Poetic Forms: Phrase Manipulation


Hello Everyone!

Welcome to week five of poetic forms, where every week I introduce a different type of poem and invite you to give it a go! As an added incentive to take part, the best poem every week is featured on the Writing Gooder blog on Sunday afternoon, alongside a brief analysis by myself.

To enter a poem, make sure it’s written in this week’s style and then either post a link to it in a comment below, or post the full text of the poem.

This week we’re stretching the definition of ‘form’ as we take a look at an experimental writing exercise. It’s called phrase manipulation and the poet may choose to manipulate a line or a stanza in its entirety. When manipulating a stanza, the aim is to use the same words in every verse of the poem, but re-ordered to give a different meaning. When manipulating a line, the form is less strict and sometimes the poet will break down the line, losing a word each time and then building back to the original once more. Here are two examples to illustrate each type of phrase manipulation:

Example One: Myron Lysenko makes the form look effortless with his beautiful poem.

Under The Tree

Myron Lysenko (1952-present)


They stood

under the big tree

and talked slowly


Under the tree

they stood

and slowly talked big


The big tree

stood slowly

and under they talked


They stood big

and slowly talked

the tree under


The big tree talked

and they slowly



Example Two: Presley and James set out their letter bank in the form of a two line sentence at the start of the poem and every line afterward uses those letters and no more.

‘Neither the One nor the Other’

Frances Presley and Elizabeth James


We need to approach the pastoral with care and remember that it’s not a

convenient utpoa


we need

we need to approach

we need to approach the past

to approach the past we need we need

to approach the pastoral

we need to approach the pastoral in a car

o approach the pastoral with care

we need to poach the pastor

to cart toward aporia

approach the water and pare the weed to the core

to catch a parsnip

and remember that it’s not

and remember that it’s not a convent

and remember that it’s a con

ut poesia pastoralis

I will only add that I have tried this myself and the experts make it look far easier than it is! However it’s a lot of fun and produces some excellent poetry.

Good Luck Everyone!

** Image owned by Enokson at Flickr.


Heather, who goes by Rydia on YWS, has long been an aspiring author. In the early days of her life she attached herself to poetry and would curl up on the playground bench to scrawl down lines of forgotten virtue. Or, more likely, little virtue at all. At the very old age of 11, she joined The Young Writers Club and progressed into the realms of roleplay. Here she constructed characters to fight off dragons or rally to their allies' aid with healing spells; a joint love of gaming heavily influenced this fondness of adventure storybooks. A few more years went by before Heather became a serious novelist and she still considers poetry to be her favourite media for getting those thoughts down on paper. Outside of writing her loves include puzzle books, strategy/ fantasy games, movies, swimming, skiing (when she actually has money), crafty things, baking, food in general, fun pranks and anything involving snow.

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8 Responses

  1. Blackwood says:

    Here is a failed one from me. </3

    I have everything they need.
    Me? What they want?
    and I give what I want.
    Tell me what I don't have.

    I don't want what
    they tell me what I need.
    I have everything I want and have.
    They give me what?

    Everything I want, I have.
    They tell me what I want,
    they give me what I have,
    and what I don't need.

    I don't have what I want, what I need.
    They tell me what, I give.
    They want, have everything.
    And me?

    • Heather says:

      I really like the ideas in this! The wording isn’t quite polished, but I like the having what you want versus what you need theme and I think that’s interesting to explore!

  2. Niteowl says:

    Alright, here’s mine. The tricky part for me wasn’t creating phrase combos, but having a progression and sentences that weren’t just saying the same thing.

    Under the moonlight,
    we hid from
    the storms.

    Storms hid
    the moon from us
    under the light.

    We hid light
    from the moon
    under the storms.

    We the storms
    hid from light
    under the moon.

    Light the storms
    from the moon
    hiding under us.

    The storms
    under the moonlight
    hid from us.

    • Heather says:

      I think you did well with the progression – I think ‘Light the storms’ was especially beautiful and unexpected!

  3. Heather says:

    Here’s mine:

    Artificial Intelligence

    the manifold intelligences of
    our artificial world
    are the failings of society

    of society the failings are manifold
    in genes i c tell
    our world of the artificial

    the failings are of society;
    our world intelligences
    of the artificial manifold

    our artificial intelligences
    are society; the world
    of failings of
    the man i fold

    • Aley says:

      I really like how you used the letters as well as the words instead of just the words. It really helped make this a better poem because you’ve got new words.

  4. Aley says:

    Balance on the edge of rest
    with your toes dangling
    over the great
    abysmal fall
    to insanity.

    Balance the edge of rest;
    your toes
    dangling over the fall
    to insanity.

    Balance rest
    with your fall
    to insanity.

    The rest of your balance,
    dangling to fall with insanity.

    Fall over your great edge
    to rest on insanity.

    Fall on your great
    dangling insanity!

    Great insanity fall to your toes.
    Rest the abysmal on the fall.

    The toes balance
    over the rest of your fall,
    dangling on edge.

    Great edge of balance,
    fall to your abysmal insanity
    with the rest.

    To balance the fall of great insanity,
    rest with your toes dangling over the abysmal edge.

    >> I don’t know what to think of this DX

    • Heather says:

      The ending is really clear and certain so I’m guessing you worked that out at the same time of the beginning? Or if not, really good work getting both parts so smoothly balanced.

      I think some of the middle ones could have been a little less repetitive, but varying the number of words you used from the original was a good idea.

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