How to Create Shape Poems

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Want a creative way to publish poetry? Need a writing activity to spark interest of reluctant poets or writers in general? A shape or concrete poem is just the project. This style of poetry uses limited words and it doesn’t need to rhyme. The best part is that shape poems are actually as fun to write as they are to read. They have the ability to even become addictive, turning artists and less successful writers into proud poets.

Skill level:


  1. 1

    Brainstorm a topic for the concrete poem. Think of something simple, like a common object, shape or symbol. The goal is to select a subject that can be graphically represented in a basic outline. Examples include a bell, tree, snowflake, star, telephone, instrument, teddy bear, birdhouse or flower.

  2. 2

    Draw a basic silhouette of the object you chose as your subject, pressing lightly. Make it as simple as possible with few tight curves or corners. You will be writing words to later form this pattern. The shape should fill at least half of a standard sheet of paper. In place of hand drawing the outline, trace around a cookie cutter or similar pattern representing your shape. Alternately, search for clip art, print out a simple design, place a piece of thin or tracing paper over the print out, and trace the silhouette onto the tracing paper.

  3. 3

    Jot down descriptive words and/or phrases to describe the subject. This is a free write activity just to get ideas flowing and noted. Some ideas will be eliminated later, so concentrate on writing as much as comes to mind.

  4. 4

    Create an organised list to describe the subject through all senses. Create headings for looks like, sounds like, feels like, smells like, tastes like. List your thoughts below each heading. Again, this step is just a pre-writing stage to get ideas in motion.

  5. 5

    Write comparisons such as metaphors and/or similes to describe your topic. For a simile, compare your subject to another object using the words “like” or “as.” An example would be: A rose is like a sweetly scented satin pillow. For a metaphor, compare your subject to another object directly, without using the descriptive words “like” or “as.” An example would be: A rose bud is a promise of awakening beauty.

  6. 6

    Begin putting together the poem, using the ideas you listed in Steps 3 to 5. Since you have limited space, keep the length of the poem fairly short. Eliminate any unnecessary words or ideas that seem redundant.

  7. 7

    Transfer the words of the poem into the outline pattern. When you get a good fit, go over the lettering with a thin marker to make the words bolder. Choose an appropriate colour or colours to match your subject.

Tips and warnings

  • It most likely will take several attempts to fit the words onto the outline. Although it may be tempting to shrink or stretch handwriting to make the words fit, keep the font size consistent. Instead, eliminate or add a few words here and there to make the words work in the allotted space.

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