Poetry essay: Poetic twists

One poetic effect, is the idea of a twist.

Here is one example:

After struggling,
and sweat,
and endless hours,

he lost,



    fifteen pounds.


In this case, the first part makes the loosing seem like a bad thing.  There was a great deal of effort and then the person lost?  The twist though, was that the loosing was actually good.  He lost weight, which presumably, was a goal.

Here is another example:

they roamed the street
with eyes and teeth aglow

they approached the home
seeking to consume
that which was within

and at the door
as those within came forth
they shrieked their horrible call,
“Trick or treat!”

This poem is about Halloween.  The poem at first sounds like some monsters are about and they are going to eat people in a home.  In reality, they are trick or treaters dressed up for Halloween hoping to get candy.

Here is a third example:

the sun was shining
and the flowers,
just blooming,
filled the air with fragrance

everyone gathered
dressed in their best
as music played

doves cooed
waiting to be released

as a hush came over the crowd
someone gave
the slightest of signals
and the funeral began


This poem seems to start off happy.  It sounds like it is describing an outdoor wedding.  It’s a sunny day, there are fragrance filled flowers, there are lots of people who are dressed up, music is playing, and doves are going to be released.  In the twist though, this happy scene is really sad.  The scene is of a funeral.  All the bright things are in some way a cover for sadness.  The sadness of the scene is revealed at the end.


Here are some tips for using twists in your poems:

  • Have a lead in. For a twist to work there needs to be an appropriate lead in.  It needs to be long enough and effective enough that the reader forms an image and emotion in their mind.

  • Consider offsetting the twist. One way to create a pause for a twist, is to have it indented, after some number of line breaks, or both.  The idea is to have a dramatic pause to emphasize the twist.

  • Consider your title. The title can be part of the lead in or it can be a twist as well.  You can have a title that alludes to the reality of the poem while seeming to fit with the lead in.  If done correctly, this can amplify the effect of the twist.

  • Don’t go too far with a twist. Be careful not to turn off your audience with a twist.  Turning something happy to something sad is all right.  Turning something happy to something disturbing, might not be.

  • Know the twist before you start. This can make setting it up easier.  If you just write a scene with some emotion, but aren’t sure what the cause of the emotional change will be, it can make the lead in difficult to write and less effective.

  • Consider multiple kinds of twists. You can twist from happy to sad, from serious to silly, from large to small, from calm to excitement, and many other things.  Also, you can twist the other way, for example sad to happy or silly to serious.

  • Make sure the twist makes sense. The twist should be an opposite.  You can twist from happy to sad, but happy to serious might not work as well.  In the third poem above, the happy scene of a wedding was twisted to the sad scene of a funeral.  If this happy scene though had twisted to something like the opening of an office building, it might not have worked as well.

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Experimental Poetry Form: Random Rhyming

This experimental poetry form is called random rhyming.  It consists of twenty lines of iambic tetrameter with pairs of rhymes, in the following rhyming pattern:


The rhyming pattern was developed as follows:

The numbers one through twenty were written on a piece of paper.  Each number was then cut from the piece of paper.  The twenty pieces of paper were turned face down on a desk and then mixed around.  The pieces of paper were then turned over one by one generally from left to right on the desk.  The numbers were typed in a spreadsheet as they were turned over and were grouped in pairs as they were typed (the first two numbers turned over were the first pair, the second two numbers turned over were the second pair, etc.).  The first pair was labeled with an A for each number, the second pair with a B for each number, and so on through the ten pairs.  Then the numbers were sorted in increasing order in the spreadsheet carrying the letters with them.  At this point, the numbers were then in increasing numerical order and the letters were matched with the numbers as they were originally typed.  The result had the letters in the order as they are shown in the rhyming pattern above.

The purpose of this experimental poetry form is to see how a random rhyming pattern affects a poem.

Here is an example of a poem that utilizes this random rhyming pattern:

Beneath a tree

Beneath a tree when it was dawn,
the group did stand while looking down,
at the square hole in front of them,
that had a box of wood within.
They all did stand in silence then,
as the sun rose like a bright gem,
and waited for the man to speak,
to those around who were his kin.
The man then read some words of peace,
about the one who lay asleep,
as those who stood did stand and weep,
as they did hear the words he spoke.
And as he spoke the words in pen,
the sound of sobs in the group broke,
as tears did fall beneath the tree,
as all the silence did then cease.
And those who stood did feel so meek,
as they did think of who was gone,
and wished that what they felt would flee,
beneath the tree with leaves of brown.