our everyday life

How to Write a Question Poem

by Michael Stratford

A question poem is a series of questions arranged poetically; that is, each question forms a line or stanza. It may be rhymed verse, blank verse -- rhythm without rhyme -- or free verse -- no rhyme or rhythm. You have a theme you want to convey to the reader, and the question format is an excellent method to convey that theme.

Methods for Question Poetry

Study question poetry such as John Keats' "La Belle Dame Sans Merci" or the ballad "The Unquiet Grave." In "La Belle", the first three stanzas depict a questioner asking a knight why he is despairing; the remaining stanzas are the answer, describing the -- possibly unreal -- woman the knight lost. In "Unquiet," a living man and his dead lover argue his potential suicide; she talks him out of it, revealing she has no feelings for him. Both poems demonstrate the changeable nature of love in a question and answer format.

Arrange your questions in order of importance, ending with the most vital one, the one that tells your truth. If you write the poem as a question series, consider this example: a child begins with "Why is the sky blue?" "Why is it angry?" "Why is it so hot?" and ends with "Why don't grownups do something?" The point of the poem is to raise awareness of global warming through a child's questions.

Q and A poetry follows the Keats and ballad examples, interchanging information by line or by stanza. The child asking global warming questions might be answered by an adult saying "I don't know." Your poem achieves another layer: most of us don't care about the answers. The rhetorical method also works well here: begin with "I wonder about this problem" and end with "I wonder if anyone else does."

Items you will need
  • Decide on a topic and create questions. Decide whether your question poem will have a rhetorical format, create a Q and A or build one question upon another. Decide whether its tone is serious or humorous, whether or not it will rhyme or have rhythm.

Tips

  • Suit tone to questions: serious for serious, humorous for humorous.
  • Sometimes rhyme and rhythm are fun; sometimes they get in the way of the message.
  • Always end with the toughest question.
  • No matter what the topic, have fun: the silliest questions can address the most serious issues.

Warnings

  • Avoid being preachy; don't throw tough questions at the reader.
  • Keep tone consistent; don't end a series of light questions with a heavy one.
  • Don't go more than six stanzas to make your point.

About the Author

Michael Stratford is a National Board-certified and Single Subject Credentialed teacher with a Master of Science in educational rehabilitation (University of Montana, 1995). He has taught English at the 6-12 level for more than 20 years. He has written extensively in literary criticism, student writing syllabi and numerous classroom educational paradigms.

Photo Credits

  • Visage/Stockbyte/Getty Images