Fifty-Two Form Poetry Challenge: Introduction

Wordsmiths and Versifiers,
Rhymesters and Sonneteers,
Bards and Balladeers…

Welcome to the Fifty-Two Form
Poetry Challenge!

About the Challenge

Over the next year, I’m challenging myself to collect as many unique poetic forms as possible. I’ll randomly select a form and make my best attempt to write an original poem in the selected form each week for the next 52 weeks.

In every weekly post, I’ll provide an overview of the selected form, including a brief history, specific form requirements (meter, rhyme, syllable-count, etc), and some tips and techniques I found useful when composing my original poem. Each post will conclude with an original poem in the selected form, as well as a section with links to further resources.

What you’ll need to play along at home:

A list of at least 52 unique forms. I suggest collecting as many as you can, because why not? I suggest starting your quest here. Assign a number to the forms you collect.

A way to randomly select a number from 1 to 52. You can use an online random number generator or fifty-two slips of paper in a 1-gallon hat. Have fun with it!

About the Author

I am not a professional writer or even a published poet. I am not a professor, scholar, or literary historian, and I speak with little authority on the subject of poetry as a whole. I do, however, consider myself an earnest enthusiast and lifelong student of poetry. As an undergrad, I did have the extreme privilege of studying creative writing under former Kansas Poet Laureate Kevin Rabas at Emporia State University, and poetry under another Kansas Poet Laureate, the wonderful Eric McHenry, at Washburn University.

As an amateur songwriter, I’m especially interested in the intersection between music and poetry, and I’m excited to explore all the possible ways I may find to incorporate aspects of what I learn through this process into my songwriting endeavors. I believe all things are enhanced by the clarity, power, and imagination that a poetic perspective can bring.

This is my very first attempt at undertaking such a lengthy challenge, and will also be my first time regularly publishing online. I embark on this adventure on the day of my 36th birthday. Please wish me luck, courage, and fortitude!

References and Acknowledgements

Robert Lee Brewer’s List of 86 Poetic Forms for Poets for The Writer’s Digest served both as an inspiration for the project and an invaluable online source of reference information and examples. An essential resource.

Edward Hirsch’s 700+ page A Poet’s Glossary is an exhaustive and equally indispensable source of both information and inspiration. Hirsch’s How to Read a Poem is highly recommended as well.

Both aspiring and long-practicing poets would do well to keep a copy of Mary Oliver’s concise and gracefully crafted A Poetry Handbook close at hand.

On a more personal note, a special thanks to Eric McHenry for his invaluable guidance and enthusiastic support.