Write your own Reverse Poem

I recently came across a poem online that took my breath away. I was stunned by the message in the poem as well as the unusual way it was delivered.  The poem I found could be read in two entirely different ways – from the first line to the last line, or in reverse, from the last line back up to the first line.  Both ways of reading it were fully understandable but in vastly different ways.

Reverse Poems have been taught in classrooms where children write simple lines that can be reversed.  Here’s an example from an elementary school.  Read it down then read it in reverse from the last line to the first.

Be late
You always hate to
Get up early

But the poems I discovered were more complicated and emotion-saturated.  British poet and self-described “Poet Laureate of Twitter” published the poem Refugees on his website. A year later, when an online reader asked Bilston, “Your poem Refugees was read (both ways) at my friend’s Seder tonight. I would like to share it with others. Please let me know if I can.  It’s very powerful.” Bilston agreed and sent best wishes.  Refugees by Brian Bilston is online at: brianbilston.com/2016/03/23/refugees.

The following reverse poem shared by a friend stunned everyone who heard it read aloud for the first time.  The emotion and intensity expressed by the poet who had recently completed chemo and radiation was visceral.  Each of us felt shaken after hearing the poem from the first line down the page.  But after she read it a second time from bottom to top, everyone cheered.  Written in less than 12 minutes, this poem felt to all of us like a major turning point in her recovery.

I am a cancer victim
And I refuse to believe that
I’m healthy and strong
I realize this may be a shock, but
My cells vibrate with health and energy
Is a lie
All good things must end
In 30 years, I will tell my children that
I have my priorities straight because
Sickness
Is more important than
Health
I tell you this:
Once upon a time
People survived and thrived after cancer
But this will not be true in my era
Cancer kills
Experts tell me
The treatment is brutal
I do not conclude that
I am already cured
In the future,
Woe is me
No longer can it be said that
I am boldly living
It will be evident that
Cancer really sucks
It is foolish to presume that
Beyond struggles is deep meaning.

Now check in with how your own body feels after reading this poem.  Then, take a deep breath and begin reading it from the last line and continue reading one line at a time up to the first line.

If you would like to write your own reverse poem, here is a template found online that will help.  Fill in the blanks as directed so that it makes sense reading from both the top down and the bottom up.  After you finish your first draft, you may need to edit your initial phrases to make your final draft flow smoothly.

I am a ­____________ (negative)

And I refuse to believe that

__________________(positive)

I realize this may be a shock, but

__________________(positive)

Is a lie

__________________(state a lie)

In 30 years, I will tell my children that

I have my priorities straight because

____________________(one word – negative)

Is more important than

____________________(one word – positive)

I tell you this:

Once upon a time

___________________(positive)

But this will not be true in my era

___________________(negative)

Experts tell me

___________________(negative)

I do not conclude that

___________________(positive)

In the future,

___________________(negative)

No longer can it be said that

___________________(positive)

It will be evident that

___________________(negative)

It is foolish to presume that

___________________(positive)

 

If you would like to share your own poem, please send it to me at [email protected].  I hope to hear from many of you, but more importantly, I hope this writing technique might open new possibilities and potential for you.

 

Susan is an online instructor for The Writing Institute & Center for Journal Therapy and leads personal writing groups and workshops approved by the SC Social Work Examiners Board for CEU credits. Read all previous Columbia Star Newspaper articles at: www.susanhendricks.com/columbia-star-news.

16 Comments

  1. Kirra on June 3, 2019 at 8:15 am

    This has really helped me and I would love to get more into backwards poetry.

    • Susan Hendricks on June 19, 2019 at 5:12 pm

      Hi Kirra –

      I’m so glad you found my website! I’m very intrigued by the reverse poem too. The template in this article makes it fairly easy to write one, but there are many who recommend just taking a page of printed material and randomly circling or underlining words that seem to jump out. That works too and can be very interesting!
      Thanks so much for contacting me.
      Susan Hendricks

    • RHY on November 20, 2019 at 12:17 am

      I love it… more useful template please

      • Susan Hendricks on February 19, 2020 at 1:12 pm

        Many thanks for your kind comment. I’ll add more templates most months with a new one about to go up today. When you find other templates for personal writing please pass them along too.
        Susan

  2. Steven Patton on October 16, 2019 at 10:48 am

    hi! I noticed the wonderful comments you made. I apreciate It!

  3. StarWolf72 on October 16, 2019 at 11:42 am

    This really helped me on making poems and heck now writing/typing poems backwards are amazing Thank you.

    • Susan Hendricks on February 19, 2020 at 1:14 pm

      I’m so glad you liked the reverse poem template. It’s amazing isn’t it.
      Susan

  4. Steven Patton on October 22, 2019 at 10:13 am

    Hi! I LOVED the response yo gave to her Ms. Hendricks!👍 Steven OUT

  5. A Pimp Named Donavin on January 7, 2020 at 8:45 am

    Good job homie

  6. Lizzyyear8 on March 17, 2020 at 3:41 pm

    Best thing ever!!! I was writing for school and this helped loads, I hope to use this site again and I hope that there is more for me to use. I rate this 💯 out of ten😁

    • Susan Hendricks on March 21, 2020 at 8:52 am

      I’m so glad you found the Reverse Poem on my website. The template makes it easy to write one and can be modified to fit your topic. Another recommended way is to just take a page of printed material and randomly circle or underline words that seem to jump out. Thanks so much for sharing your success writing your poem.
      Susan Hendricks

  7. alina tabish on May 6, 2020 at 3:25 am

    thank you so much!!! I am so happy that you posted this format.it really made it so much easier!!!! thanks to you this little 13 years old can write poems.

    by 13-year-old student Alina.

    • Susan Hendricks on May 7, 2020 at 10:47 am

      Hi Alina –
      Thanks for letting me know you are using this “Reverse” poetry technique. Reverse Poems can be fun as well as powerful reminders of what we already know but may not have appreciated enough. Share this with your friends and teachers. They may like it too! Keep writing!!
      Thanks again.
      Susan

  8. Nyameke on May 21, 2020 at 8:26 pm

    Hi!! I really enjoyed this template! I am writing a book dang using this template to share my story as a child abuse victim. I would definitely give you credit for this template. Thanks!!

    • Susan Hendricks on May 22, 2020 at 11:26 am

      Hello Nyameke –
      That sounds like a very interesting way to use the reverse poem. I didn’t originate the format but found it online – first from a man in England. There were already examples across the Internet at that time. I did introduce it to my local writing groups. Best wishes with your book project. I hope it helps you to express your story. Please share it with me if that feels right to you. Here or on my personal email that I check almost every day. [email protected]
      Best wishes – Susan

    • SUSAN S HENDRICKS on July 23, 2020 at 8:08 pm

      Thanks so much for letting me know. Please share whatever you might like to share when you write your book. Hope it’s a bestseller!!

Leave a Comment





Recent Publications

SUBSCRIBE FOR REGULAR UPDATES & ADDITIONAL RESOURCES

Enter your email address to subscribe and receive notifications right to your email.