Poetry is a wonderful tool to use for writing. I’ve seen some of the most beautiful expressions of love, hope, pain, and anger displayed in poems. The imagery used is one of the key selling points in good poetry, eclipsing the form as well. But content, though it is the most important part of poetry, is often viewed through the lens of its form.

If you break a poem apart you have content and structure. Content is what the poem is about and includes word choice and textual images. The structure is just as important to me (as my personal preference), but in the wide world of poetry takes much less of a role. Nevertheless, it still plays a role in many poems. The structure would include how the poem is arranged, number of lines, syllables per line, rhyme scheme, and even the visual pattern of the poem.

To begin our Spotlight on Poetry series, we’ll start with the Ode form of poetry. An Ode is generally written to honor a person, a thing, or something that has happened. It is highly illustrious, and can seem to go over the top in the department of flattery.

The form of an Ode can vary greatly. While there are more exceptions than there are standard forms, I would like to leave you with the following characteristics for a standard Ode:

1) Ten line stanzas
2) Nine of the lines are written in iambic pentameter, and one in iambic trimeter (generally 6 or 8)
3) Rhyme scheme is ABABCDECDE
4) The content is honoring a person, thing, or event (even if sarcastic and mocking, as in my poem An Ode to Stress)

Now that is a very general set of rules for a poem. As I look up Odes throughout the years, I find 9 or 11 line stanzas. I find very specific rhyme schemes as well as none whatsoever. I even find different meters for each Ode. But as this series is focused on guiding you into writing and appreciating each different form, I’m going to be very specific on the form’s rules. Just realize that poetry is not wrong. If you deviate, great! But as a guide, those four rules are where you are aiming.

As a few examples of Odes, I’d like to include a stanza from John Keats (Ode to a Nightingale), as well as one by Matthew Arnold (The Scholar-Gypsy), and a new Ode I have written for this series (To Be A Part).

John Keats – Ode to a Nightingale (last stanza)

Forlorn! the very word is like a bell
To toll me back from thee to my sole self!
Adieu! the fancy cannot cheat so well
As she is famed to do, deceiving elf.
Adieu! adieu! thy plaintive anthem fades
Past the near meadows, over the still stream,
Up the hill-side; and now ’tis buried deep
In the next valley-glades:
Was it a vision, or a waking dream?
Fled is that music:—do I wake or sleep?


Matthew Arnold – The Scholar-Gypsy (first stanza)

Go, for they call you, shepherd, from the hill;
Go, shepherd, and untie the wattled cotes!
No longer leave thy wistful flock unfed,
Nor let thy bawling fellows rack their throats,
Nor the cropped grasses shoot another head;
But when the fields are still,
And the tired men and dogs all gone to rest,
And only the white sheep are sometimes seen
Cross and recross the strips of moon-blanched green,
Come, shepherd, and again renew the quest!


Robert Adkisson – To Be A Part

When I, in wonder, look within myself
And meditate on who I have become,
I see the dusty books upon the shelves,
Peruse the titles of each lonely tome.
In silence and denial I turn away.
In doubt and disbelief I shake my head.
Refusing to accept the role that I
Have forced myself to play.
In but a moment all that’s to me said
Becomes a part of all seen by my eyes.


Now for the fun part! I’d like for you to write your own Ode. Please comment with the text (1 stanza only though) or a link to your Ode (as many stanzas as you’d like). Happy writing!


9 thoughts on “Spotlight on Poetry Series: Ode

  1. Stumbled upon while searching for a read
    Your posts that can inspire and challenge me
    Your knowledge is what I hastily feed
    My mind in a box is to be set free
    I ask “Where have you been all my life?”
    I wrote and wrote with no teacher on prose
    Glad to have met thee as I wish to learn
    Creating literature like it’s my wife
    My sweet, my master, I present this rose
    Tis true, your approval is what I yearn.


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