Stanzas sometimes only have two lines. In this case, it is called a couplet. Couplets almost always rhyme in poems since they stand apart and alone. This is the minimum number of lines that can be found in a stanza.
When finding poems greater than two lines, there are two kinds that make up stanzas. The first is called a tercet. The tercet stanza exists when it contains only three lines of poetry. Unlike the couplet, tercets do not follow rhyme regularly, although they can rhyme as well. Three lines rhyming is called a triplet.
Finally, stanzas can contain four lines of poetry. Like the tercet, these can follow a rhyme scheme, but they do not have to rhyme. The only significant element in this type of stanza is the number of its lines.
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