Poems that make shapes using words are known as concrete poems, and these 10 concrete poem examples are some of the most famous.
Poems don’t always rhyme, and sometimes they create art visually rather than through the written word. Concrete poetry uses the space of the words to convey meaning, rather than the words themselves.
Whether the typed lines create a picture or pattern, this poetic form is a true work of art. The colors, letters, words, and the print itself create a visual experience that creates the idea in the mind of the reader. Concrete poem examples are often part of children’s literature, but they can show up in classic works, too.
To better understand this type of pattern poetry, take a look at these excellent examples of concrete poems.
- 1. “The Mouse’s Tale” by Lewis Carroll
- 2. “Easter Wings” by George Herbert
- 3. “Forsythia” by Mary Ellen Solt
- 4. “Vision and Prayer” by Dylan Thomas
- 5. “Poem in the Shape of a Potted Christmas Tree” by George Starbuck
- 6. “The Altar” by George Herbert
- 7. “Swan and Shadow” by John Hollander
- 8. “r-p-o-p-h-e-s-s-a-g-r” by E.E. Cummings
- 9. “Silencio” by Eugen Gomringer
- 10. “This Crosstree Here” by Robert Herrick
- Poetry Resources
1. “The Mouse’s Tale” by Lewis Carroll
This poem, found in Carroll’s Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, actually forms the shape of a mouse’s tail on the page. The misspelling in the title of “tale” is intentional because it is the tale of a mouse’s tail. Different printings interpret this visual poetry differently, but it remains one of the most famous examples of concrete poetry in modern writing.
2. “Easter Wings” by George Herbert
“Easter Wings” takes the shape of a butterfly or even an angel’s wings turned on their side. The name is fitting, as the poem talks about how God reaches out to man to create new life.
Lord, who createdst man in wealth and store,George Herbert
Though foolishly he lost the same,
Decaying more and more,
Till he became
O let me rise
As larks, harmoniously,
And sing this day thy victories:
Then shall the fall further the flight in me.
3. “Forsythia” by Mary Ellen Solt
The poem “Forsythia” by Mary Ellen Solt is written to look like the branches of the plant. In fact, this art form is more about the shape of the words than the words themselves.
4. “Vision and Prayer” by Dylan Thomas
The unique shape of “Vision and Prayer” by Dylan Thomas creates the shape of an hourglass. This shape poem fits well, as it talks about life and death. The shape also a rise and fall feeling as the stanzas get smaller and larger through each verse.
W h oDylan Thomas
A r e y o u
Who is born
In the next room
So loud to my own
That I can hear the womb
Opening and the dark run
Over the ghost and the dropped son
Behind the wall thin as a wren’s bone ?
In the birth bloody room unknown
To the burn and turn of time
And the heart print of man
Bo w s n o b a p t i s m
Bu t d a r k a l o n e
5. “Poem in the Shape of a Potted Christmas Tree” by George Starbuck
In “Poem in the Shape of a Potted Christmas Tree,” Starbuck creates the image of a tree, filling the poem with visual words that create the image of a holiday tree. It even has an asterisk at the top, using the typography to resemble the look of a star at the top of the tree.
Let the wild wind erect
bonbonbonanzas; junipers affect
6. “The Altar” by George Herbert
Another George Herbert poem, this religious poem takes on the shape of an altar as the writer talks about the sacrifice of his Lord and the sacrifice of hearts that religious individuals should give.
A broken ALTAR, Lord, thy servant rears,George Herbert
Made of a heart and cemented with tears:
Whose parts are as thy hand did frame;
No workman’s tool hath touch’d the same.
A HEART alone
Is such a stone,
As nothing but
Thy pow’r doth cut.
Wherefore each part
Of my hard heart
Meets in this frame,
To praise thy name:
That if I chance to hold my peace,
These stones to praise thee may not cease.
Oh, let thy blessed SACRIFICE be mine,
And sanctify this ALTAR to be thine.
7. “Swan and Shadow” by John Hollander
The words of this shape poetry create the look of a swan floating on the water, with its reflection below. The reader knows instantly what the image is when looking at the poem, even without reading any of the words.
8. “r-p-o-p-h-e-s-s-a-g-r” by E.E. Cummings
E.E. Cummings regularly uses typeface, punctuation, and even spelling to get his readers to think, and this poem is no exception. The words, at first, seem meaningless, but in fact, it appears to show the chaotic movements of a grasshopper in the way the words are on the page.
9. “Silencio” by Eugen Gomringer
Silencio is more visual art than it is poetry. It creates a box using just the word “silence,” with empty space in the middle. The shape of the poem conveys the meaning, inviting the reader to fill in the middle, or the silence, with their own subject matter.
silence silence silenceEugen Gomringer
silence silence silence
silence silence silence
silence silence silence
10. “This Crosstree Here” by Robert Herrick
This crosstree here is a religious poem by 19th-century poet Robert Herrick. It displays the shape of the cross of Christ while talking about the atonement made on that same tree.
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