Poetry/Creative Writing Ideas – Beheaded Poems

Moving to a weekly, Sunday posting I thought I would in addition to English subject and general education reflections, share a few creative writing ideas/worksheets I wrote and produced some years ago. These were available to purchase back then, but it is a considerable time since and I trust no-one who did buy would mind my sharing these like this now. I have in fact been re-shaping and revising a number of these, accompanied by a significant selection of new poems written for a younger audience, and hope to put together an anthology with creative writing ideas targeted for a Key Stage 3 audience. We shall see.

An important element of these was obviously encouraging students to experiment and explore, but equally the intention was to provide exercises that prompted students to select and use language for precise purposes, thus developing language and writing skills, but always within this creative context.

I am not able to present as downloadable resources/worksheets, so I hope anyone who would like to use could cut and paste [and maybe then revamp for presentation if desired] for their own use. Do let me know. The work is addressed to students.

Beheaded Poems

The aim of this unit of work is get you to write beheaded poems. These are poems that use beheadings, words that can have their first letter removed to leave another new word – for example, when the word pear is beheaded (p/ear) it becomes ear. Here is an example using this word:

Eating a Pear

Hold a pear
to your ear
and hear the tone
of just one
sound: the slow
rhythm of a low
and steady beat
you’re able to eat.

You do not have to make your lines end with beheadings. You can try writing with the beheaded words anywhere in a following line, for example:

In the Night

Somewhere in the black of night
there is a lack of anything good.
Here is the absence of a bright idea
to show what is right or wrong,
and in the swish of its darkened air
you’ll hear a wish for something better.

Can you work out the beheadings in each pair of lines?

Both of these poems are examples of ‘stream of consciousness’ writing – this is writing which is done spontaneously and without planning. By using beheadings these can act as prompts for subsequent lines because you know what the word is that has to be used in that line.

Writing the Poem

First stage: If you are going to attempt ‘stream of consciousness’ writing you will simply need to select your first beheading and see where this takes you!

However, if you feel you need more back-up and support, you can begin by building up a collection of words that can be beheaded before you begin writing your poem (and you can, in fact, use these to support ‘stream of consciousness’ writing as an acceptable cheat).

Second stage: You need to decide where you want to place your beheadings. These can be at the ends of lines, as in the first example you have seen, or consecutively in pairs of lines, as in the second example.

You can, of course, be more relaxed than this and have the beheadings occurring anywhere in the poem, as long as they are still consecutive.

Final stage: It is useful to have some idea about what you want to write, even with a ‘stream of consciousness’ approach. The poem about the pear is about eating it, so this is a fairly obvious idea! The poem about night explores negative ideas associated with this, for example the lack of anything good and the absence of a bright idea.

Be prepared to edit your poem carefully. If a beheading has taken you away from what you really want to write, get rid of it and start again! Sometimes you have to be prepared to sacrifice a good sounding phrase if it doesn’t actually fit with the overall tone and meaning of your poem.

1 thought on “Poetry/Creative Writing Ideas – Beheaded Poems

  1. Pingback: Poetry/Creative Writing Ideas – Beheadings | mikeandenglish

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