Wednesday, August 12, 2015

Using Repetition in Poetry

In Esther’s last post, she pointed out a series of “re-” words related to Kate Messner’s Real Revision. I’ll add another: Repetition. Along with rhythm and rhyme, it’s one of the three important patterns in poetry that I discuss in Write a Poem Step by Step. (By the way, we’re giving away an autographed copy! See below to enter for your chance to win!)

Here’s an excerpt from the book:

What do you do when you want to remember something? Do you say it to yourself again and again until you learn it? That’s using repetition. Repetition is an effective technique in poetry. It helps create a pattern in a poem. It can help us remember. It can add emphasis to a certain word or phrase. It can connect the parts of a poem to each other.

(Rahel Spilka wrote the following poem in one of my workshops many years ago. It's still one of my favorites.) Repetition ties Rahel’s poem together.

Blowing in the Wind
The tree’s branches are
blowing in the wind.
Like a cradle rocking
blowing in the wind.
It sounds like a baby crying
blowing in the wind.
The branches are swiveling
blowing in the wind.
Seems like a Mom saying,
blowing in the wind. 
Rahel Spilka, Grade 2
If your poem includes a word, a phrase, a line, or even a stanza that you want to use more than once, go ahead. Just make sure that what you repeat is important to the poem, or it can feel or sound overdone.

Have fun! Have fun! Have fun!

JoAnn Early Macken


Damon Dean said...

Ah! Rahel is my favorite new poet! Love this, and your point on repetition is right on. Thanks for highlighting this "Re-" factor.
Loved it.

JoAnn Early Macken said...

Thank you for your note, Damon Dean! Yes, Rahel's poem is a wonderful example of using repetition effectively. I love working with young students--they come up with the most brilliant ideas!