Shape poems or visual poems arrange text to form pictures. With some shape poems, the picture formed by words is more important than what the words say. Others use the shape to emphasize the verbal content.
One of the first shape poems I read is also one of the best known. “Easter Wings,” by George Herbert, expresses the poet’s desire to experience and depend on Christ’s resurrection life. The poem is composed of two stanzas, each of which is shaped like a pair of wings.
Below is a poem called “Tributaries” that appeared in my book, The Wind and the Shadows. I ran across this poem while going through old notebooks more than 20 years after I wrote it. Originally, it was just a normal, free-verse poem. But as I read it, the idea of reworking it as a visual poem took shape (sorry, shameless pun). In this case, the shape supports the poem’s message, and I hope readers will enjoy both.
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