i. Random Forms of Poetry
Here are some unusual contemporary types of poetry.
The examples should be taken as illustrations to
demonstrate techniques rather than examples of great
significance in modern criticism. In learning the methods, try
to capture the skill and method; but, as always, sieze any
opportunity to produce something that can be considered an
art form. The use of random elements in writing poetry is a
skill worth learning. It can help a poet understand the
portion of his inspiration that is least predictable.
ii. Stream of Consciousness
The most random poetry created by the human mind
is stream-of-consciousness poetry in which the poet writes
words, and allows free-association in the mind to suggest
other words or thoughts. Another random form is computer-
generated poetry. The computer generates nouns, verbs,
adjectives, articles and adverbs in sentence patterns.
Here is a stream-of-consciousness excerpt by the
The Rattle For Battle With One Thought In The Void
He rushed and rashly rustled
the rushes; Jim the rollerboard six
The alligators roar is deserving
of all that is scattered thereon
Analogy grieves as the splattering
Rolls its pebbles to roundness: and
tumbles on down to the sea.
Although the poem is asymetrical in its pattern, the
rhythm is an important element, competing more strongly for
attention than the sense of the words, which carry evocative
rather than literal meanings. Half of the essence of the poem
is the rolling rhythms of the words as they sound read aloud.
Here is a computer generated poem:
Furthermore, crackled the fat presidential seal
A frank bunwarmer cooled the presidential seal.
A cozy and sweet smelling boot bumped.
Thus, bumpily the small bludgeon painted.
It is easy to see the degree of human input in the two
types of poetry. In the computer-generated poetry, the poet
must list a number of each of several pre-programmed parts
of speech. The computer, then, generates lines of random
combinations. The computer-generated poetry I have seen
is distinctively similar to all such poetry. The individuality is
far less apparent than in any form of poetry made
completely by people. The poem has the feel of words
picked by a silicon chip rather than a person. There is no
warmth, no intuitive sense of the rightness of words working
together. The computer occasionally surprises with usable
combinations that a person is not likely to originate. It is
possible to mix a line of computer generated poetry with
lines written by a poet and develop a surprisingly
In reading completely computer generated poetry, the
reader knows its origin and does not look as deeply for
sense or rhythm. There is no conversational flow of speech.
In the free-association poetry the poet was obviously more
motivated by the way words fit together. The computer
generated poetry seemed to have no sense of this factor at
iii. Finding Found Poetry
Another modern form of poetry is Found Poetry. It is
composed of text found by the poet in signs, grocery store
aisles, overheard conversations or advertising. If you are in
an environment where there is little textual material you may
be severely limited in producing found poetry. Our
environments are generally so rich in such material that it is
fairly easy to write. Here is an example of Found Poetry
written by the author in an environment with very limited
examples. It is easy to guess where this poem was written.
Fresh, thin cut onions,
Exit. Moo Juice.
Meetin' Room- Wash Rooms
Taste the Difference
Smuckers, Concord Grape Jelly.
Certified Angus Beef
Sugar, distributed by Sysco
Half and Half needs no chill.
This poem comprises nearly all the written material
that was visible at the time. It seems to tell very little but
does establish characteristics about the environment. In
Found Poetry the words must be taken directly from the
environment. Additional words cannot be added. If a poet
finds old Burma Shave signs, he can work them into a
highway Found Poem. In the 1950s, US highways had signs
placed along them advertising Burma Shave shaving cream.
They were rhymes with a few words on each sign you met
as you went along the highway. They were mostly poems.
Here is a link to a found poem taken from
conversation by the poet:
Found Poetry by David Miller
iv. Write a Lot
If you are experimenting with found poetry or free
association or computer generated poetry, spend time
writing many examples in different environments to develop
skills with the forms. Like any form they are better if you
seriously try to make something worthy of them. Look up
sites on the Internet for the various types. You may find that
you prefer a traditional style of poetry with its traditional
themes but you may also enjoy experimenting with clearly
contemporary forms. Don't be afraid to make up rules for
new forms of your own and experiment with them.
v. Everybody Writes
Keep in mind that there were times in ancient days
when only a few people in a city were capable of reading
and writing. The poets of that day had to read their poems to
others and could not publish them or post them in public
places with much expectation of readership. Literacy today
is widespread; and reading and writing are enjoyed by a
vastly greater number of people. This means that more
people have the opportunity to make their observations
available to others. The poet of today like the artist of today
does not exist in great seclusion but in every environment.
Noble topics are still written into poems, but ordinary
household topics are there right beside them. A poet may
choose to write poetry covering a broad range or a narrow
range. If you like deep thought as well as humor you will
probably have no problem finding a place to publish your
work. If you write about a specialized topic in great depth,
you will still find others of similar interests.
vi. Concrete Poetry
(Concrete poetry is not too hard.)
A modern poetry form of some interest is Concrete
Poetry. It is a poetry in which the form is visible in a way that
is much more unavoidable than in other forms. Here are two
fairly obvious examples also by the author.
Benchmark of Earth
Basement mud stone
Signet ring of God
Proof eternal calm
Watches Belt Butte
As you can see, Belt Butte is written in a perfectly
square form that depends on each written character taking
the same amount of linear space. There are eighteen
characters per line counting letters and spaces. Belt Butte
was composed on a typewriter which had regular spaces.
Bird # 3
him nothing nevermore
and Vincent's circling
crows were a threat to destroy
sunlight. Now I saw a bird, black with a yellow
beak, orange rubber legs
pecking to kill the
lawn, storm bird
hates with claw,
vii. Try Your Own Variations of Visual Poetry
Concrete Poetry has also been called Typewriter
Poetry. The effects possible with Concrete Poetry are made
more complicated but also more versatile by the computer. A
poem may depend upon the font chosen or upon
calligraphic lettering or letters cut from a newspaper. Most
concrete poetry still has a strong influence of the typewriter.
Emoticons on the computer could be worked into a poem as
a concrete element.
viii. Remember Whether You Use Variable or Fixed Fonts
In writing concrete poetry on the computer you must
both send and receive the poems the same way. If your
email is set to receive fixed fonts you will see the words
differently from the way they will look set to receive variable
fonts. In a variable font the letter "I" for instance will be
narrower and take up less width on the line than the letter
"W." In a variable font "W" is usually the widest letter. When
you write a poem to go online you must know what fonts can
be accepted by your hypertext software and use those fonts.
Then you must follow through all steps of the text handling
process to make sure they appear as intended. If you do
concrete poetry as graphics files you will be more assured
they will appear in proper form. You may need to consult a
technician if there are problems. For most Typewriter Poetry
you will need to use fixed fonts all the way.
ix. Look for Specific Forms of Poetry Online
In Concrete Poetry, the form takes on illustrative
quality in word or picture form. To understand more about
Concrete Poetry, check out a book on the form or check out
a website of Concrete Poetry. Any form can be found in
books or websites with very little effort. Try looking up
Haiku, Tanka, Sonnet, Villanelle, Sestina, Limerick, Ballad,
Blank Verse, Free Verse. Each of these will give you
examples of a well-established form. Form may refer only to
the form of print on the page, as in concrete poetry, or
rhyme pattern, as in a couplet or sonnet.
Concrete poetry can be very simple or quite complex.
You are only limited by your poetic and artistic skills as well
as imagination. Spend some time looking at examples in
books or online. It will be well worth the effort.