These are similar but not identical concepts. Rhythm refers to the overall tempo, or pace, at which the poem unfolds, while meter refers to the measured beat established by patterns of stressed and unstressed syllables. Poets who write free verse, generally de-emphasize or ignore meter and focus instead on refining and tuning their natural speech rhythms to suit the poem's tone and content. Or as Ezra Pound put it, they "compose in the sequence of the musical phrase, not in the sequence of the metronome."

In poetry, stanzas are visual groupings of lines. A group of two lines is called a couplet. A three line stanza is called a tercet. A four line stanza is a quatrain, and a five line stanza is a quintet. Two other common lengths are a sestet, six lines; and an octave, eight lines.

Unlike prose, which wraps freely from paragraph to paragraph, poetry is written in lines, which break in definite spots selected by the poet. Because of this, the line is considered a unit of composition, an important factor influencing sound and meaning.