by Carol Ann Duffy, Helen Taylor and Gillian Clarke
A shape poem is a poem where the visual layout of the words reflects the shape or aspect of the poem’s subject. A poem about a snake could be laid out on the page in the shape of a snake. Ditto a poem about an elephant. Here is an excellent example of a shape poem by Leonard Clark:
Earth-WormDo you squirm when you see an earth-worm? I never do squirm because I think a big fat worm is really rather clever the way it can shrink and go so small without a sound into the ground. And then what about all that work it does and no oxygen or miner’s hat? Marvellous you have to admit, even if you don’t like fat pink worms a bit, how with that thin slippery skin it makes its way day after day through the soil, such honest toil. And don’t forget the dirt it eats, I bet you wouldn’t like to come out at night to squirt it all over the place with no eyes in your face: I doubt too if you know an earth-worm is deaf, but it can hear YOU go to and fro even if you cut it in half. Do not laugh or squirm again when you suddenly see a worm.
Reproduced with permission from the Literary Executor of Leonard Clark
Animals (snakes, giraffes, elephants) and weather (rain, snow, lightning) make great subjects for shape poems. The poems can be done on posters too!
Madtail, Miniwhale and Other Shape Poems ed. Wes Magee (Puffin, 1991)
Picture a Poem by Gina Douthwaite (Red Fox, 1995)