Poetry forms of occasions, events and rituals

“Oooooo. Aaaaahhh,” my kids sing as we drive to the Habitat for Humanity thrift store with our used clothing donation. Twinkling lights cover the houses like lace, and figures of Santa Claus, his reindeer, and light-dappled trees frolic in front yards. Some streets look like they’ve been misplaced by New York or Las Vegas, they have so many lights, but Florida has to somehow make up for the lack of snow.

The December holidays are upon us and give rise to various occasions, rituals and events, depending on your culture and family traditions. I thought this was the perfect time to cover this type of poetry and forms of poetry.

occasional poetry

More of a genre of poetry than a form of poetry, occasion poems document an occasion. While they are most often written about those special occasions, like weddings and births, they can also be about winning a race or baking cookies with Grandma.


While there have been occasions, there have been occasional poems. Whenever in history you find a written language and the literature of a culture, you will probably find that someone wrote a poem about an occasion.


–Write about an occasion, that’s all.

MIGHT HAVE or What is the poet’s choice in all this?

–Any form (or no form in particular) just follow the rules of the form if you use one.

–Any rhyme (or no rhyme), unless a form is used, then you follow the rhyme scheme for that form.

–Any meter (or no meter set) unless a form is used, then you follow the required meter for that form.

–The length can be long or short. However, if you use a form, that form can dictate the length.

ritual poem

At first glance, a ritual poem appears similar to an occasional poem. We all have specific things that we do each morning and night that are ritual in nature. A ritual poem is actually very spiritual; a way to connect with your God.


Like the occasion poetry before, the ritual poem is as old as the sacred rituals and can be found in many places.


There are two variations of the ritual poem. One is simply to mention the ritual, a spiritual object, or a sacred place. The second is like a list of instructions for the ritual. The teachers and writers handbook of poetic forms has a fantastic modern example of this type of poem, as well as a list of instructions. Here is that except:

Inspired by a recent eclipse, a student wrote this ritual poem:

eclipse ritual

1. Turn off the lights and hand out paper moons to everyone.

2. Imagine that your face is the sun and put the moon in front of it.

3. Say DARK DARK DARK DARK and close your eyes.


5. Then become one by wearing dark clothes.

Here are some things to remember when writing this type of ritual poem:

1. Decide what you would like to happen.

2. Examine all aspects of the topic.

3. Think of actions to illustrate some of these aspects.

4. Type each action as a command.

5. Number the commands.

6. Let go.

(Padgett 157)

MIGHT HAVE or What is the poet’s choice in all this?

As you can see in the example above, you don’t have to write a religious ritual if you don’t want to, however, you will want to choose a moment that can convey a spiritual feeling.

event poem

The event poem is another form of poetry that is a numerical list. In the ritual poem, it contains some kind of ritual. However, an event poem does not present an event.


“Event poems emerged in the late 1950s, at the same time as the art form called ‘Happenings.’ In fact, an event poem could be seen as the written equivalent of a Happening” (Padgett 74). The events were played out without plots, in which wacky things happened. The event poem takes a common object and lists wacky things to do with the.


–An object to write on.

–Starting lines with verbs. Without verbs of being (is, am, are, was, were been, etc). Only action here!

–At least three lines.

–Nothing you would normally do with or to the object of the poem.

Example from my favorite book of poetic forms:

pineapple event poem

1. Cut the pineapple in half and wear the two halves as ear muffs on a cold winter day.

2. Peel off the skin of 100 pineapples and glue them to the floor like tiles.

3. Cut five of the small round diamonds out of the skin of the pineapple and sew them to your jacket as buttons.

4. Look at the pineapple. It looks like the torch of the Statue of Liberty.

5. Feel the pineapple. Feels like a suede sneaker on a very big kid’s foot.

(Padgett 75)

MIGHT HAVE or What is the poet’s choice in all this?

–Any object.

–Any length that is more than 3 lines.

–Rhymes or not (although most do not).


Try using this type of poem as a way to practice your creative thinking or a fun way to beat writer’s block.

Source Notes:

Padget, Ron. Manual of poetic forms for teachers and writers. 2nd. New York: T&W Books, 2000.

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