Though the ways we celebrate may look a little different at the moment, there are still ways we can share in celebration. Life has been so strange over the last year and the future so unknown, that many of us have been concentrating only on getting through the short-term. We have concentrated on the pavement directly in front of our feet, rather than lifting our heads to stare at the horizon.
For this writing prompt we would like you to think about what you are looking forward to, what future milestones do you want to celebrate, what activities from less fenced-in life will make you whoop or dance with joy?
We have three poetical forms you might like to turn your imagination to:
- List poems
- Acrostic poems
- Concrete poems
Warm up: What are you wishing for?
What are the things that have kept you going through the last year? This may be a place you want to visit, someone you want to see, an event you would like to attend or it may be as simple as an everyday occurrence – visiting the library, chatting with a stranger in a bus queue, drinking tea at a loved one’s table, giving a friend a hug.
- First, make a list of the things you are looking forward to.
- Next pick one thing from the list and think about it more deeply. How does it look in your mind’s eye? Where are you? Who are you with? How does imagining it make you feel?
- Finally, once you have a specific thing you are looking forward to in mind, use it to complete each of the short tasks in the brainstorm.
In an acrostic poem the first, last or middle letter of every line can be read vertically to make a word or phrase the poem is about.
Make a list of single words or short phrases that capture the thing you are wishing for. This could be:
- About how you are feeling internally – words like anticipation, hope, excitement, waiting
- Things you want to do – hugging mum, shaking hands, dinner parties, swimming, holiday
- Places you want to visit – local café, the pub, museum, theatre, cinema
List poems capture an image or idea by making a list of all the elements about it that the poet wants to highlight. They can be funny, or immersive or really deliver an emotional punch depending on what the list is focused on and how it develops through the poem.
Make a list of all the different aspects of your wish that you are looking forward to – this could include:
- What you will see – what are the sights & landmarks, what colours, how does the light look?
- The other senses – what will you hear, taste, smell and touch?
- The people
- What you will wear, what you will take with you
- Your emotions
Concrete poems carry their meaning in their form – the words are written on the page to make a picture. This can very simple – like a triangle, circle or square – or more complicated like a house, or tree, or animal.
Think about the simple shapes or pictures that you associate with the thing you are wishing for. Write down a few that you think might be a good shape for a poem. Could these be something like:
- A coffee cup for the coffee you will sit and drink in your favourite café?
- The bike, train, bus or car you will travel in to visit family and friends
- A cake or gift you will bring to celebrate
- A hand or a smile
- The penguins you will visit in the zoo
Take a look at all the notes you made during the warm-up and brainstorm exercises and pick the form you are most excited to write your poem in. Below are a few things to think about and some poems for inspiration.
This format allows you to be the most abstract in your writing – once you have your letters to start and end your lines, how you get between them is up to you. An acrostic poem allows you to add layers to the meaning of your poem, you don’t have to mention the subject of poem explicitly, which allows you to play around with your description and images.
Pick the word or phrase you want to build your poem around and then look at some of the other things you wrote down in your brainstorm and see how you can incorporate them in your poem
Acrostics can be used in all forms of writing – to convey an extra message. Take a look at the resignation letter, written in the wake of Charlottesville, from The President’s Committee of Arts and the Humanities(this will open in a new window) – where the first letter of each paragraph spells out “RESIST”.
Or this poem from John Cage, Overpopulation and Art(this will open in a new window).
List poems are exactly that – a list of things, observations, thoughts. They can be deceptively simple; the trick to writing them is in how you order and connect the elements of your list.
- You might want to start all of the lines with the same word, which will add emphasis and weight to that word choice – or you might want to start most of the lines with the same word, in which case you will shift focus to and perhaps turn the meaning of your poem with the lines that begin differently.
- Think about the length of your lines – do you want them to be roughly the same, or do you want them to vary – what do those different choices do to how the poem sounds and feels?
- You could start the list with small, personal things and move out to list large, shared public things. For example – if you were writing about visiting your favourite tree you might start with how it’s bark feels, how tall it is in comparison to you, how far you can reach round its trunk, and maybe move to what you can see if you sit leant against it and where it is in the landscape.
A Procrastinator’s To Do List by Brian Bilston(this will open in a new window). This funny and very relateable poem by Brian Bilston demonstrates the power of adding a rhyme scheme to your list poem, and of repeating key words and phrases.
How to be Hunted as a Witch; part 1 by Catherine Simpson(this will open in a new window)
How to be Hunted as a Witch; part 2 (2017) by Catherine Simpson(this will open in a new window)
These two poems show how powerful list poems can be.
Concrete poems can be very intricate, drawing lines of a picture with the words of a poem, or the shape can be something very simple, achieved just by using the space bar. Look at the images you have listed and think about how you could achieve those shapes using words. You could:
- Make a simple line drawing and write along it
- Type a block of text to make a solid shape
- Make a picture out of the hole in the middle of a piece of text
Fox by Julia Gomez(this will open in a new window)
The Mouse’s Tail by Lewis Carroll(this will open in a new window)
40 Love by Roger McGough(this will open in a new window)