Marvelous Concrete Poems :: Collections to Enjoy (2022)

If you think poetry is boring, you have yet to encounter concrete poetry. No, concrete poems are not crafted from cement. Whereas traditional poetry is usually at its most enjoyable when spoken, concrete poems, also known as shape poems or pattern poems combine visual art with writing! Read on to learn what concrete poetry is, see some example of it, and get the best recommendations for concrete poetry books for kids!

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Table of contents

  • What Is a Concrete Poem?
  • Concrete Poetry Examples
  • Concrete Poems for 1st - 4th grade (and up!)
  • Concrete Poetry for 5th Grade - 9th Grade (and up!)

What Is a Concrete Poem?

The term "concrete poetry" dates back to the 1950s, although one can find examples before that. A concrete poem is a poem in which words form a shape that relates to the content of the poem. For example, for a poem about a cup of coffee, the words may be arranged in the shape of a mug with steam rising from it.

Because the size, shape and typeface of words are integral to the meaning of a concrete poem, the poem must be seen, not just heard. Words do not always form a recognizable shape, such as the steaming coffee cup example. They may bounce around the page, get smaller or larger, or even use a variety of fonts.

Concrete Poetry Examples

One fun concrete poetry example is Lewis Carroll's shape poem, "The Mouse's Tale" from Alice's Adventures in Wonderland.

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The mouse's words as he tells his tale are in the shape of a tail!

Guillaume Apollinaire's early 20th century Calligrammes offers more examples. As shown below, "L'oiseau et le bouquet" and "Il pleut" create a visual representation of a bird with flowers and rain, respectively.

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The Getty museum held a special exhibit of modern concrete poetry that is great fun. Scroll through the slide show here. Although we tend to consider concrete poems to be dominated by their visual element, audio recordings of some of the Getty exhibit poems, including my favorite–a 1961 poem, "Vite" by Henri Chopin –demonstrate how much fun they can be when spoken. (The slide show includes the audio recordings.)

Concrete Poetry Books for Preschool & Kindergarten (and up!)

These concrete poetry books are great read alouds for story time!

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Find it: Amazon | Your Library

Turn the pages of this creative book and you'll see illustrations of children building with items like blocks, boxes, playing cards, cups. Facing each illustration will be a photograph of an interesting real-life building that mirrors the structure the children are working on. A poem with words formed in the shape of the structure is on the illustrated page. This book is a fantastic addition to the unit block play in a preschool or play room at home.

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MEOW RUFF: A STORY IN CONCRETE POETRY by Joyce Sidman, illustrated by Michelle Berg

Find it: Amazon | Your Library

Joyce Sidman has a prolific poet with an extensive oeuvre of children's poetry books; she is definitely a poet your kids should know. Plug her name into your library's catalog and check out all her books! Meow Ruff is especially delightful because Sidman uses concrete poems to tell the story of an encounter between a dog and a cat. Most of the elements in the illustrations are actually composed of shaped verse. Look closely and you'll notice the clouds are formed by words, the grass, house, and fence all tell their own stories.

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FLICKER FLASH and SPLISH SPLASH by Joan Bransfield Graham, illustrated by Nancy Davis (FF) and Steven M. Scott (SS)

Find it: Flicker Flash | Splish Splash

Graham's two concrete poetry books for kids pair dynamic poems and bright illustrations. Flicker Flash is a collection of poems about sources of light, from the moon to the television. Splish Splash includes poems about water. Undulating poems form rivers, rising words create steam, and dripping words represent icicles. These two books are pure joy.

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COME TO MY PARTY AND OTHER SHAPE POEMS by Heidi Roemer, illustrated by Hideko Takahashi

Find it: Amazon | Your Library

Come to My Party adds an extra element to its preschool-friendly outdoor-themed poems by encouraging audience participation! Some of the poems repeat words like baby birds who "peep, peep, peep," or an owl who asks, "who, who, who." In addition, the word formations are very creative. The owl's concrete poem forms his eyes, beak and other features.

Concrete Poems for 1st - 4th grade (and up!)

As children get older they will appreciate more complex concrete poetry. Plus, adults will love these books, too.

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Find it: Amazon | Bookshop

I think concrete poems are often a child's favorite type of poetry because of the puzzle factor and an "aha!" moment when what you are seeing connects with what you are thinking. Raczka's collection is entirely in black and white and it is the poems themselves which create the pictures, there are no other illustrations.Marvelous.

MORE: Children's Poets Your Kids Should Know

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A POKE IN THE I edited by Paul B. Janeczko, illustrated by Chris Raschka

Find it: Amazon | Bookshop

Kids will love these clever and colorful concrete poems which cover a range of topics. "Giraffe" is printed out in the shape of a giraffe, "Tennis Anyone" will have your eyes bouncing back and forth across the page.Kids love concrete poems for their playful nature, so why not use this text as a jumping off point for a wonderful writing exercise! Raschka's stylized illustrations feature characters in every color.

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ODE TO A COMMODE by Brian P. Cleary, illustrated by Andy Rowland

Find it: Amazon | Bookshop

No, these poems are not all about toilets, but that title got your attention, didn't it? After an introduction defining concrete poems, Cleary's poetry collection is chock full of poems on topics kids love. As well as the titular ode, kids will enjoy silly and sublime verses about glasses, the last piece of Halloween candy, friendship, fireworks and more.

MORE: Funny Poems for Kids

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OUTSIDE THE LINES by Brad Burg, illustrated by Rebecca Gibbon

Find it: Amazon | Your Library

Burg's poetry collection is arranged around a sports and outdoor games theme. Poems about balls roll across the page; odes to slides include swooshing words. These poems are cheerful and full of movement. Words are often scattered across the pages as opposed to being formed in tight shapes, so it does take a bit more effort to read them, but they are still loads of fun.

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A DAZZLING DISPLAY OF DOGS by Betsy Franco, illustrated by Michael Wertz

Find it: Amazon | Your Library

Dog lovers, this is your day! Check out these odes to canines everywhere. The poems feature a wide variety of breeds engaged in familiar doggy behavior. Franco also has A Curious Collection of Cats, and A Spectacular Selection of Sea Creatures

MORE: Poems for Toddlers

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DOODLE DANDIES: POEMS THAT TAKE SHAPE by J. Patrick Lewis, illustrated by Lisa Desimini

Find it: Amazon | Bookshop

Here's another prolific poet your kids should know! Douglas Florian tries his hand at concrete poetry and is 100% successful. One of my favorites in this collection is a poem about synchronized swimmers. Most of the poems evoke treats from the natural world like weeping willows, dripping rain, and animals of all kind.

Concrete Poetry for 5th Grade - 9th Grade (and up!)

When your teens become totally enamored with concrete poetry, they can also take a look at Concrete Poetry: A 21st-Century Anthology, edited by Nancy Perloff.

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Find it: Amazon | Bookshop

In Grandits' collection, an 11-year-old boy narrates the poems which touch on topics like pizza, sisters, school, imaginative roller coasters and all manner of humorous musings. Also check out his poems in the book, Blue Lipstick: Concrete Poems, which are narrated from the perspective of a 15 year old high school girl.

MORE: Poetry for Middle Schoolers

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