How to Invent Your Own Poetry Form Plus Example of an Invented Form: The Sparrowlet

Updated on July 15, 2018
Sparrowlet profile image

Katharine writes both modern and traditional poetry, and has two books of poetry in print.

photo by Erasergirl
photo by Erasergirl | Source

Invented Poetry Forms

There are many types and forms of poetry. Most people are familiar with at least a few, such as free verse, haiku, sonnet or limerick. Where did these forms come from? Some, such as haiku and limerick, are very old so that no single "inventor" is known. But others, such as the sonnet, were, if not invented, at least refined and popularized by one individual such as William Shakespeare. Also, there are many forms, particularly more recently invented ones, that are credited to a single individual who came up with the form.

The Octain Refrain is a good example. It was invented by poet Luke Prater of Britain in 2010. His invented form is comprised of eight lines written as two tercets (three-line stanzas) and a couplet (two lines). It has a distinct rhyme scheme and allows for the use of optional meters, which is the "beat" of the poem.

If all this sounds too complicated, do not despair! Creating your own poetry form doesn't have to be as involved as the Octain Refrain, and it can be lots of fun! Just think of how creative you could be just figuring out a name for your new poetry form! Follow the steps below and see what kind of interesting and unique new form you can come up with. Then take a look at the form that I created, the Sparrowlet.

How Can I Invent My Own Poetry Form?

To create your own form of poetry, you should first familiarize yourself with a few established forms, so that you have some idea of the variations you can play with. Click around on youtube to listen to and learn about a few forms you've not heard of before. Check a list of poetry forms and choose a few to search for.

The complexity of your form may be kept to a minimum if you're not an experienced poet or reader of poetry, or you can experiment with several variables if you are already familiar with the basic elements of poetry. We will focus here on the very basics; the poem's purpose or presentation, length of the piece, rhyme (if any), meter (if any), and use of poetic devices.

Once you've explored a few forms of poetry that are new to you, it's time to begin your new poetic invention!

A Few Types of Poetry to Check Out

Five Steps to Creating Your Own Poetry Form

1) Decide on the presentation or purpose you want your form to have. For example, will this be a descriptive poem (such as nature poems), a poem with a personal angle (feelings/emotions), or will it be more of a narrative style (telling a story)?

Maybe the presentation of your form is not important, and you would rather focus on the form itself, such as rhyme, meter, etc. That is fine too! Poetry that has a particular purpose or presentation include the elegy (a poem for the dead), limerick (humorous), ode (a tribute to someone/something) or the ballad which is often written like a song with refrains and tells a story.

2) Do you want it to be free verse or rhymed? If free verse (un-rhymed) will there be a line minimum or maximum? For example, a haiku is often written (by English speakers, anyway) in three lines. Your form may require more than that, but perhaps you want to limit the length. If rhyming, how many stanzas are required/allowed?

If you decide to rhyme you need to decide on a rhyme scheme. You can see an example of a rhyme scheme below in the invented form, the Sparrowlet. Meter, or the beat of each line, is also a variable you may want to build into your form. Rhyme and meter can be tricky if you're not already familiar with them. You may wish to require rhyming but leave the pattern of the rhyme up to the writer!

3) Will your form require use of poetic devices? You could add an element of poetic device to your form to make it unique. For example, E.E. Cummings writes with almost zero punctuation, not even upper case letters. Other poetic devices could include the use of alliteration (repeating consonant sounds such as "small silver spoon"), metaphor, personification (an animal or object given human characteristics), imagery (reference to the senses), or repetition such as repeated words, lines or refrains. Explore different poetic devices and decide if your form will require or encourage the use of any of them.

Examples of Poetic Devices You Might Use

4) Now practice putting your elements together. Do you come up with a poem that sounds pleasing? Does it have the effect you were looking for, such as bringing out emotion or humor or telling a story? If so, great! If not, start from step one and try something different or add another element. Maybe you need to learn more about the elements of poetry before you proceed so that you can incorporate them effectively into your new form.

5) Name your new form and write instructions. You want to be able to tell others how to write a poem in your new form, so write out careful instructions that are easily followed. Again, an example of instructions can be seen below in the example invented form, the Sparrowlet. And don't forget to give your new form a creative and interesting name!

What Kind of Poetry Form Will You Invent?

Are you ready to create a new poetry form?

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Example of an Invented Poetry Form: The Sparrowlet

The Sparrowlet is an example of an invented form that you can learn and master, with a little practice! It is a form I have created, using the basic structure of the Swap Quatrain poem, and adding a varied rhyme scheme. See how I mixed various elements of poetry and then follow these steps to create your own Sparrowlet poem!

Listen to This Sparrowlet! Do You Like the Sound?

Example of a Sparrowlet, an Invented Poetry Form

Deer in Winter

In winter's cold, as moonlight beams
and snowflakes drift like crystal dreams-
a sheltered place, beneath the fold
of pine tree branches, where it seems
a covered cave, my fawn may hold...
as moonlight beams in winter's cold.

My little fawn, be safe and warm,
inside our nest, out of the storm.
Sleep close beside me 'til the dawn,
as all the woods to white transform.
I'll wake you when the moonlight's gone-
be safe and warm, my little fawn.

How to Write A Sparrowlet Yourself

The Sparrowlet is a variation on the Swap Quatrain poem. It contains six lines of eight syllables each. There can be any number of verses in this form. Here is its basic structure:

(x's stand for syllables)

Sparrowlet:

XXXA XXXB
xxxxxxxb
xxxxxxxa
xxxxxxxb
xxxxxxxa
XXXB XXXA

Don't be confused by the diagram, it is just a guide for you to refer to as you write your Sparrowlet! If you look at the diagram, you will see that each line of the Sparrowlet has 8 syllables. If you are an experienced poet, I would recommend that each line be written in iambic tetrameter... but this is not a requirement of the form. To learn to write in iambic rhythm, read the article How to Write in Iambic Pentameter.

As you look further, you will see that the first and last lines are the same, only with the 2 phrases reversed (look at the example above). To accomplish this, you'll need to come up with a first line in each verse that has 2 phrases or clauses that can stand alone, so that you can swap them around. For example, in the poem "Deer in Winter," the first line is "In winter's cold, as moonlight beams," which is swapped around in the last line of the verse to read "As moonlight beams, in winter's cold."

After Line 1...

Your second line should have the same end rhyme (b) as line 1:

In winter's cold, as moonlight beams
and snowflakes drift like crystal dreams-

Line 3 will have an end word that rhymes with A, which is the end of your first phrase in the first line, or the middle of your first line:

In winter's cold, as moonlight beams
and snowflakes drift like crystal dreams-
a sheltered place, beneath the fold

Line 4 then rhymes again with lines 1 and 2 (b):

In winter's cold, as moonlight beams
and snowflakes drift like crystal dreams-
a sheltered place, beneath the fold
of pine tree branches, where it seems

Line 5 will rhyme with line 3 (a):

In winter's cold, as moonlight beams
and snowflakes drift like crystal dreams-
a sheltered place, beneath the fold
of pine tree branches, where it seems
a covered cave, my fawn may hold...

Finally, in line 6, you swap the phrases in line 1 around, so that the end word also rhymes with a:

In winter's cold, as moonlight beams
and snowflakes drift like crystal dreams-
a sheltered place, beneath the fold
of pine tree branches, where it seems
a covered cave, my fawn may hold...
as moonlight beams in winter's cold.

The last line MUST be the EXACT SAME as line 1, just switched around. You cannot change any of the words. (Punctuation may be changed to accommodate the meaning).

The trickiest part of the verse is to make line 5 flow into line 6 so that it makes sense. So, the way you create and structure line 5 will take the most careful thought. It may take a few tries to get it right, but once you get the hang of it, this is a fun form to write and it creates a beautifully flowing poem.

What Do You Think of the Sparrowlet Poem?

Will you try a Sparrowlet?

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Help For Poets and For Those Who Want to Be

A Poetry Handbook
A Poetry Handbook

Mary Oliver is a wonderful and nationally known poet who lives in my area. I found her book on writing poetry to be both informative and inspiring. It is especially helpful in clarifying the elements of poetry which were discussed in this article.

 

Questions & Answers

    © 2012 Katharine L Sparrow

    Comments Appreciated!

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      • profile image

        klarawieck 

        6 years ago

        This is really interesting Sparrowlet... very creative on your part. The poems are beautiful.

      • Ibis Suau profile image

        Ibis Suau 

        6 years ago from Florida

        This is very interesting, I shared with my sister, she is also a writer, and love to write poetry.

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