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The poetic sequence

In which learners are introduced to ways of developing their poem.

Now you have received feedback on your poem and maybe edited it accordingly, you are perhaps now beginning to sense that the poem is finished. However, many of you will not feel that way, and perhaps sense that this is only the beginning of a longer piece. Here are three long forms that you might want to consider (even if the last one is very ambitious).


A sequence is a series of poems that are thematically connected. For instance, in Michael’s collection The Half Healed (2008), the poems ‘Last Words’ I- XII all mark the anniversary of the attacks on 9/11. Their status as a sequence is indicated by the fact that they are numbered. Others such as the poems ‘Something and Nothing’ from Drysalter (2013) are linked by a much less obvious thematic or purpose. They’re also not numbered but simply share the same title. Numbering poems, sharing the same title or using an overarching title are three ways in which to indicate that poems belong together in a sequence. The advantage of a sequence is that it takes the pressure off a single poem and allows large issues to develop over a longer period.

Long poem

The long poem has gone out of fashion to some extent. Famous examples include T.S. Eliot’s The Waste Land, written early in the twentieth century, but also Alice Oswald’s Memorial (2011) much more recently. In some ways, the difference between a sequence and a long poem isn’t obvious. Perhaps in a sequence the individual segments need to be able to hold their own better. Also a long poem may not be divided into subsections.

Verse Novel

The verse novel is a rare thing. As the title suggests, a verse novel is a novel written in verse. Famous examples include Eugene Onegin by the Russian poet Alexander Pushkin. It not simply a very long long poem, because as well as being written in verse, a verse novel should have all the fixtures typical of a novel, such as characters, setting and, of course, a story.

Have you ever read anything in the above mentioned forms that you would recommend?

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How To Make A Poem

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