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Playing with Form: 7 Amazing Poetry Prompts to Expand Your Craft

The form of a poem refers to its meter, structure, length and rhythm. There are several traditional and modern poetic forms that you could explore to expand your poetic craft. The seven forms in this post are just starting points and an introduction to traditional forms to expand your creative writing muscles.

At The Poetry Cove, we always encourage you to share your poems with the Forum or for constructive criticism. If you write any poems inspired by these prompts, we'd love to read it!

1. Calligram

A calligram is a form of written work in which the text is arranged into a shape or image. Now, the poem tells a story and so does the shape it is arranged in. This gives the reader a visual experience and is a great way to experiment with words and white space.

Watch this video by Ted-Ed to know more about Guillaume Apollinaire who has been credited with inventing this style of poetry. This will give you lots of inspiration to write your own calligram!

Keep in mind that your poem should not be in a shape just for the sake of it. Let the shape and the subject of the poem be inter-related. Try writing a poem in the shape of a circle, a snake or the eiffel tower! Here are some examples.

2. Golden Shovel

The Golden Shovel poetic form was created by Terrance Hayes when he wrote 'Golden Shovel' inspired by 'We Real Cool' by Gwendolyn Brooks. If you're familiar with this form, awesome. If you aren't, let's explore this together. First, read this poem:

THE POOL PLAYERS. SEVEN AT THE GOLDEN SHOVEL.  We real cool. We Left school. We  Lurk late. We Strike straight. We  Sing sin. We Thin gin. We  Jazz June. We Die soon.

Now, read Terrance Hayes' poem here.

Were you able to find something in common between these two poems? If you take the last word of each line from Terrance Hayes' poem, you'd have 'We Real Cool'. Try looking for it yourself!


Try writing your own Golden Shovel poem now. You could use the original text from 'We Real Cool' or choose a poem or statement that inspires you best.

3. Haiku

The Haiku is a traditional Japanese poetic form which follows a 5-7-5 syllable pattern. The first line has five syllables, the second has seven and the third line has five syllables again. Traditional Haiku poems were usually written about nature. This is a simple yet powerful poetic form that can help you get started with writing in traditional poetic forms.

Bonus: Try writing a tanka! This follows a 5-7-5-7-7 syllable pattern

4. Ekphrastic Poetry

The word 'ekphrastic' is derived from Greek to mean something that's described in great detail. An ekphrastic poem is inspired after a piece of art or photography and is a description of it in poetic style. You can write an ekphrastic poem inspired by sculptures, architecture or even an object. To start of, try writing an ekphrastic poem inspired by this painting by by Claude Monet. Remember to credit the artist with a simple 'after Artist Name' below your poem's title!

The Cliffs at Etretat, 1885 by Claude Monet
The Cliffs at Etretat, 1885 by Claude Monet

5. Villanelle

The villanelle is a French poetic form consisting of nineteen lines—five tercets followed by a single quatrain. That sounds a little daunting, doesn't it?

At the Poetry Cove, we have an amazing post by Ken LeMarchand simplifying the Villanelle with free-to-use templates and videos to make it more fun. You can read it here.

6. Epistolary Poem

An epistolary poem is a poem that is written in the form of a letter. You can incorporate rhyming schemes in an epistolary poem or even write it in free verse. You can address the letter-poem to a person, an object, explore philosophical musings or even write about something mundane. Here are three mini-prompts to get you started on writing your own epistolary poem. Write a letter-poem:

to your past self or your future
to an emotion; hate, anger, love etc.
to a family member. Make it seem like the poem is about daily mundane activities and life updates and then reveal how it actually has a deeper meaning to it

7. Palindrome Poem (Mirror Poetry)

Have you heard of palindromes before? A palindrome is either a word or a phrase that reads the same backwards as forwards. For example, kayak. A palindrome poem is also often called a mirror poem.

The lines of the poem must repeat themselves in such a way that reading it backwards would lead to another poem. This is a great form to experiment with to create poems which bear different meanings in itself.

Read Myth by Natasha Trethewey for some inspiration.

Photograph by Vince Fleming on Unplash

These were just a few poetic forms for you to explore. You could also have a look at this post by The Garish Grackle at our very own Poetry Cove Blog enlisting 15 distinct poetry styles. Even the sky is not the limiti when it comes to poetry; I highly encourage you to continue expanding your personal style by learning to write in other traditional forms like limericks, sonnets and ghazals to name a few. They all seem daunting at first, but there's so much joy in following or even bending the rules to craft your poem.

Do you know any form that hasn't been mentioned in this post? Let us know in the comments!

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2 Yorum

Adam Gary
Adam Gary
27 Eyl 2022

Awesome post as always Suchita! What an absolute star you are! Thanks for everything you've done for our blog! We will miss you!


Ken LeMarchand
Ken LeMarchand
25 Eyl 2022

I've started keeping a red journal that I've dubbed The Red Book, where I keep all my passing thoughts and partial poems. I've decided to take an entry I wrote and turn it into a Golden Shovel using the "We Real Cool" prompt...

These hazel-spotted globes of mine. We

gonna' polish off their shine. Lurk

into the spit of Shady Grove's alley late,

and spin up and down an early grave. We

pop socket and drop it till midnight's strike,

sipping on their liquored cherry veins straight.

Don't have a title for it, but I based the initial notes off from my over-tired eyes around midnight, despite staying awake for yet another two hours.

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