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How to Make a Palindrome Poem


Like a folded sheet of paper or a perfect reflection, a palindrome depends on symmetry. "Palindrome" refers to a word or phrase that reads exactly the same forward as backward. An example of a word palindrome is "radar." An example of a phrase palindrome is "times emit." Palindromes also have a long history in poetry. Most palindrome poems are poems in which the order of the lines reverses halfway through the poem. This means that the first line of the poem is also the last line.

Brainstorm for strong images you will use in your poem. It helps to make use of all five senses. Write down as many images as you can. You do not have to use them all.

Write a poem in which each line is a separate clear image or a complete statement. At this point, don't worry too much about the fact that you are writing a palindrome poem. Here's an example from Dmitri Borgmann's palindrome poem, "Doppelgänger":

Entering the lonely house with my wife

I saw him for the first time

Peering furtively from behind a bush --

Blackness that moved.

A shape amid the shadows.

Reverse the order of the lines, so that the last line becomes the first line. You may need to adjust the grammar and punctuation a little. Here are the same lines reversed:

A shape amid the shadows,

Blackness that moved.

Peering furtively from behind a bush --

I saw him for the first time

Entering the lonely house with my wife.

Put the two halves of the poem together. The lines in the middle can be repeated or not. Although Borgmann's original poem is longer, here are the two sets of lines put together:

Entering the lonely house with my wife

I saw him for the first time

Peering furtively from behind a bush --

Blackness that moved.

A shape amid the shadows.

A shape amid the shadows,

Blackness that moved.

Peering furtively from behind a bush --

I saw him for the first time

Entering the lonely house with my wife.

Another great example of a palindrome poem is Kristin Bock's "On Reflection."

Add, subtract or rearrange the lines to make your poem even better. Don't forget that if you change the order on one side of the poem, you must also change it on the other side.

Tip
  • You can also write a poem in which the words of each line create a palindrome; for example, "Orange, beautiful orange." This is more difficult but still fun. The hardest kind of palindrome poem to write is the kind in which each letter creates a palindrome, for instance, "Lonely Tylenol." Try it you are up for a challenge!
Items you will need
Computer or pen and paper
References
  • The New Princeton Encyclopedia of Poetry and Poetics; Alex Preminger et al; 1993
  • Poetry Foundation; Glossary Terms; Palindrome
  • "Beyond Language"; Doppelgänger; Dmitri Borgmann; 1967
  • "Cloisters"; On Reflection; Kristin Bock; 2008
About the Author

Rachel Greenleaf has been writing and publishing for over 15 years. Her literary work has appeared in publications including "Harvard Review," "Black Warrior Review" and "Barrow Street." She holds a Bachelor of Arts from Yale University and a Master of Fine Arts from George Mason University.

Photo Credits
  • Art Wolfe/Digital Vision/Getty Images