Poetry Form - The Concrete Poem

The Concrete Poem Form
by Ariadne Unst

* History. * Form. * Your Composition. * Example. * References.


Introduced in the 1950's, the term "Concrete Poem" now often includes what was historically called the "Pattern Poem" or (in the terminology of Kenneth Koch) a "Shape Poem."

In a Pattern or Shape Poem, the shape of the poem on the page symbolizes the content of the poem.

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In the 1950's poets in Switzerland and Sweden and Brazil started, independently, to develop "Concrete Poetry" (partly as an adaptation of "concrete painting", a minor European school of the 1940's). In such poems, the arrangement of words and phrases on the page indicated the poem's meaning.

Poets who have made such mergers of appearance and content include George Herbert, Lewis Carrol (pen name of Charles L. Dodgson), Ezra Pound, Guillaume Apollinaire, and Stephane Mallarmé.


In a Concrete Poem, form follows function. The poem's visual form reveals its content and is integral to it.

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These are the features of such a poem:

The attractiveness and robustness of the term "Concrete" means that modern poems that would previously have been called "Pattern Poems" are now called "Concrete Poems."

Your Composition.

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His suggestions include:

Example of a Concrete (or Pattern) Poem.

The following Concrete (or Pattern) Poem was first published in 2002 in Runes Review of Poetry: Mystery, Editors CB Follett and Susan Terris.

The indentation reflects the steep, long flight of steps referenced in the poem.

The meaning of the poem would remain if the increasing indentation of successive lines were removed. But, by mirroring the content, the unusual layout reinforces the content of the poem.

  J. Zimmerman
                    For David.

                    "we've been around, we fall, we fly
                    we mostly fall"
                    Song of Bernadette, Leonard Cohen

  I strode off the 
   high cathedral 
    top-most step like a
     miracle worker, or a 
       passing the final exam for 
        Saint. The 
         city expanded at my 
          feet. For one 
           pico-second, I 
              I fell. I can't 
               remember how 
                (bruised but 
                 unbroken) I 
                  ended, though I 
                   remember the 
                     fall, and 
                      (this was the 
                       first time you saved me) your 
                         twist as you 

                           threw yourself 
                            faster than the grab of gravity   
                             below me, so
                              your chest protected 
                               my face, 
                                your arms 
                                 wrapped around me,
                                  your body 
                                   grated for mine against 
                                    granite, while we 
                                     tumbled like 

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