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How to Write a Question Poem

by Susan Sherwood, Demand Media
    The inspiration for a question poem often comes from the poet’s life.

    The inspiration for a question poem often comes from the poet’s life.

    A question poem is described by its name: it's a series of queries. The poem generates one question after another, building upon a topic. A poet goes through several steps while creating a question poem that encourages readers to think about a topic or consider a specific point of view.

    Topic

    To choose the topic for your question poem, first decide upon the tone: funny or serious. For a humorous poem, pick an ordinary situation that you find amusing, like sneaking the last cookie. Poets also use question poems to explore their real concerns, so consider what issues intrigue or frustrate you. Culture, society, politics, education, the legal system, international relations, family dynamics: these areas often stir up strong feelings. Write down any questions that come to mind. Select the one that interests you the most, not the easiest one to answer. You don't need to have the answer by the end of the poem . You're just examining the issue.

    Brainstorm

    Now it's time to brainstorm. Make a list of anything you can think of that's related to the topic. Your thoughts can be in the form of questions, phrases or single words. Don't judge your ideas. This is not the time to decide if an entry is good or bad. You will narrow down the field later. Use this step to delve into the topic.

    Structure

    A question poem has a very loose style. They are often written as they would be said aloud, with a natural spoken rhythm. Decide if your poem will come from one voice or more. It can be a series of questions from a single point of view; for example, the narrator can ask about evidence that demonstrates global warming. On the other hand, the poem could be a conversation between opposing views that presents both sides of an issue.

    Rhyme

    Decide if you want the question poem to rhyme. Because there isn't a strict format, you get to make this call. Rhyme schemes are represented with letters standing in for each line of the poem. The lines that rhyme have the same letter, such as ABBA. In this example, the first and fourth lines rhyme together, as do the second and third. It is common for question poems to rhyme the last syllables of every two lines. This pattern is written AABBCCDDEE, continuing until the end of the poem. If you choose to rhyme, have a rhyming dictionary handy.

    Composition

    Now that you have decided upon the topic, structure and rhyme scheme, begin writing. Start with the main question that sets the stage for the others. Continue in an order that develops that primary question further. Start with a broad question and narrow the topic down, or go in the opposite direction. Conclude with a question that settles the subject and moves on, identifies a related issue that needs to be explored or presents an idea about the subject that you want the reader to think about.

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    About the Author

    Living in upstate New York, Susan Sherwood is a researcher who has been writing within educational settings for more than 10 years. She has co-authored papers for Horizons Research, Inc. and the Capital Region Science Education Partnership. Sherwood has a Ph.D. in curriculum and instruction from the University at Albany.

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