"Spell Casting" Poetry Exercise at Ariadne's Web.

"The Spell Maker" Poetry Exercise.

* History. * Writing Exercise - Overview. * Writing Exercise - Details. * Hints. * Books.


The month that Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix (Book 5) was published, the United States Administration was pushing both its own country and countries across the globe into grief and loss, damaging people and earth, sea and sky.

I wanted to write something optimistic about the current terrible political situation. An impossible task without magic. So clearly I needed to use a spell or a charm that would cause useful change. That meant writing a poem.


  1. If you were allowed one spell (maybe one that preexists like any of the Harry Potter Spells or Ali Baba spells, etc.) what would it be? What word(s) invoke it? What does it do?
  2. Describe the first day when you use this spell. Do you use it on yourself at all? Do you use it upon other people? upon things? What is its effect? What is its result?


A spell may be a brief incantation - a word or two may suffice. Yet the preparation for casting or throwing the spell is important. How the spell is contained and released is skillful work. Therefore:

  1. Begin by writing a rough, uncensored draft, like a free-write in prose. Write like this for an hour or a week.
  2. Form is especially suitable for a spell. Look at some of the forms and see if your spell has an affinity to one of the forms, such as:
    Ghazal Ghazal. haiku Haiku. pantoum Pantoum. sestina Sestina. sonnet Sonnet. villanelle Villanelle.
  3. If your spell wants to fit a form with repeated lines, like the Villanelle, review your draft to find strong lines or phrases to repeat.
  4. If your spell wants to fit a form with end-rhymes, like the Sonnet, review your draft to find strong words that you might use to end your lines.
  5. Then work on moving the poem into your chosen form.
  6. Revise. Revise. Revise.

Some hints.

Can't get started - read a Harry Potter book like: Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix (Book 5) by J. K. Rowling.

Or Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince (Book 6) by J. K. Rowling.

Or check out the Harry Potter spells.

Can't decide which spell to use? Then choose several, like poet Bonnie Schell:

Thanks for the spells and conjures. I see that they are all made up
Latin which pleases me immensely.

Thus I say:

  Finite Incantatem! which stops mass panic.

  Locomotor Mortis! (leg locking) to delegations of American politicos 
  visiting countries with bribes of money and soldiers.
  And then ending with Petrificus Totalus! -- the full body bind.


Buy Strand The Making of a Poem: A Norton Anthology of Poetic Forms, Edited by Mark Strand and Eavan Boland.

Books on Writing Poetry.

Other Books of Poetry Form.

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