How to write a Verbatim poem

You don’t write them, you find them, by extracting whole passages of text from writing that is not meant to be poetic, and adding line breaks. That’s it.


Original text, from the blog A Magical Childhood:

“So here, I offer my list of what a 4 year old should know. She should know how to laugh, act silly, be goofy and use her imagination. She should know that it is always okay to paint the sky orange and give cats 6 legs.”

Verbatim poem:

It is always okay
to paint the sky orange
and give cats six legs.

A few rules


  • Take text from a poetic source (like a poem, song lyrics or a novel)
  • Add words
  • Delete words to change the meaning of the text
  • Cherry-pick words to force a poem that’s not really there

But you can:

  • Make up a title
  • Take out the odd word for the sake of rhythm
  • Reverse a contraction (turn can’t into cannot, or vice versa) for the same reason
  • Add or remove punctuation marks for consistency or effect
  • Use italics to denote speech, change of voice or emphasis
  • Replace numerals and symbols with words

Extracted poems

We also accept extracted poems – where similar elements found in one place are pulled out then composed together. For example, this sonnet compiled from a list of famous last words:

I should have drunk more champagne. And the rest
of the world can kiss my ass. Plaudite,
amici, comedia finita est.
Better to burn out than to fade away.
Tell Fidel that this failure does not mean  
the end of the revolution. I see
black light. I can’t sleep. Rain had always been 
a harbinger of tragedy for me.
You can stop now; I’m already dead. All
my possessions for a moment of time.
Please put out the light. Please don’t let me fall.
I am not in the least afraid to die.
I must go to meet God, try to explain…
Do you hear the rain? Do you hear the rain?