How to Write an Experimental Poem, a lesson plan/free workshop

Experimental or avant-garde poetry can offer a wide range of benefits to both writers and readers. By breaking free from traditional conventions, these forms of poetry can allow for greater creative expression and the exploration of new ideas. Avant-garde poetry can also serve as a means of subverting dominant narratives and challenging societal norms. And this includes how welcoming the community is to all poets who are interested in adding to the community. Yes, most avant-garde poets have a degree/ MA/ MFA/ or even a PhD in English/writing/Poetry but with some gusto, research and a willingness to learn the history and wish to expand its future – all poets are very welcome. I still do not have any formal qualifications in English or poetry, my background is in Computer Science, Education and Design and yet I am well published, always learning and loving it.

But back to my point – reading and writing experimental poetry can help to expand one’s understanding and appreciation of language,literature and can encourage critical thinking skills, thinking outside the box. It can also stimulate critical thinking and encourage readers to engage with the text in a more active and deeper way. Overall, experimental poetry offers a unique and enriching literary experience that can be both personally and culturally valuable. Yes, please!

please feel free to use this lesson plan in your own workshops and let me know how you get on. Beir Bua Journal often opens to share cool work.

Lesson Title: Writing Experimental Poetry

Objective: Students will be able to write experimental poetry that incorporates unconventional techniques and forms.

Resources Needed:

  • Pen and paper (or a computer) for each student
  • Examples of experimental poetry (either printed out or displayed on a screen)
  • A list of techniques and forms for students to choose from (optional)

Warm-Up: Ask students to think about the traditional conventions of poetry (e.g. rhyme, meter, stanzas). Then, ask them to brainstorm ways in which they could break these conventions in their own writing. Encourage them to think creatively and consider techniques and forms they may not have used before.

Direct Teaching:

  • Introduce the concept of experimental poetry. Explain that this type of poetry often incorporates unconventional techniques and forms in order to challenge traditional ideas about what poetry can be.
  • Introduce Art History, Surrealism, Dadaism and their relationship to war, how artists wanted people to question logic, bias, generational trauma/thinking/habits to encourage independent thinking.
  • Ask students to breathe deeply and play a short mindfulness audio by explaining that logic is fallible but our intuition is not and this mindfulness will centre them and help to generation a greater intuition.
  • Provide examples of experimental poetry for students to read and analyze. Ask them to identify the unconventional techniques and forms used in each example.
  • Discuss the purpose of experimental poetry and the role it plays in the literary world. Encourage students to think about how they can use experimental techniques and forms to convey their own ideas and emotions in their writing.

Guided Teaching:

  • Read some poetry from Michelle Moloney King’s surreal/postmodern collection, Cartouche, as an example.
  • Give students a list of experimental techniques and forms to choose from (or have them come up with their own). Some examples might include:
    • Using unconventional line breaks or stanza structure
    • Using found or appropriated text
    • Incorporating visual elements (e.g. images, layout)
    • Using non-traditional punctuation or spelling
    • Using multiple languages
    • Writing in a stream-of-consciousness style
    • Using repetition or refrains
    • Writing in the form of a letter, list, or other non-poem structure
  • Have students choose one or more of these techniques or forms to incorporate into their own experimental poem. Encourage them to be creative and think outside the box.

Independent Work or Early Finisher Work:

  • Have students write an experimental poem using the techniques and forms they have chosen. Encourage them to revise and edit their work as needed.

Sharing Work:

  • Have students share their experimental poems with the class. Encourage discussion and feedback from their peers.

If you enjoyed this then please share, follow either myself or Beir Bua Press online and maybe buy a book.

Michelle