Poetry essay: Developing experimental poetry forms

A recurring category on M. Sakran’s blog of and about poetry and poetry related things is experimental poetry form.  Experimental poetry forms are poetry forms thought up by M. Sakran.  Poets can write poems using the experimental poetry forms on this blog as a way to try out different ways to express poetry.

In addition to using the experimental poetry forms on this blog, poets can also develop their own forms.  There are a number of benefits to thinking up and using an experimental poetry form.

First, the exercise of working with form elements can be training for writing poetry.  As a poet combines different form elements together, they can see how they interact and learn more about using them.  This can help later as a poet writes poetry and incorporates form elements into their work.

Second, once a poetry form has been developed, writing a poem with it can also be training.  Trying to fit a poem to a new form can be a skill building exercise for a poet.  In addition to practicing fitting a poem to a form, a poet can also learn how different form elements interact and if they work well together.

Third, some of the forms developed could potentially turn out to be good for certain kinds of expressions and might be the kind of forms that could be used repeatedly.

Fourth, as readers read poems written with experimental poetry forms (even if they don’t know the forms are as such) they can learn from the experience of reading poems written with different form elements.

If a poet is interested in developing their own experimental poetry forms, there are a number of form elements they could use.  An incomplete list includes:

  the number of stanzas

  the number of lines in each stanza and or in the whole poem

  the number of line breaks between each stanza

  the number of words per line, stanza and or in the whole poem

  the number of syllables per word, line, stanza and or in the whole poem

  the number of letters per word, line, stanza and or in the whole poem

  rhyming within lines, stanzas, between stanzas and or in the whole poem

  meter such as iambic or trochaic applied to words, lines, stanzas or the whole poem,

  the number of spaces of indentions of lines

  the number of spaces between words within lines

  acrostic qualities applied to lines, stanzas, between stanzas and or to the whole poem

  page layout (e.g. a poem that looks like a square or a triangle or a poem that is centered or right aligned)

  different word arrangements (e.g. the first word of one line of a poem becomes the last word of another line of the poem)

  repeated words, lines or stanzas

  directional qualities such as the poem is read from the bottom of the page up

  using elements such as homophones, homographs or synonyms

These different elements (as well as others) could be combined in different numbers and ways and could be used in different patterns.  There are a multitude of poetry forms that could be developed from them.

In developing an experimental poetry form, one approach might be for a poet to simply pick different elements and different qualities for those elements and see how they work together.  The idea would be to see what develops without starting with a more specific goal in mind.

Alternatively, a poet might want to develop experimental poetry forms according to specific goals.  They might want to see, for example, what a poem sounds like using a certain repeat pattern or how two poetry meters work when combined together.

When developing an experimental poetry form, a poet should keep themselves, another poet who might use the form, and the reader of poems written in the form in mind.  They want to make sure and develop a form that works in the development stage, is something that can be used by other poets if the form was explained, and is something that can be used to create poems where the form impacts the expression for the reader.


Artwork to inspire poetry: Forelle pear

Forelle pear

Above is an artwork of a Forelle pear.  It can inspire poetry.  A poet could write about:

  • Pears. A poet could go in the obvious direction and write about the fruit.

  • Pairs. A poet could go in the direction of a play on words.

  • Lack of detail. This artwork lacks detail.  A poet could apply the idea of lack of detail to situations in life and use that in poetry.

  • Something using words that rhyme with pear. A number of words rhyme with pear and a poet could write a poem using those rhyming words.  Some of the words that rhyme with pear are: bear, care, chair, dare, fair, fare, flare, glare, hair, hare, mare, pair, pare, rare, stair, stare, tare, tear, wear, and ware.

Here is a poem inspired by the artwork:

each day
the picture of her
faded more
within his mind

A photograph to inspire poetry: two light purple and white flowers

two light purple and white flowers

Above is a photograph of two light purple and white flowers.  It can inspire poetry.  A poet could write about:

  • Pairs. These flowers form a pair and a poet could be inspired to write about other kinds of pairs.

  • Cooperation and competition. Depending on perspective, these two flowers could be seen as cooperating with each other or competing against each other.  They could be cooperating, in that because there is more color in the area than if there was only one flower, they are more likely to attract pollinators.  They could be competing in that they are competing for pollinators.  A poet could write about either of these ideas or a situation where both exist.

  • Not talking. The two flowers are not facing each other.  This could remind a poet of two people who are not talking to each other.  A poet could write a poem about this.

Below is a poem inspired by this photograph.  It uses the experimental poetry form four by four.

After bee told one,
what butterfly had said,
the other had said,
neither spoke a word.

Poem with an explanation: now free?

Twenty one steps,
now free?


the piers,
the waves press.

    The dolphins laugh.

and line.

    Fishing poles



This poem is about a person turning twenty one and being legally allowed to drink.  The poem examines the supposed freedom the person has.

In terms of form, this poem uses the form Twenty Words.

The poem has a water theme.  In the poem, a person walks to the water.  The person goes Twenty one steps to get there.  This symbolizes the twenty one years the person has journeyed to get to this point.

The poem then asks the question now free?  In the poem, the person believes they are free.  They are now legally allowed to drink.  They are no longer constrained by a prohibition.  The poem questions this freedom.

The poem tells the person in the poem to Look.  The idea is for the person to open their eyes metaphorically and see reality.  The idea is for the person to see what is really going on around them.

The next two lines indicate what the person should look at.  They say, the piers, the waves press.  First, this continues the water theme.  The person is at the end of a pier and the waves are pressing.  Second, the lines are a play on the words peer pressure.  In this case, the words are represented by piers press.

The idea of these lines is for the person to see the peer pressure around them.  Rather than being free to drink or not, the person is in a situation where their peers expect them to drink.  In some sense, it has transcended expectation, in that expectation is an action.  Their peers simply take it for granted that the person will drink.

The person, while believing they have the freedom of choice, is really in a situation where they are pressured, and expected, to behave in a certain way.  Before they were not allowed to drink; now they are expected to.

The next line of the poem says The dolphins laugh.  In the poem, the person’s peers appear happy, with their drinking and partying, but underneath problems exist.  They are not as happy as they appear.  This is similar to a dolphin, which can look like it is smiling, despite its emotions.

The next lines show the reality.  Although the dolphins are laughing, they are caught.  They are caught by drinking, peer pressure and the effects of both.  Though they are smiling, they are like a fish on a Hook and line.  They are being reeled in by a culture of expected drinking such that the Fishing poles shook.

The idea of the poem is to examine the idea of freedom.  It looks at a situation where a person was prohibited from an action and then that action was allowed.  Although the person might have thought they were entering a situation of choice, where they could choose the action or not, they really entered a situation where the action was expected.  They went from being restricted from not doing something, to being restricted to doing it.  A similar idea could apply to other situations besides drinking.

Poetry topic idea: morning

Today’s poetry topic idea is morning.  A poet using morning in a poem could write about:

  • The start of the day. They could write about the sun rising, the way light looks, birds starting to sing and so forth.  They could write about the start of the day in different settings such as in a large city or in a suburb.  They could focus on the start of the day in an external sense (what happens around a person), or in an internal sense (what a person does).

  • The end of night. Rather than focusing on the start of something, a poet could write about the end of something.  They could write about darkness ending.  They could write about cold ending.  They could apply the idea symbolically to many situations.

  • Morning and mourning. Morning and mourning are homophones.  The two words sound the same.  They mean different things.  Morning is the start of the day, whereas mourning is feeling sadness at something, such as the death of a person.
    A poet could take the two ideas and combine them together in a poem.  They could use the sound quality of the words to poetic effect and to get different ideas across.

  • The mornings of people in unique situations. A poet could look at, for example, the mornings of people in prisons, hospitals, outer space, in remote locations, in blackouts, and so forth.  They could examine the mornings of those in these situations and draw a contrast with the mornings of those in more typical situations.

  • The morning after some significant event. There are many significant events in a person’s life where the focus is on the event itself.  In these situations, people sometimes wonder, what happens next?  What happens to the person, metaphorically speaking, after the party is over, the crowd has left, and the music has stopped?  What happens to the person after the viewer leaves?
    Some situations of mornings after that could be examined include the morning after: a person gets fired, a person goes to prison, a person graduates school, a person has a baby, a person wins something, a person is diagnosed with a disease, or a person moves.  A poet could look at these situations and others and examine what happens after the big event has passed.  What happens to the person when the moment quiets and they are left to themselves?

Experimental Poetry Form: acrostic across

Today’s experimental poetry form is called acrostic across.  The form contains one stanza with four lines.  Each line has as its first word a base word, this base word is used for the acrostic aspect of that line.

To illustrate the form, below is an example line.  In this line the base word is underlined and the acrostic letters are in bold.

Time is missing elements

As can be seen, the base word is “Time”.  This word is used as an acrostic base for the line.  The first word in the line, being the base word, starts with the first letter of the base word, the second word starts with the second letter, the third word starts with the third letter and the fourth word starts with the fourth letter.

This idea of acrostic across is used for all four lines of the poem.  Each line of the poem will have a variable number of words depending on the base word of the line.

Below is an example poem using the form.  It is written first just as a poem, and below it, it is written again with the base word of each line underlined and the acrostic letters in bold.

Here is the example poem:

Seeds enter entirely dark space
what happens after that
is something
hope of possibilities emerges

Here is the example poem with the form elements noted:

Seeds enter entirely dark space
what happens after that
is something
hope of possibilities emerges

Poetry essay: Looking for poetry ideas

When writing poetry, a poet can sometimes be faced with a situation where they don’t know what to write about.  Maybe they are trying to write poems according to a schedule or maybe they need a certain amount of poems for something or maybe they just want to write but can’t think of anything to write about.  In these situations there are a number of places a poet can look for poetry ideas.

Of course, a poet can check out the poetry topic ideas, artwork to inspire poetry and photography to inspire poetry on this blog for ideas.  There are hundreds of inspirations there for a poet to choose from.

Another place a poet can look for ideas is in their personal life.  Everyone is going through something, whether good or bad, and these things can be used as ideas for poetry.  Some things a person might be going through include: having an illness, moving, starting a relationship, ending a relationship, having a child, getting married and getting divorced.  There are many things in life a person can write poetry about.  If a poet writes about one of these things, in addition to having gained an idea for poetry, they can also find an outlet to express emotions they are feeling.

Another place a poet can look for ideas is in social and political issues.  These are the big ideas people in society debate.  These are things like immigration policy, gun control, environmental issues and so forth.  These are issues that often have two points of view.  These are a good choice for poets who like the idea of writing about “big ideas”.  They can be a good choice for a poet who wants to express their own political or social views and possibly influence others.

A further place a poet can look for ideas is in current events.  There is always something happening somewhere.  There are natural disasters, wars, political conflicts, elections, accidents and so forth.  Many of these things are negative, but there can also be current events that are positive.  These things can a be good source of ideas for a poet that wants to write about timely and topical things.  They can be good source of ideas for a poet who wants to participate in what people are talking about.

Another way to find poetry ideas is to simply walk around and observe.  As a poet looks at things there are so many ideas they can find.  For example, a poet might be in a natural setting, see a leaf on a tree with a disease, and get the idea to write about disease in people.  As another example, a poet might be walking in a city and seeing homeless people near something meant for luxury or entertainment.  Seeing this might inspire the poet to write about social issues.  A poet can get a lot of ideas by observing people and things around them.

A good place to find poetry ideas is to try something new.  If a poet does something they have never done, eats something they have never eaten, or goes somewhere they have never been, these experiences can give them ideas for poems to write.  A poet writing about these things has the added perspective of “newness” in their writing and this can add to their poetry.

If a poet is really lacking in ideas, they might try a dictionary.  A poet could open a dictionary to random page, find a random word and write a poem utilizing that.  This method can be good way to find more unusual ideas and can also be used a poetry exercise.

Poem with an explanation: the unseen grew within the walls

The wire circled,
and earth removed,
thorns did grow,
beneath solid sand,
cool iron flowed,
across the trees,
while sentries stood,
with trumpet horns,
and there within,
the unseen grew,
and all collapsed,
within the walls.


This poem looks at the idea of preparing for one thing, but encountering another.  It looks at the idea of taking precautions for one concern, while another goes unseen.

In the poem, there is a person with a home.  The person is fearful of a home break in.  Because of this, the person takes precautions to protect their home.  The idea, is that the person wants to protect themselves from a potential harm.

At the same time, the person gets ill.  They get an unexpected disease and their physical condition suffers.  While the person took many steps to protect themselves against a perceived threat, an unperceived threat ended up causing them harm.  In the poem, the person’s efforts to protect themselves from harm turned out to be futile.

Although the poem examines the idea of futile efforts, it doesn’t imply that the efforts were inherently futile.  The efforts were directed in a wise way, however, another wise way was ignored.  An analogy might be a knight in battle wearing chest armor, but having no helmet.  The chest armor is good and was a good thing to prepare.  The helmet was important too, but just not considered.

In terms of form, all lines of the poem are three words long.  The poem is one stanza of twelve lines.

In the first line, The wire circled, the person has a chain link fence put up around their property.

In the second line, and earth removed, the person has ditches dug along the front of their property to make it so vehicles can only come down their driveway.

In the third line, thorns did grow, the person plants thorny plants.

The fourth line, beneath solid sand, relates to the third line and says that the plants were planted beneath windows.  The windows are solid in that they are the type that are difficult to break.

The fifth and sixth lines say, cool iron flowed, across the trees.  The cool iron are locks and the trees are the person’s doors.

The seventh and eighth lines say, while sentries stood, with trumpet horns.  The sentries are various sensors, such as motion sensors.  These sensors are connected to an alarm system which are the trumpet horns.

The ninth through eleventh lines talk about the disease the person has.  The disease was within the person, and not like the threat the person perceived from the outside.  The disease was unseen in that the person did not feel it growing and it was not something they thought to protect themselves against.  The disease takes a physical toll on the person (and all collapsed).

The twelfth line relates the irony of the situation.  The person built walls to protect themselves from the outside, and yet they are damaged from the inside.  The walls were ineffective at protecting them from the threat that occurred.

As related above, this poem relates to the idea of preventing negative things.  It looks at the notion that a person can go to great lengths to protect themselves from one type of negative thing, while something they did not consider can cause them harm.  The poem does not say that the protective measures were bad, just that they were not the right kind for what the person encountered.

Although this poem looks at home protection and illness, the same sort of idea could be applied to other situations.  For example, a person might go to great lengths to protect their home from fire, only to have their house flood.  Or, a person might spend a lot of time learning how to repair their car, only to have something in their home break.  The same idea can be applied to many situations where efforts are directed to one place but they turn out to have been needed in another.

Bilingual Poem: Those who have been there, Those who are going there

There are those,
who have been there,
who speak to those,
who are going there.

who are going there,
say they are different,
than those,
who have been there,
and therefore,
have no need,
to hear their words.

who have been there,
then look upon,
those who are going there,
and say,
that they said,
the same thing,
when those,
who have been there,
spoke to them.

The time changes,
and the places change,
and those who have now been there,
begin to speak,
to those who are going there.


Hay esos,
que estuvieron ahí,
que hablan a esos,
hay yendo ahí.

hay yendo ahí,
hablan estar distinto,
que esos,
que estuvieron ahí,
y por lo tanto,
no tienen necesidad,
eschuar sus palabras.

que estuvieron ahí,
entonces miran en,
esos hay yendo ahí,
y hablan,
que hablaron,
el mismo asunto,
cuándo esos,
que estuvieron ahí,
hablaron a ellos.

El tiempo cambia,
y los lugares cambian,
y esos que ahora estuvieron ahí,
empiezan hablar,
a esos hay yendo ahí.