Writing poetry should be an experience with words and imagination.
Express yourself in writing and with the spoken word.
Explore your ideas. Make personal connections to the word or topic you have
chosen to write about or that has inspired you. What memories pop into your
Types of poems and projects
English or Shakespearean sonnet is made up of three units with four lines in each
one. Each unit expresses related ideas. Two rhymed lines called a couplet sum up
the poem. The meter or rhyme pattern is iambic pentameter [Iambic refers to an
unstressed syllable followed by a stressed syllable. Pentameter means there are
five beats or meters per line.]
The English sonnet has the simplest and most flexible pattern of all sonnets,
consisting of 3 quatrains of alternating rhyme and a couplet:
Italian sonnet or Petrarchan: pose a question or make a point in the first 8 lines.
Then, in the last 6 lines, respond to your own question or point.
The Italian sonnet is divided into two sections by two different groups of rhyming
sounds. The first 8 lines is called the octave and rhymes:
The remaining 6 lines is called the sestet and can have either two or three
rhyming sounds, arranged in a variety of ways:
A poem written for someone who has died.
Songlike poem that tells a story, often a sad story of betrayal, death, or loss.
Ballads usually have a regular, steady rhythm, a simple rhyme pattern, and a
refrain, all of which make them easy to memorize.
A long narrative poem about many deeds of a great hero. Epics are closely
connected to a particular culture. The hero of an epic embodies the important
values of the society he comes from. (Heroes from epics have-- so far-- been
A poem that tells a story – a series of related events.
A poem that does not tell a story but expresses the personal feelings of a speaker.
A long lyric poem, usually praising some subject, and written in dignified
Ode to Common Things
Choose one object (it must be something you can touch) that is important to you.
Avoid abstract terms such as love or freedom. In 10-21 lines, tell why this object
is so wonderful and special to you and anyone who encounters it.
Free verse poem – it does not have to rhyme, it does not have strict structure
Think of an ordinary word [for example, music]. Close your eyes and let your
imagination wander. Do this for one minute. Write down everything that comes
to your mind. Put each idea on a strip of paper. Put your ideas in order.
Now think about the five senses:
sight, sound, smell, taste, touch
Using your senses, describe the word/topic of your poem in further detail.
What can you add to each line of your poem?
Now look at each line. Say each word out loud. Do you hear your poetry?
A Special Place
In this poem you may only use figurative language
Think of this special place. In five lines describe this place. Write each line using a
different colored marker on a strip of paper. Each line MUST be a figure of
speech: for example, My room is a storm. You must use all three figures of speech
in the poem. You may use two of them twice. Put your strips in order and glue
them to a sheet of paper. Read your poem aloud.
1. Historical Persona Poem
Write a poem speaking in the voice and situation of the historical character.
2. Literary Persona Poem
Write a poem speaking in the voice and situation of a literary character. This is a
good way for a student to infer characters’ unvoiced thoughts or to imagine
scenes in books that occur “offstage.” These scenes are often rich in conflict
particularly internal conflict.
3. Dramatizing People in Our Lives
Write a poem speaking in the voice of a person in your world. Try to imagine
what the people around us are thinking and feeling -- the reclusive neighbor down
the street, the checker at the grocery store, the ice cream vendor….It helps to talk
with the person if possible and the rest must be inferred. Students may NOT
speak in the voice of another teacher or student in the school.
4. City/Neighborhood Poems
Places have definite personalities. Try to capture the essence of a place with
words. Write a poem speaking in the voice of a city/neighborhood you have been
to. Imagine the kind of person who could represent a city by answering the
1. Is the city a man or woman?
2. How old is he/she?
3. How early does the person wake up?
4. What would this person eat for breakfast?
5. What kind of family life does this person have? Does this person live alone
or with relatives?
6. What kind of clothes does this person wear?
7. What kind of job does this person have?
8. What kind of car does this person drive?
9. What kind of music does the person listen to?
10.How many friends does this person have?
11.How wealthy is this person?
12.How well educated is this person?
13.What would the person’s favorite subject in school be?
14.What kind of book would this person read?
15.What is this person’s favorite movie?
16.What is this person’s greatest dream or aspiration?
Write a persona poem based on one of these topics. Your poem must be
between 10 and 21 lines
Art Gallery Poetry-writing Assignment
1. Choose a work of art and record the following information:
Title __________________________________ Date __________________
Artist _________________________________ Medium _______________
2. Write a sentence or two about why you chose this work of art, how it
makes you feel, and/or what it makes you think about.
3. Next write a detailed description of the work of art. Be specific enough so
that someone else could clearly imagine the work of art in his or her mind
after reading your description. Be sure to include words that indicate size,
shape, color, light/shade, objects, figures, positions, and so on.
4. Finally, write a poem in response to the work of art you chose. If you need
inspiration, look back at your answers above. Also remember there are
many different ways to go about this. Here are some ideas:
Write about the scene or subject being depicted in the artwork.
Relate the work of art to something else it makes you think of.
Write about the experience of looking at the art.
Describe how the artwork is organized or presented.
Speculate about how or why the artist created this work.
Imagine a story behind what you see presented in the work of art.
Imagine what was happening while the artist was creating this work.
Speak to the artist or the subject(s) of the painting, using your own
Write in the voice of the artist.
Write in the voice of a person or object depicted in the artwork.
Perform your poetry – Spoken Word
You are invited to read your own original poem at our Barnes and Noble Poetry
Reading in October.
Source: O’Connor, John S. Wordplaygrounds. Illinois: NCTE, 2004.