If you know the Pledge of Allegiance, or can recite a prayer, or remember something a family member told you when you were little, it is because of one thing: repetition. Whether you were standing in a classroom with your hand on your chest, or kneeling in a house of worship or sitting at the kitchen table, you remember these things because you did them everyday or every week for long time.
When you share your poem, you may have just one chance. Someone might read your poem from a page or you may read it to them. Either way, at the end of the poem, your opportunity is over. If your message is important enough for you to write it in a poem, how will you get your audience to remember it? Use repetition.
Poetic word of the day: refrain (click here to see the definition on Merriam-Webster’s Word Central)
You can repeat words, phrases or whole stanzas in your poems.Spoken word artists use repetition often because it can boost the entertainment value of their poem. Printed poems also benefit when parts are repeated. Your main idea is the what you repeat. If one word makes your point, repeat it. If a phrase or sentence is needed, repeat that. When you do, your audience will recognize something familiar that you gave them before and it sinks in a little deeper. Even if people don’t remember you name, they will remember your poem. Some may even repeat parts of it back to you.
You can be creative when repeating a section of your poem. Repeating something exactly the same way two or three times can become boring. If you are repeating a stanza, you can reword it or rearrange the phrases. You can even rewrite a phrase in the section. Your audience will notice what is different if you change one small thing each time you repeat it.
The best example of this that I can find is Dr. Seuss’ “Green Eggs and Ham” where there is lots of repetition and most repeated parts are different as the story goes on.
Although it might take me a long time to count Dr. Seuss' repetitions, repeating an idea three or four times should be enough for most poems. Be careful not to repeat too much. At one of the first poetry readings I ever attended, a poet read a poem that mentioned a "cup" at least 30 times, with symbolism as the poetic device. At the end of the 2-minute poem, I felt as though I had been beaten over the head with this simple household item.
Haiku is the only kind of poem that I don't like to write repeated words. That doesn't mean you can't do it. I have read some wonderful haiku where a word was repeated. It is just something I prefer not to do. My philosophy is, if I am working with 17 syllables (or less), I need to use each one as efficiently as possible. Besides, the poem is too short for anyone to forget the first time I used the word.
PROMPT: Think of something that you have been waiting for. It can be an event, like a birthday or starting a new school (or job) or a move to another part of the country. Maybe a family member is far away and you are waiting for them to come home. Or, it could be an object, like a new book, or a toy. Maybe, you are getting tired of waiting for whatever it is. Use repetition to write the poem that will make this happen sooner.
For this poem, you will need to use stanzas. You know your main idea. Decide whether you will repeat one word, a phrase, sentence or stanza.
FOR PARENTS OF YOUNGER CHILDREN: Re-read a picture book that your child(ren) may have outgrown, one you haven't read in a long time. Try to choose one that doesn't have lots of words or rhymes. Talk about the story. Ask what happens more than one time in the book, if anything. Work with your child(ren) to make a poem based on their favorite page or favorite part of the book. Invite them to add something new with their poem that is not already in the book.