How to write a concrete poem

What is a Concrete Poem?

Concrete poetry—sometimes also called ‘shape poetry’—is poetry whose visual appearance matches the topic of the poem. The words form shapes which illustrate the poem’s subject as a picture, as well as through their literal meaning.

This type of poetry has been used for thousands of years, since the ancient Greeks began to enhance the meanings of their poetry by arranging their characters in visually pleasing ways back in the 3rd and 2nd Centuries BC.

A famous example is “The Mouse’s Tale from Lewis Carroll’s Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland. The shape of the poem is a pun on the word tale/tail, as the words follow a long wiggling line getting smaller and smaller and ending in a point.

The name “Concrete Poetry,” however, is from the 1950’s, when a group of Brazilian poets called the Noigandres held an international exhibition of their work, and then developed a “manifesto” to define the style.

The manifesto states that concrete poetry ‘communicates its own structure: structure = content

There are 2 main ways that this can be achieved…

Outline Poems

A common way to make the visual structure reflect the subject of the poem is to fill an outline shape that relates to the topic of the poem, in the same way that Carroll’s poem fits the outline of a mouse’s tail.

Here is an example about a snowman:

How to write a concrete poem

  • Choose an object to be the subject for your poem. Good suggestions for beginners could be favorite animals or favorite foods.
  • Draw a simple outline of its shape on paper or on the computer. If you’re using paper, draw with a pencil not a pen.
  • Write your poem normally. Try to describe how the subject makes you feel. The words will be fitted into your drawing, so don’t make it too long – between 6-12 lines is probably a good length!

IT DOESN’T HAVE TO RHYME!

  • Lightly in pencil, or on the computer, write your poem into the shape. It’s ok if it doesn’t fit properly yet, because this is where you find out if you need to make the writing larger or smaller.
  • Decide if you need to make your writing bigger or smaller in certain parts of the drawing, then erase your first draft and write out the poem again. You can keep doing this until you are happy.
  • Finally, erase the outline of your shape, so that it is just the words from your poem left creating the image! If you were writing in pencil, you can now go over the words in pen!
  • (In my example I added the ‘brrr…’s afterwards to make the picture look better, but without interrupting the story of the poem. If you want to try details like this, think of comic-book-style effect words like ‘flash’, ‘purr’, ‘phew’ or ‘zzzz…’ to add another element to the story-picture!)

Drawing Poems

Another way to make concrete poetry is to use the lines of words to make the lines of a drawing. The NASA website has a great example about the first ever airplanes if you click here.

This time, the subject doesn’t have to be an object, but it does have to be something you can draw an illustration of using ‘stick’ figures.

This is my example of ‘growing’:

How to write a concrete poem

  • Choose your subject
  • Draw a simple line – or ‘stick’ – drawing to illustrate your subject on paper or on the computer. If you’re using paper, draw with a pencil not a pen.
  • Write your poem normally. Simple is best, so stick to between 2-6 lines.

IT DOESN’T HAVE TO RHYME!

  • Lightly in pencil, or on the computer, write the lines of your poem along the lines of your drawing – remember that we normally read from left to right, and from top to bottom!
  • If you don’t have enough words, or have some left over, don’t worry! Decide where you need to make your writing bigger or smaller to make it all fit, then erase your first draft and write out the poem again over your line drawing. You can keep doing this until you are happy.
  • Finally, erase the line drawing, so that it is just the words from your poem left creating the image! (If you were writing in pencil, go over the writing in pen first.)

(In my example I wanted to add branches to the tree, so used repeated words from my poem to highlight the theme, and make the picture better. If you want to add details like this, think about what the most important word is in your poem and use the one that best sums up its message!)

Put a pop of poetry in your day!

How to write a concrete poem

How to write a concrete poem

In a concrete poem, the words are most often written in the shape of the subject of the poem. The appearance of the poem and how it looks on the page add to its meaning and impact on the reader. A poet may also use different fonts, symbols, colors, and white space (areas of no text) to give the reader a visual treat.

Here are the rules:

  1. Write a poem in either free verse or rhyme. Longer poems work best as it takes a lot of words to fill most shapes.
  2. Think of a shape that reflects the subject or detail of the poem.
  3. You can work with either a pen and paper or learn to create concrete poems in Word:
  • PAPER: Draw the image outline in pencil on a sheet of paper. Use a pen to fill in the shape with the words of your poem, making sure to stay inside and follow the lines. Wait for the pen ink to dry, then erase your pencil outline. You can also use the words themselves to make the outline, leaving the inside of the shape blank.
  • WORD PROGRAM: Place an image in a blank Word document using the watermark feature (under Design)and size it to your liking (silhouettes of basic shapes work best).
    • Insert a text box over the shape. Grab the corners on the text box with your cursor and stretch the box to cover the shape.
    • Right-click the text box and select “no fill” and “no border,” then type your poem using the spacebar to manually arrange your text to conform to the shape beneath. It’s tricky to get the words inside the shape as you may have to add or delete some words for the right fit or you might need to change the size of your font or image.
    • Let the shape lead you as to where you begin and end your lines. It’s important to follow the shape and stay in the lines so the poem’s shape will be recognizable when the image behind it is removed.
    • It takes some time to get it right so be patient. You can do it!
    • When your poem is typed in the text box in the shape of the underlying image, delete the watermark, and (Tah-dah!) you’re left with the poem in your chosen shape (see my shape poem below).

Example #1 Not all concrete poems are written in a shape, instead, the words are arranged to depict the meaning of the poem. In Roger McGough’s poem, 40 LOVE, he likens middle-aged love to a tennis match. The words are arranged on the page to resemble two sides of a net which allows the reader’s eye to move back and forth like they are watching a tennis match. So clever!

Example #2 Here’s a concrete poem I wrote for a children’s poetry book that I’m working on. The poem takes on the shape of Cat’s fiddle in this mixed-up nursery rhyme:

One of the more underrated forms of poetry, concrete poems, are also known as shape poems. Here ’s an example of a concrete poem (you’ll see for yourself why it’s called that!.

To be clear, concrete poems are shaped in a meaningful way; the words of the poem are placed in order to form some kind of a pattern or image. Often, the image that the words depict represents the topic, symbolism, or theme of the poem itself. In this way, c oncrete poems are a great way to integrate the visual and literary aspects of poetry into a cohesive piece.

The cover for one of our books, At First Glance, is similar in many ways to a concrete poem. The talented cover designer made careful choices about both the image and the words to reflect the genre of the stories in the book: dystopic fiction.

How to write a concrete poem

Feeling inspired? Here are a few considerations to think about before—and while—you write your own concrete poem:

  • What is the topic of your poem?
  • What words, ideas, images, stories or feelings do you associate with this topic?
  • Will your poem be rhyming?
  • What kind of emotional response are you trying to elicit from the reader? How does this influence your word choice and metre?
  • How will your poem be shaped—that is, what will the image look like? How can the words and the image work together?

We suggest you choose a topic and experiment with different combinations of words and images. You may be surprised by what you create through this exercise of “variations on a theme” and by which variations you ultimately feel are most effective.

Introduction: How to Write Concrete Poetry

This is my first instructable, so if it’s bad, please tell me nicely. Concrete Poetry is the words of a poem going around something they describe, or they form it. Thought that may sound like a new idea, the Greeks were using it back in 2nd century B.C.E. The writing of concrete poetry has gotten harder because of computers, because you can’t tilt the screen and start writing that way.

Please post if you don’t like something!

Step 1: Choose an Idea

Before you start, you need to think of an idea. Brainstorm a bunch of ideas that mean something to you. Below is an example of a brainstorm of ideas. I chose to use cake for this example.
The reason I chose cake is I own a game called Portal, from the Orange Box, and the evil computer gets you to go through the levels, promising you cake, but there isn’t any. (For those of you who read the first version, my mom thought saying my poetry came from a game would sound stupid, so she made me make something up.)

Step 2: Decide the Path the Words Will Take

Now that you’ve chosen what to write about, it’s time to think about where to write. It should be a path around the image, or it should form the shape of the thing you are describing.

Step 3: Poem Time!

Now is the time to write the poem! Yay! This is the poem I will put around the lie. Cake.

Cake is good.
Cake is nice,
especially the -ing of ice.
Cakes come in all shapes and sizes,
so many colors and flavors.
Cake is the food of the god(s),
So delicious and moist,
Unless, of course,
The cake is
A LIE!

Step 4: Combination!

Now the time to combine is at hand! Draw on paper, or use a Paint program, it doesn’t matter how it’s done, as long as it IS.

Step 5: Enjoy!

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How to write a concrete poem

The cake IS a lie.

How to write a concrete poem

This is similar to what I learned in the free ebooks by Benjamin grove I think he called it . ah I forgot, but I have seen this here: ReadandWritePoems.com

How to write a concrete poem

How to write a concrete poem

This was a triumph.
I’m making a note here: HUGE SUCCESS.
It’s hard to overstate my satisfaction.

Aperture Science:
We do what we must because we can.
For the good of all of us
Except the ones who are dead.

(Chorus 1)
But there’s no sense crying over every mistake
You just keep on trying till you run out of cake
And the science gets done and you make a neat gun
For the people who are still alive.

I’m not even angry.
I’m being so sincere right now.
Even though you broke my heart and killed me.
And tore me to pieces.
And threw every piece into a fire.
As they burned it hurt because
I was so happy for you.

(Chorus 2)
Now these points of data make a beautiful line
And we’re out of beta we’re releasing on time.
So I’m GLaD I got burned think of all the things we learned
For the people who are still alive.

Go ahead and leave me.
I think I prefer to stay inside.
Maybe you’ll find someone else to help you.
Maybe Black Mesa –
THAT WAS A JOKE. HA HA, FAT CHANCE.
Anyway, this cake is great:
It’s so delicious and moist.

(Chorus 3)
Look at me still talking when there’s science to do.
When I look out there it makes me GLaD I’m not you.
I’ve experiments to run there is research to be done
On the people who are still alive

And believe me I am still alive.
I’m doing science and I’m still alive.
I feel FANTASTIC and I’m still alive.
While you’re dying I’ll be still alive.
And when you’re dead I will be still alive.

CONCRETE POETRY: Your assignment is to CREATE a CONCRETE POEM.

Usually you would be told to write a poem, but a concrete poem is partly writing and partly visual art, so I think it’s more correct to say CREATE rather than WRITE. Here is an example:

Sonnet in the Shape of a Potted Christmas Tree BY GEORGE STARBUCK

bedecked!

O glitter-torn!

Let the wild wind erect

bonbonbonanzas; junipers affect

frostyfreeze turbans; iciclestuff adorn

all cuckolded creation in a madcap crown of horn!

It’s a new day; no scapegrace of a sect

tidying up the ashtrays playing Daughter-in-Law Elect;

bells! bibelots! popsicle cigars! shatter the glassware! a son born

while ox and ass and infant lie

together as poor creatures will

and tears of her exertion still

cling in the spent girl’s eye

and a great firework in the sky

drifts to the western hill.

Open: Augusto de Campos.

How to write a concrete poem

Ian Hamilton Finlay: Sea Poppy 2: These are actually fishing boat names

How to write a concrete poem

Mary Ellen Solt:

How to write a concrete poem

Ian Hamilton Finlay.

How to write a concrete poem

Snowman by Kenn Nesbitt.

How to write a concrete poem

Growing by Kenn Nesbitt.

How to write a concrete poem

What is a Concrete Poem?

How to write a concrete poemPattern Poems by Simias.

This type of poetry has been used for thousands of years, since the ancient Greeks began to enhance the meanings of their poetry by arranging their characters in visually pleasing ways back in the 3rd and 2nd Centuries BC.

How to write a concrete poemThe Mouse’s Tale, by Lewis Carrol

A famous example is “The Mouse’s Tale from Lewis Carroll’s Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland. The shape of the poem is a pun on the word tale/tail, as the words follow a long wiggling line getting smaller and smaller and ending in a point.

How to write a concrete poemDrink Coca Cola Drool Glue Drink Cocaine Drool Glue Shard Glue Cesspool

The name “Concrete Poetry,” is from the 1950’s, when a group of Brazilian poets called the Noigandres held an international exhibition of their work, and then developed a “manifesto” to define the style.

The manifesto states that concrete poetry ‘communicates its own structure: structure = contentHow to write a concrete poem

A common way to make the visual structure reflect the subject of the poem is to fill an outline shape that relates to the topic of the poem, in the same way that Carroll’s poem fits the silhouette of a mouse’s tail.How to write a concrete poem

Instructions for creating a concrete poem:

1: Compose a short poem––or even an excerpt from a longer poem.

2: The poem can be free verse, or it could be any poetic form: Haiku, Sonnet, Clerihew, Epigram, Ballad, Limerick, Double Dactyl, Mother Goose, and so forth.

3: Transcribe the poem by hand.

4: Arrange the lines, words, or even letters of the poem in a way that evokes the tone of the poem. For example you can make the words or individual letters, larger, bolder, smaller, different colors, or even shift the angles.

5: Keep in mind the convention that we read right to left, and top to bottom––or ignore it completely if you prefer.

How to write a concrete poemDrawing Poems

Another way to make concrete poetry is to use the lines of the poem to make an outline drawing. This time you can choose slightly more sophisticated shapes.

The few rules are much the same as those of the concrete poem. Once again, compose a short poem––or even an excerpt from a longer poem, but this time let the lines flow into a simple recognizable shape. Think about the sweeping flow of calligraphy.

How to write a concrete poem

Hand Lettering: You can even use a style of lettering to help evoke the mood of your poem.

How to write a concrete poem

A concrete poem is a poem that takes the shape of its subject. For example, a concrete poem about an apple, describes the apple in a poetic way, and the words are written on the paper, in the shape of an apple.

Concrete poems are a fun form of writing that first graders really enjoy because they combine the fun and creativity of both writing and illustrating in one activity. Your youngster will enjoy this activity even more, when she writes a concrete poem and gives it as a gift. This Mother’s Day, help your child to write a concrete poem about one of Mom’s favorite things – it can be anything from her favorite sweater or her cup of morning coffee. When your child gives it to Mom, Mom will surely add it to her list of favorite things!

What You Need:

  • Pencil
  • Paper
  • Colored pencils
  • Construction paper
  • Scissors
  • Glue stick
  • Markers

What You Do:

  1. Have your child think of one of Mom’s favorite things.
  2. Next, assist your child in using a pencil to lightly draw a simple sketch of the selected favorite thing. Make sure the sketch is simple enough that words can be written along the shape easily. Your child should only draw an outline, if possible.
  3. Now, talk to her about words that describe Mom as well as Mom’s favorite thing. This is the perfect time to introduce a few new words and stretch your first grader’s vocabulary. Is Mom easy-going? A cinephile? A fashionista? A gourmet? Does she have a green thumb? Using the pencil outline as a guide, have your child use colored pencils to write words that describe Mom and her favorite thing in the shape of the sketch. Turn the paper as she writes so that your child is always writing from left to right along the outline of the shape, and help her in choosing colors that will bring the picture to life.
  4. Continue writing words until the poem is complete and the outline is full. Cut out the concrete poem. Fold a piece of construction paper in half to form a card, and glue the poem to the inside.
  5. Have your child use markers to decorate the card however she thinks Mom would like it best.

Did You Know?

From the earliest years of school, children learn about holidays in their community and how to participate in a variety of ways. And in Kindergarten and first grade they will be learning to read and write. With this activity, you bring it all together—and also let Mom know how much she is loved in the process.

The Parent with the Teacher’s Perspective

I am always surprised how much my students like poetry and even more amazed at the poetry they create during our poetry unit. We start the poetry writing process slowly with an adjective review. The students made a list of adjectives that describe the sneakers on their feet and then wrote simple “adjective” poems using a frame I provide to get warmed up. The poem frame has a fill-in-the-blank structure where students add five adjectives from their sneaker description list. (Grab an adjective brainstorming page on THIS POST.)

How to write a concrete poem

Everyone can complete the poem without fear of having to rhyme words or create some great metaphor. After completing the sneaker poem, the students choose another topic like dogs, pie, or books and write a new adjective poem that uses the same structure. This year, we took the completed adjective poems and created concrete or shape poems.

How to Make a Concrete Poem

We searched for black and white clipart in Google images that matched the poem’s topic. The kids pasted the clipart image into a Word document and enlarged the blackline image to fill an 8 1/2″ x 11″ page. We printed the image and lightly traced the main lines with pencil on a blank piece of copy paper. Using black pens, the students wrote their poem over the traced pencil lines. Students left the paper with the clipart image under the paper with the concrete poem while writing to serve as a guideline.

In most cases, the students needed to write their concrete poem multiple times to fill the shape outline. They also added a few details to complete the effect. The finished product elevated the simple poems into something much more sophisticated.

More ideas for student poetry are available in my poetry unit. Purchase the poetry unit by CLICKING HERE.

How do you shape a concrete poem?

Outline Poems

  1. Choose an object to be the subject for your poem. Good suggestions for beginners could be favorite animals or favorite foods.
  2. Draw a simple outline of its shape on paper or on the computer. If you’re using paper, draw with a pencil not a pen.
  3. Write your poem normally.

How do you shape a poem?

A shape poem is a poem that is shaped like the thing it describes. The shape adds to the meaning of the poem. To write a shape poem, it helps to start by writing down all the words that come to mind about the chosen topic. These words can then be used in the poem.

What is it called when a poem has a shape?

Concrete poetry, also known as shape poetry, is a type of poetry that uses some sort of visual presentation to enhance the effect of the poem on the reader. While the words, writing style, and literary devices all impact the meaning of the poem, the physical shape the poem takes is also of significance.

What is a shape poem example?

A shape poem is a poem that takes on the shape of the thing you’re writing about. You could write a poem about a cookie in a circle shape, a poem about love in the shape of a heart, or even a poem about rain in the shape of a raindrop – the possibilities are endless!

What are the rules of a concrete poem?

There are no rules when it comes to a concrete poem, so you’re free to let your imagination run wild and create any story you’d like! Don’t worry about the length of your poem, but remember that the more words you have, the bigger your shape will be. Shape: Pick a shape that you want your poem to create.

What is concrete poetry examples?

Verse that emphasizes nonlinguistic elements in its meaning, such as a typeface that creates a visual image of the topic. Examples include George Herbert’s “Easter Wings” and “The Altar” and George Starbuck’s “Poem in the Shape of a Potted Christmas Tree”.

What is the overall message of the poem?

Theme is the lesson about life or statement about human nature that the poem expresses. To determine theme, start by figuring out the main idea. Then keep looking around the poem for details such as the structure, sounds, word choice, and any poetic devices.

What is a Cinquain poem?

A cinquain is a five-line poem that describes a person, place, or thing.

What does concrete poetry mean?

Concrete poetry, poetry in which the poet’s intent is conveyed by graphic patterns of letters, words, or symbols rather than by the meaning of words in conventional arrangement.

Why is it called a concrete poem?

Their work was termedconcrete poetry” after they exhibited along with the artists in the National Exhibition of Concrete Art (1956/57).

Is a concrete poem free verse?

Concrete poems aren’t necessarily free verse, but they could be. A free verse poem is one which does not follow a set pattern for its rhyme scheme or

How many lines does a concrete poem have?

A poem consisting of fourteen lines.

What are 3 types of poems?

These three genres–lyrical, narrative, and dramatic–create an important presence in writing around the world and make up every type of poetry ever created.