Poem Spark May 1-8 – Short Stanzas

Every Monday, at Poets.org’s Discussion Forums, I write a “poem spark” which is an exercise meant to spark an idea for a poem. Starting today, I’m going to begin posting them here to give everyone who stops by a fun thing to try out if boredom strikes. Hope you enjoy them!


Hello fellow poets!

Today as I drove to school to pick up my sons, flowers were blooming everywhere. Of course, this puts me in mind of one of my favorite forms of poetry: haiku. Any other form that has its roots in ancient Japanese forms reminds me of the image and how often that idea takes shape in a poem and speaks through the description of the natural world. Another of these forms is the Tanka. Poets.org has an explanation of the tanka, and this particular piece caught my eye:

Like the sonnet, the tanka employs a turn, known as a pivotal image, which marks the transition from the examination of an image to the examination of the personal response.

The important part of that quote is the idea of image. There is also a wonderful explanation of Imagism on this website and it says this:

The Imagist movement included English and American poets in the early twentieth century who wrote free verse and were devoted to “clarity of expression through the use of precise visual images.”

By now you’re probably wondering what this has to do with the stanza, “unit of a poem often repeated in the same form throughout a poem; a unit of poetic lines.” I’ve often found that when concentrating on creating a poem that relies heavily on imagery rather than narrative to make a point, it helps immensely if one separates each image into two or three line stanzas.

Much attention is paid to a poem that has no extraneous verbiage weighing down the description. Each and every word becomes famous: each one is standing there alone on the stage. The poet must be certain that each word is central to the image and the poem’s meaning without much transition or extra adjectives to carry the poem’s voice.

This week’s poem spark: Write a poem that contains stanzas of two to three lines only.

Here are some examples of poems that work in this way:

Carolyn Kizer’s Villanelle On a Line from Valéry (The Gulf War)

Hsieh Ling-yun (translated by Sam Hamill) Visiting Pai-an Pavilion

William Carlos Williams This Is Just To Say

As always, be creative and have fun!

5 thoughts on “Poem Spark May 1-8 – Short Stanzas

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