Writing poetry is not as easy as it seems, especially when you are trying to stick to a form. And it’s very tempting to just start spilling out your thoughts in free verse. Aren’t poetic forms old-fashioned anyway?
Well, writing in a poetic form may not be your favorite thing, but it’s good for you because it challenges your writing. It may not be fun at first, but experimenting with different poetry forms will make your poetry better in the long run.
So what happens when you get stuck? (Which, if you are like me, happens quite often!)
Believe it or not, some poetry forms are more fun than writing free verse! I have compiled a list of my four favorite easy poetry forms. When I am completely stuck and running out of ideas, these are the forms I go to.
1. The Golden Shovel
Maybe you haven’t heard of this one before. Golden Shovel is an odd name for a poetry form. I only learned about this form recently, but it is already one of my favorites!
The Golden Shovel is simple. First, you need to pick a very short inspiration poem (normally written by someone else) that you like. Then you can start creating your own poem.
Here’s the catch: you must use each word from the short poem you chose as the end words for each of the lines in your poem. You cannot change the order of the words either; they must all be used in order.
Eventually, if you read the words at the end of each line in your poem, they will form the short inspiration poem you chose.
For example, I chose Jack Kerouac’s poem “The Bottoms of My Shoes.”
The bottoms of my shoes
From walking in the rain
Using the words in Kerouac’s poem, I wrote my own Golden Shovel poem titled “Rain Walking.”
When I think about the
Time spent on our bottoms
I am reminded of
All that is wrong with my
life and how I hate shoes.
How awful that we are
Obsessed with being clean!
You see, where I come from
I go barefoot walking
To let the mud seep in
And I shower in the
Breathtaking summer rain.
Isn’t it fun! The last words of each line, when strung together, form Jack Kerouac’s poem. To make the poem a little more challenging, I made each line the same number of syllables, but this was just an extra step for fun. The Golden Shovel form does not need to follow any particular meter. And the topic of the poem can be anything you want. The only thing that matters is the ending word of each line.
Because it is dependent on an existing poem to give you inspiration, the Golden Shovel form is perfect if you get stuck. Just make sure to give credit to the poet who inspired your Golden Shovel poem!
2. The Haiku
You might have guessed this one would be in here. The haiku is a Japanese poetry form, and when written in English it typically only has seventeen syllables. Yep, it’s short. Typically the first line has five syllables, the second line has seven, and the last line has five again.
The best part? Like the Golden Shovel form, you don’t have to worry about rhyme or meter.
What makes the haiku challenging is that it is so small that you have to choose your words very carefully. My advice is to narrow down and write about the details. The haiku is like the microscope of poetry forms. There is not enough space in a haiku to be abstract. You only have three lines to create a lasting image, so go deep and go detailed.
Here is a haiku I wrote:
Haikus can really help you develop your imagery, so it is a good idea to get into the habit of writing one haiku a day. And guess what? Because haikus are so short, you can use them to create Golden Shovel poems.
4. The Triolet
I love triolets because I can’t help but read them in a sing-song voice. The form is eight lines, which is pretty short, and it is even easier because some of the lines are repeated. You don’t have to come up with a lot of rhymes either, because everything must rhyme with the first two lines.
The rhyme scheme is ABaAabAB. The capital letters are repeating lines. So, the first line is repeated twice more in the poem, and the second line is repeated at the end. In between the repeating lines are unique lines that rhyme with either the first line or the second line.
It sounds complicated, but you will get the hang of it after trying it a few times.
Here is a fun example with the repeating lines bolded:
The sky is blue, the sea is blue;
It stretches on forever.
The world is ringed in azure hue,
The sky is blue, the sea is blue,
The absent line makes one from two,
Like paint dripping together.
The sky is blue, the sea is blue;
It stretches on forever.
And that’s the triolet. Now you can see why I half-speak and half-sing triolets. The repetition can make triolets very song-like.
4. Blank Verse
The last one is blank verse. Blank verse may be one of the most natural forms of poetry because it is written in iambic pentameter, which is closest to how we naturally speak in English.
First, blank verse is iambic, meaning that the syllables follow the pattern of an unaccented syllable, then an accented syllable. One unaccented/accented pattern forms what is called a foot. Pentameter means that there are five feet per line.
So one line of blank verse poetry should repeat the unaccented/accented pattern five times, for a total of ten syllables per line.
It ends up looking something like this:
I guess it was supposed to be fresh white.
The room, I mean. The solid-painted walls
Pried from the floor by black and plastic trim.
But someone drew the blinds and sliced the light
Into a thousand little pieces shed
Around the room in dappled, dimming clumps.
As you can see, you don’t need to worry about rhyming. And the best part? You can fudge the rules a little. Sometimes it’s okay to bend the meter and put two accented or two unaccented syllables next to each other, slightly messing up the pattern. It helps keep the pattern from becoming monotonous, and it makes things a little bit easier for you.
No matter what form you choose, keep writing.
If you want to write poetry but you get stuck a lot, these forms might be your new best friend. On the other hand, you might hate all of these forms and choose something completely different. In the end, no matter what you choose, I hope you keep writing and keep challenging yourself to try new things.