How to Write a Lantern Poem

The lantern is a short shape poem from Japan describing a specific one syllable noun, such as a feeling, a thing, or an abstract idea. The lantern poem takes the form of a hanging lantern, going from short to wider as the poem goes on, and then becoming short again in the final line. The purpose of the lantern poem is to illuminate the subject and re-imagine or personalize it for the reader, not just to simply define it.

Make the paragraph center-aligned, in a word processing program. If using pen and paper, write in the middle of the page.

Choose a one syllable noun. This will serve as both the topic of your poem and the first line. For example, "Bed."

Describe the noun in two syllables for the second line. It can be be either one word or two words. In my example, it could be "gentle."

Describe the noun in three syllables for the third line. The lantern shape should start becoming noticeable, with the poem getting slowly wider with each line. For the sample poem, I'll use, "Soft pillows."

Describe the noun in four syllables for the fourth line. This is the widest line in the poem. For this line in the sample poem, I'll use, "Sleep, jump, play, love."

Choose a one syllable noun that is a synonym or a reinterpretation of the original noun for the fifth and final line. If the original noun was "bed," the final noun could be "rest," and thus the poem redefines a bed as rest. Note our finished example poem would look like this (although it would be center-aligned):

Bed Gentle Soft pillows Sleep, jump, play, love Rest

The lantern shape can also be thought of as a bell shape.

Don't be afraid to use a simile in the second, third or fourth lines. A simile is a comparison using "like" or "as."

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