Concrete Poetry


Usually you would be told to write a poem, but a concrete poem is partly writing and partly visual art, so I think it’s more correct to say CREATE rather than WRITE. Here is an example:

Sonnet in the Shape of a Potted Christmas Tree BY GEORGE STARBUCK




O glitter-torn!

Let the wild wind erect

bonbonbonanzas; junipers affect

frostyfreeze turbans; iciclestuff adorn

all cuckolded creation in a madcap crown of horn!

It’s a new day; no scapegrace of a sect

tidying up the ashtrays playing Daughter-in-Law Elect;

bells! bibelots! popsicle cigars! shatter the glassware! a son born



while ox and ass and infant lie

together as poor creatures will

and tears of her exertion still

cling in the spent girl’s eye

and a great firework in the sky

drifts to the western hill.


Open: Augusto de Campos.


Ian Hamilton Finlay: Sea Poppy 2: These are actually fishing boat names

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Mary Ellen Solt: 



Ian Hamilton Finlay.

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Snowman by Kenn Nesbitt.


Growing by Kenn Nesbitt.




What is a Concrete Poem?

Pattern Poems by Simias.

This type of poetry has been used for thousands of years, since the ancient Greeks began to enhance the meanings of their poetry by arranging their characters in visually pleasing ways back in the 3rd and 2nd Centuries BC.

The Mouse’s Tale, by Lewis Carrol

A famous example is “The Mouse’s Tale from Lewis Carroll’s Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland.  The shape of the poem is a pun on the word tale/tail, as the words follow a long wiggling line getting smaller and smaller and ending in a point.

Drink Coca Cola Drool Glue Drink Cocaine Drool Glue Shard Glue Cesspool

The name “Concrete Poetry,” is from the 1950’s, when a group of Brazilian poets called the Noigandres held an international exhibition of their work, and then developed a “manifesto” to define the style.

The manifesto states that concrete poetry ‘communicates its own structure: structure = content





A common way to make the visual structure reflect the subject of the poem is to fill an outline shape that relates to the topic of the poem, in the same way that Carroll’s poem fits the silhouette of a mouse’s tail.

Instructions for creating a concrete poem:

1: Compose a short poem––or even an excerpt from a longer poem.

2: The poem can be free verse, or it could be any poetic form: Haiku, Sonnet, Clerihew, Epigram, Ballad, Limerick, Double Dactyl, Mother Goose, and so forth. 

3: Transcribe the poem by hand.

4: Arrange the lines, words, or even letters of the poem in a way that evokes the tone of the poem. For example you can make the words or individual letters, larger, bolder, smaller, different colors, or even shift the angles.

5: Keep in mind the convention that we read right to left, and top to bottom––or ignore it completely if you prefer.

Drawing Poems

Another way to make concrete poetry is to use the lines of the poem to make an outline drawing. This time you can choose slightly more sophisticated shapes.

The few rules are much the same as those of the concrete poem. Once again, compose a short poem––or even an excerpt from a longer poem, but this time let the lines flow into a simple recognizable shape. Think about the sweeping flow of calligraphy.

Hand Lettering: You can even use a style of lettering to help evoke the mood of your poem.