How to Write an Ode
By definition, the ode is a poem addressed to an object of one’s affection, whether a person, a place, a thing, or even an idea or feeling. Its roots go back to Greece in the 5th century BC, where the form was first introduced as performance poetry, complete with singers, dancers, an orchestra and a stage to go along with its complex structure. Today, you might read an ode extolling socks, thanks to Pablo Neruda.
3 Ways to be Ode-ish
PINDARIC: named for Greek poet Pindar in the 5th century BC, pindaric odes were performed by a chorus and dancers with the strophe sung or chanted by a chorus moving east to west across a stage. The ode turned on the antistrophe—sung west to east—then concluded with the epode.
HORATIAN: named for Roman poet Horace in the 1st century BC, horatian odes were formed by a series of stanzas with a consistent repeating structure.
IRREGULAR: irregular odes made their first appearance around the 17th century. Each stanza will have its own particular metrical structure and rhyme scheme.
How to Write an Ode
1. Choose something you love
2. Write a poem to it
3. Odes are often long, at least 5 stanzas
4. rhyme scheme and meter are up to you, though in traditional odes the first two stanzas were identical in structure and the third varied
What’s in Your Ode?
• strophe: the first stanza in a traditional ode
• antistrophe: the second stanza, identical in structure to the strophe, and features a turn
• epode: the final stanza, which takes on a different rhyme and meter
7 famous Ode-lers
3. John Keats
4. Ben Jonson
5. Thomas Gray
6. Pablo Neruda
7. Pierre de Ronsard
Post and infographic by Will Willingham.
How to Write a Poem uses images like the buzz, the switch, the wave—from the Billy Collins poem “Introduction to Poetry”—to guide writers into new ways of writing poems. Excellent teaching tool. Anthology and prompts included.
“How to Write a Poem is a classroom must-have.”
—Callie Feyen, English Teacher, Maryland
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