Poetry can be one of the most fun ways of self-expression out there. But sometimes, to inspire your writing, it helps to have a little structure behind all the madness! What follows is a mini-“tutorial” in what I like to call “Rainbow Poetry.” This simple “how-to” guide will provide a basic format for creating a poetic formula that has the potential for several very different, very unique results each time you try it. While the formula seems very set and solid, it is only a starting point for writers who want to further expand their poetic style. So, let’s get started with our Rainbow Poetry. We’ll go step-by-step so you have a basic idea of how it works!
1. Write out the colors of the rainbow. You should have seven colors, which we all know (hopefully we all learned ROY G. BIV in school).
2. In your second list or column, write words that rhyme-they may be loose or slanted rhymes, if you wish-with each of the colors. For example, for “Red” you might use “Dread”; for “Orange” you may use a loose rhyme like “Rings”. Be careful which words you choose; they could make your next step either very easy-maybe too easy, if you don’t use your imagination-or extremely difficult. What follows is one of the lists I made while experimenting with this method:
3. In your third and final list or column, write words you associate with each word from your second list. For example, for my poem I used Red: Dread: Pirate, because the word “Dread” reminded me of the Dread Pirate Roberts from The Princess Bride. These don’t have to be clear associations; they should be associations that are clear to you, but don’t try to find associations that will be easily recognizable to others. This is your poem, so let it be what is will be from your mind. For example:
Dread-Pirate (i.e. the Dread Pirate Roberts, The Princess Bride)
Rings-Lord (i.e. the Lord of the Rings)
Mellow-Drink (i.e. the soda, Mellow Yellow)
Sheen-Charlie (pretty self-explanatory!)
Flew-Cuckoo (i.e. One Flew over the Cuckoo’s Nest)
Tomorrow-Dies (i.e. James Bond, Tomorrow Never Dies)
Sunset-Death (i.e. death as the sunset of life)
4. Mix up your lists by numbering each word one through seven to create seven “base-lines” (a line of three words you will fill in when you actually write out your poem). For example, in my poem, the lists were as follows: 1, 2, 3, . . ., 7; 7, 6, 5, . . ., 1; and 5, 6, 7, 1, 2, 3, 4. You may scramble them as much as you’d like. Try to avoid allowing words to match up with the words they were originally paired with. For example, in my poem number four from lists one and two happened to go together, which created the somewhat not-as-creative pairing of “green sheen.” However, in each list the placement of the number two was different, so I had the base-line “orange tomorrow cuckoo,” which was strange but workable!
5. In your final step, add some flesh to your base-lines by filling in any words you’d like. For example, from the above example of “orange tomorrow cuckoo,” I created the line “An orange tomorrow from the cuckoo’s nest.” In the end you will have a seven line poem!
Watch the red sunset, Charlie
An orange tomorrow from the cuckoo’s nest
The brief yellow flew up, and dies
Beyond the green sheen of death
In blue, the mellow pirate,
In indigo, rings around the lord
And violet wine, which we dread to drink
This poem-writing technique doesn’t have to limited to the Rainbow Poem. Get creative with it. Instead of the colors of the rainbow, use any colors you’d like; use more or less than seven to make it more interesting. Or, don’t use colors at all. You can use anything you want to with this writing technique: your favorite candy, names of flowers, trees, or people, etc. No matter what you choose to use for your first list, the only steps you may want to at least start out following exactly are the final four; however, as you begin to get into it, you may even want to get away from this format. For example, you may want to have list two be your list of associated words and list three be the rhymed/loose rhymed words. No matter how you go about using this method, there’s one thing you must always do in order for it to be of any benefit to you: Have fun!