I wanted to share my simple technique for writing an ode. I know there are many techniques out there and I find this one works particularly well for me.
Firstly, what is an ode? An ode is a poem that is written to express affection and/or admiration for a person, place, accomplishment or thing. By writing an ode you lavish praise on your subject so that the reader gets an idea of why it is worth all the attention you are giving it through your words.
Before writing an ode it is a good idea to stop and think about what you want to write about and how long you want it to be because there is no maximum limit. Odes are known for being very long.
To create the proper structure when writing your ode you can focus on writing 10 lines per verse that follow a particular rhythm and particular lines rhyme with each other. For example, it can follow a rhythm that has an ab ab cd ec de beat.
Let me explain a little more. Using the format ab ab cd ec de you write the first and second line of your ode then you write the third line which must rhyme with the first line. The aim is to sometimes rhyme every other line or every three lines. The second line and fourth line rhyme then you write the fifth and sixth line. The eighth line rhymes with the sixth line. That is one verse of the ode with 10 lines then you move on to the next verse making sure you follow the same rhythm. Getting the third line rhyming with the first line then the second line has to rhyme with the fourth line, line six rhymes with line nine and line seven with line 10.
Here is an example:
ab ab cd ec de
Ode to a Nightingale by John Keats
MY heart aches, and a drowsy numbness pains (a)
My sense, as though of hemlock I had drunk, (b)
Or emptied some dull opiate to the drains (a – 3rd line rhymes with first)
One minute past, and Lethe-wards had sunk: (b – second and fourth line rhyme)
‘Tis not through envy of thy happy lot, (c)
But being too happy in thine happiness, (d)
That thou, light-wingèd Dryad of the trees, (e)
In some melodious plot (c – line 8 rhymes with line 5)
Of beechen green, and shadows numberless, (d – line 6 rhymes with line 9)
Singest of summer in full-throated ease. (e – line 7 rhymes with line 10)
Just remember that an ode is written for someone or something you want to shout out loud about and share how truly worthy of praise you believe them to be.
Here are some well known odes that you may want to search for and read. Look out for the way they are put together. Of course some people are creative and don’t follow that rhythm but that is up to you. This is just to give you an idea about how to write an ode in poetry.
- Ode To A Nightingale by John Keats
- Imitations of Immortality by William Wordsworth
- Ode To Autumn by John Keats
- Ode To The Confederate Dead – Allen Tate
- Ode To The West Wind by Percy Bysshe Shelley
This is just one example of how to write an ode and of course there are different types of ode that you may want to look up. For example the final ode mentioned above by Percy Bysshe Shelley uses three lines. The first and third line rhyme and the ode was written so that its rhythm follows a pattern of 3, 3, 3, 3, 2 then it goes to the next verse 3, 3, 3, 3, 2. Search for the poem to read it yourself.
You can write an ode to be as long or as short as you like and feel free to be creative with your rhyming but just keep it in some sort of pattern. I find following the ab ab cd ec de serves me well and as my writing journey continues and my skills improve I will adapt and do things differently. That is the true joy of writing poetry and knowing how to write an ode – you can follow your own creative genius.
I am going to be rewriting a few of my own odes and adding them here soon. When I do I will link to them below.
How do you write an ode? Is it any different? As a teacher I know the best way to test whether you have truly learnt something is to show others how to do it! How did I do?