Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Wonderful Words

I’m a novelist by nature.  I’ve been writing stories since I was five.  It’s what I’m good at and it’s what I love.

However, it’s easy to become pigeon-holed.  It’s easy to get stuck in a rut, to find myself doing the same thing over and over again.  So, sometimes, I find it necessary to branch out and try something new.  Sometimes that means creating a new recipe or writing a new song, or sometimes, it means writing poetry. 

For a while, I did the typical "abab" scheme over and over again.  Then I tried sonnets, and then limericks, and so on, but what really caught my attention was shape poetry. 

Shape poetry, sometimes called concrete or visual poetry, is a sort of junction where writing meets art.   Oftentimes, the shape complements the contents or the underlying theme of the poem.  A fairly well-known example is George Herbert’s poem entitled, “Easter Wings.”

Another is “Kitty: Black Domestic Shorthair” by John Hollander:

 The shape for the first one was fairly simple, but when working with more complicated shapes like the second, it can be both frustrating and challenging.  Unless you are skilled in Adobe Illustrator or other graphics software, making a shape poem can be very time consuming and an absolute headache.  You have to hit the space bar over and over and over again until all the letters line up properly.  
Then, I found a free online program that does all of the hard work for you.  It’s called Image Chef.  The results are not quite as good, but the process is much easier. Simply type your poem or other piece into the box, choose your shape, font choice, and colors, and Image Chef does everything else. 

It can take your poem from:

Shakespeare’s Sonnet 18

Shall I compare thee to a summer's day?
Thou art more lovely and more temperate:
Rough winds do shake the darling buds of May,
And summer's lease hath all too short a date:
Sometime too hot the eye of heaven shines,
And often is his gold complexion dimm'd;
And every fair from fair sometime declines,
By chance or nature's changing course untrimm'd;
But thy eternal summer shall not fade
Nor lose possession of that fair thou owest;
Nor shall Death brag thou wander'st in his shade,
When in eternal lines to time thou growest:
So long as men can breathe or eyes can see,
So long lives this and this gives life to thee.


 Another program that has a similar function is Taxego. Wordle is also quite helpful for word clouds. An example of a word cloud is (this is one of my favorite words): 

Each one of these programs is fairly good. While the results are not as good as the ones produced by graphics software, they are fun to make and they are excellent for livening up or illustrating blog entries. 

All in all, the ability to manipulate words into a clever shape is a very handy tool to have in your arsenal. A warning, though: both programs tend to mix up the words a little.  Yet, even despite this detractor, Image Chef, Taxego, and Wordle are still fun ways to mix up your writing and try something new.


Hannah Lokos enjoys nearly all styles of writing.  Her novel, a unique piece of historical fiction that combines romance with Greek mythology and conspiracy theory, is scheduled for release by Champagne Book Group on December 2, 2013.  Follow her on Facebook, Twitter, or visit her website at


Julie Eberhart Painter said...

Okay, I'll be first. Someone had too much time on his or her hands.

Allison Knight said...

Interesting. However, since I can't even draw a straight line and my design abilities are nil, I'll leave the playing to others.

Liz Fountain said...

I think word clouds make a nice visual representation of common words and topics. I have one on my blog and it helps me see the topics (tags) I write about most. And the black cat poem was cool!