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How to Write a Reverse Poem

by Michael Stratford, Demand Media

    A reverse poem is like a topsy-turvy picture, a frowning face upended to reveal a smiling one. A line, word or idea complements the line, word or idea that follows; read in reverse, it contradicts it with an opposing message. The easiest reverse poetry to attempt is that in which every line of poetry both complements and reverses the meaning of the lines immediately before and immediately after.

    Start with Passionate Ideas

    There are several methods of writing reverse poetry, but the easiest is to write the poem first as a text. Begin with an idea about which you feel passionate, such as "I love my boyfriend." Continue with reasons why you feel passionate about the topic: "He is so good to me," "He will always be faithful," "I love the gifts he gives." List no more than seven reasons; you don't want to overwhelm yourself. Call these ideas Set One.

    Incomplete Sentences Are the Connectors

    The next step is to write a set of sentences, no more than ten, that are incomplete clauses. Call these Set Two; each clause ends with the word "that" as a verb complement or the beginning to a noun clause. Make half of the statements affirmative and half of them negative: "I feel that" and "I do not feel that," "people say that" and "people never say that" and so on. Now you are ready to connect the first set of ideas to the second set.

    Interweave Ideas and Connections

    Write a poem in which the lines from Set One connect with Set Two. Interweave the ideas with the positive and negative "that" statements to create single sentences that can be read up and down. It will take several tries, with much discarding and tweaking, but your ultimate goal is to create a poem that reads optimistically in one direction, pessimistically in another. Example: "I believe that/he loves me/no one believes that/he is faithful/He tells me that/he is exclusive with me/he never tells me that" and so on.

    Shakespearean Reversed Poetry

    A classic example of this kind of poetry is in Shakespeare's "Midsummer Night's Dream," Act Five, where a chorus, telling the audience what a great play he is presenting, actually gives the reverse opinion. Study the classics and other poets, keep on creating and tweaking and eventually you will be writing sharp, funny and incisive reverse poetry.

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    References

    About the Author

    Michael Stratford is a National Board-certified and Single Subject Credentialed teacher with a Master of Science in educational rehabilitation (University of Montana, 1995). He has taught English at the 6-12 level for more than 20 years. He has written extensively in literary criticism, student writing syllabi and numerous classroom educational paradigms.

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