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How to Write Shape Poetry

Lena Kovadlo is a writer for various content-sharing websites. She's an author of 12 books and helps other authors publish theirs.

Read on to learn how to shape your poems like pottery.

Read on to learn how to shape your poems like pottery.

Writing poetry allows you to spill your emotions on paper, to capture moments in your life that you will want to remember always. It is a creative medium for dealing with and recording all the happenings in your life whether they are external or internal. Why not take this to the next level by turning your poetry into shape poetry?

Shape poetry is poetry whose words and lines take the shape of a certain thing or object. For example: an apple, a house, a tree, etc. Usually, the poetry itself is either completely about that thing or object it takes shape of, or is at least in some way related to it.

Writing shape poetry can be easy but it can prove to be challenging as well. It all depends on the kind of shape you intend for your poem to have. Also, there are different ways to write shape poetry and I go into detail about this in this article.

How to Write Shape Poetry

There are different ways to write shape poetry... One is to simply draw an image of an object or insert it into MS Word (if on the computer) and then write the poem about that object inside the drawn image (using a text box if in MS Word).

For example, insert an image of a sun into MS Word and then write a poem about the sun inside the image by right clicking on that image, selecting the Add Text option and pasting the poem into it. If your version of MS Word doesn't have that option simply insert a text box over the image and then make the border of the text box have no color so it is invisible to the eye and doesn't cover the image of the sun. Insert the poem into the text box (making sure the text doesn't go outside the border of the image) and you are done. You may of course need to adjust the size of the image of the sun, the text box and the text itself to make it fit inside the image, but this is fairly simple to do.

Of course, doing all this doesn't technically make this shape poetry, as the poem is simply placed onto the image without actually taking shape of that image. Also, it's something a kid in elementary school would do. Still, doing this does make the poem more presentable, which is always a plus. Below is an example of this...

example of shape poetry

example of shape poetry

Challenging Yourself

If you want to challenge yourself and have more fun while being more creative then consider a different approach of writing and creating shape poetry. Write your poem about a house, for example, and then format the lines so they take the shape of a house.

To make it easier, first insert the image of a house into MS Word (best thing would be to insert a triangle shape and then a rectangle shape underneath), then insert a text box over it and paste the poem text inside it. Then format the text (via tabbing, spacing or changing of font size) so that it looks like a house. Make sure to delete the image of the house afterwards and you are all set.

Below is an example of this shape poem along with another example of a different shape... On the left side you see the shape and on the right you see the poem that resembles that shape. If the poem were to be published in a book or even online the image of the shape would of course not be shown. I just presented it here for better understanding of shape poetry and how to go about writing it.

The content of the poem somewhat if not fully relates to the shape depicted. The content of the poem and its message become more effective here than if I were to just left or center align the poem on a page.

example of shape poetry

example of shape poetry

example of shape poetry

example of shape poetry

Turning Already Written Poems into Shapes

Most likely, you won't think of an object (shape) first and then write about it. Instead you will spill your emotions onto the paper or the computer screen without holding back, not focusing on what the topic you are writing about really is. So how do you turn those types of poems into shapes?

Start off by reading the poem and see what it is about and if there are any words or phrases in the poem that resemble shapes or moods or themes. Then format your lines either by using tabs, the space bar, font sizing or by copying and pasting and arrange them on the page in such a way that they resemble that particular shape or mood or theme. Your poem doesn't have to depict a particular shape 100%. The lines can be aligned in such a way as to create a theme of some sort. For example, torn lines, holes, chaos, etc.

Let's say your poem is about being torn apart. You can format your stanzas to resemble a checkerboard or to make it seem as if something is being torn... Below is an example of this in two variations - same poem but two different layouts.

example of shape poetry

example of shape poetry

Poets and Authors Who Write Shape Poetry...

There are poets and authors who write shape poetry. I've done this for my poetry books but I am unfortunately not a famous poet and author (yet).

A widely known famous author who writes shape poetry is Ellen Hopkins. She writes novels in verse and many of her verses resemble some sort of a shape. The shape always relates in some way to what the topic or theme of the verse is. This makes the verses stand out more in my opinion. I am not sure if she is the one that actually formats her poetry into shapes, or she has someone do it for her, but nevertheless it is a clever thing and something to think about if you are planning to publish a poetry book.

Every poem in your book doesn't need to be a shape poem but having a bunch of them presented in that way would be great. It would make you a more talented and creative poet and may gain you more readers and fans. You may even inspire others to follow your lead and create their own shape poetry...You never know.

© 2013 Lena Kovadlo


Ben Desrosiers on July 10, 2020:

I did once Lena when you offered us to try doing it I made Mine in a shape of a Christmas tree.

Anonomous on May 13, 2020:

Very well laid out, thank you.

Ayesha Giddings on November 15, 2018:

Shape poems are the best poems that I've ever since I started school. That was great though I would have been asking question by now

Lena Kovadlo (author) from Staten Island, NY on October 19, 2013:

Thank you for your input Regis.

rauffray from BC, Canada on October 19, 2013:

I don't see why not; as long as they are expressing your thoughts, emotions etc... ...they are just another form of doing that and thus, could be included I think.

Lena Kovadlo (author) from Staten Island, NY on October 19, 2013:

My new book will have poetry, lyrics, and prose of different topics. The question is...quality-wise do you think the poems are worthy to be published in the book...? The fact that they are shape poems is not the issue...

rauffray from BC, Canada on October 19, 2013:

With regard to including these poems in your new poetry book, it all depends on the general theme of your book. If this form of poetry does not fit the general "ambiance" of what you are presenting through the rest of your poems, then I would probably leave out the concrete (shape) poems.

Lena Kovadlo (author) from Staten Island, NY on October 19, 2013:

Thanks for commenting Regis. Do you think I should include these poems in my new poetry book? They are there currently... :)

rauffray from BC, Canada on October 19, 2013:

Again, this article is very well laid out and easy to follow. You give good examples along with your information. Thank you for sharing, Lena.

Lena Kovadlo (author) from Staten Island, NY on October 04, 2013:

Rayne123 - Thanks for your feedback on this hub. It's easier to take an image of say and apple and just insert text into that image than to format the lines so they look like an apple without inserting any images at all. Turning poetry into shapes is not easy to do and I am by no means a pro at it but I try. Poetry becomes more creative and more artistic when it is turned into a shape, regardless of what that shape is.

Rayne123 on October 04, 2013:

Great hub.

I wasn't sure what you meant by shape poetry. I have done this and this is what I want to do with my book. I just didn't know it was called that. Of course I cannot arrange the shapes the way some can, but I try.

Thank you again for your comments and answer. I appreciate it very much.

You are great at explaining things in your hubs. I just have a hard time with explanations and even listening to what the teacher use to say lol

I daydreamed in school a lot.

I am more hands on, its easier for me to grab the idea by doing it hands on. However you explain it so well I will go step by step and see what I can do with my book of poems.

Once again great hub


Lena Kovadlo (author) from Staten Island, NY on July 11, 2013:

heidithorne - Thank you for your feedback. I've seen people arrange poetry to resemble shapes like the palm of the hand, a swirl, and other very difficult shapes to master. I am amazed and wonder how they do it. If only there was a software where you select which shape you want and your poem is turned into that shape... But then it wouldn't be as fun anymore as the fun comes from trying to turn a poem into a shape ourselves.

Heidi Thorne from Chicago Area on July 11, 2013:

Reminds me of the "olden days" when we used to make pictures from typing characters in shapes on typewriters before word processing came along. Very cool writing idea!