poetry and prose about place

shaping a visual poem

with 5 comments

Rather than being a mere mechanism for conveying ideas, words themselves can become a visual part of a poem’s theme or meaning.  In a ‘shape’, ‘visual’ or ‘concrete’ poem, the words of the poem are arranged in a way to represent an idea or image from the poem.

The shape poem is a relatively old form and occurs many times in literature. For example, the Mouse’s ‘Long Tale’ in Chapter III of Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland is in the shape of a tail ( ).  Other visual poems include parts of ‘Easter Wings’ by George Herbert and ‘Vision and Prayer’ by Dylan Thomas (see Poetry through the Ages: ).


So, does a poet begin with the goal of creating a visual poem or does the shape of the poem evolve as part of the creative process?  For me, the shape suggests itself well into the process, as part of my considerations of line length and punctuation.


Here is a poem about an abandoned wheel barrow, part of my manuscript on derelict elements of our landscape.  Like so many items, this wheel barrow has outlived its usefulness.


First, the basic poem:


wheel barrow


lugged every cubic foot of garden,  every brick

of  the garden wall

tire flat, bucket dented

rusted,  scratched

on its side in the compost heap, one handle



And now, as a shape poem:




Children are often asked to write shape poems as an introduction to writing poetry.   Writing a shape poem can be a challenge for any writer and a way to explore ideas about line length, punctuation and word choice.


Copyright  2015  Jane Tims


Written by jane tims

February 4, 2015 at 7:14 am

5 Responses

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  1. I agree with Sheryl. A fun poem! I like shape poems. I tried my hand at that once or twice when I was writing “small stones” over on my Bountiful Healing blog. There was one called “Tadasana” in which I tried to make it look like a small mountain.

    Liked by 1 person


    February 7, 2015 at 12:36 pm

    • Hi Robin. I didn’t know about your poetry site but I found it right away. Beautifully presented … Feels cosy the way the poems and photos are near one – another. Your poetry is very serene, with a healing feel. I’ll have a look often now I know it’s there. Jane


      jane tims

      February 7, 2015 at 5:08 pm

      • Thank you, Jane. I was going to leave a link with my comment, but it always feels like spamming when I do that. Bountiful Healing was my first WordPress blog. It was originally a place where I posted images and quotes to help me heal from a back injury, then it evolved into all sorts of other things along the way. I started using it for the “small stones” challenge (a friend challenged me to do it), and now I use it occasionally just for that. Brief, mindful, moments.

        Liked by 1 person


        February 7, 2015 at 6:15 pm

  2. I love it–What a fun poem!

    Liked by 1 person


    February 5, 2015 at 12:02 am

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