April is National Poetry Month, a time when poets and would-be bards alike turn their attention to verses both free and formal. If you’re going to write poetry, why not try giving your work a unique twist, something that editors of literary magazines don’t already have piling up on their desks? Here are five unexpected poetry forms to inspire your muse and make your poetry stand out.
Acrostic Poetry: The first letter of each line of the poem spells out a word or message when read from top to bottom. This form of poetry was common in medieval writing, when acrostic poems would spell out the name of the author or the author’s patron. Edgar Allan Poe used this poetic device for his poem, simply titled, “An Acrostic,” which spelled out the name “Elizabeth” with the first letter of each line. Feeling up for a challenge? Try writing a Double Acrostic poem, where the first and last letter of each line spells out a word from top to bottom.
Macronic Poetry: Words in two or more languages are interspersed throughout the poem. This technique is often used to create puns, or for comedic effect. Macronic poetry is more common in bilingual cultures such as Ireland or Scotland, and was especially popular during the nineteenth century.
Concrete Poetry: Also known as “visual poetry,” the typography of the poem is arranged as a visual element, or shape, that is as important as the words in telling the story. Concrete poetry can present particular complications in formatting: You have to make sure that the poem holds its desired shape when an editor opens it. And don’t sacrifice words that are important to the poem’s message just to make it fit a certain silhouette, or you may end up with something that’s overly trite. Some editors will find concrete poetry different and refreshing; others will feel that it’s childish—so choose the journals you submit to carefully.
Palindrome Poetry: A palindrome is a word, phrase, or verse that reads the same forward or backward. “Madam” is an example of a word palindrome; “Writing is life, life is writing” is a palindrome phrase. For poetry, the first half of the poem from top to bottom would be mirrored by the second half from bottom to top. Both halves usually meet in the center at a word or phrase that fits both halves.
Cinquain Poetry: Inspired by Japanese haiku, a cinquain is a short poem of only five lines. The entire poem consists of twenty-two syllables in this pattern: two, four, six, eight, two. One popular variation is for the five lines to follow this outline: noun, description of the noun, action, emotion, synonym of first noun.
Whether you choose to write in the more traditional poetic forms or decide to shake things up by writing in these under-used styles, the important thing is that, in this most creative of months—you’re writing!