How to Write a Repetition Poem

In poetry, you will often find that the writer repeats sounds, words, ideas, lines, or even entire stanzas. For example, a poem might start each line with the same words, or it might repeat a stanza several times, making a chorus or “refrain.” When you repeat something in a poem, this is called “repetition.” Repetition helps draw the reader’s attention to a thought, idea, or feeling. It can make the main idea of the poem more memorable. Just as readers enjoy rhythm and rhyme in poems, repetition can also be pleasant. Here are a few ways you can include repetition in your poems.

Repeat the Beginnings of Lines

Probably the easiest way to include repetition in a poem is to repeat the first words of each line through most or all of the poem. Pick a few words that describe the main idea of your poem and use those words over and over again. For example, if you were writing a poem to tell someone how nice they are, you might begin each line with, “I like you because…” If you were writing a poem about what gifts you would like from Santa Claus for Christmas, you might start each line with, “This Christmas I want…”

And your repeated phrase doesn’t have to be long. It can be just one or two words, such as “You are…” or “School is…”

In my poem “I Didn’t Go Camping,” I repeat the words, “I Didn’t…” at the beginning of many of the lines, like this:

I Didn’t Go Camping

I didn’t go camping.
I didn’t go hiking.
I didn’t go fishing.
I didn’t go biking.

I didn’t go play
on the slides at the park.
I didn’t watch shooting stars
way after dark.

I didn’t play baseball
or soccer outside.
I didn’t go on an
amusement park ride.

I didn’t throw Frisbees.
I didn’t fly kites,
or have any travels,
or see any sights.

I didn’t watch movies
with blockbuster crowds,
or lay on the front lawn
and look at the clouds.

I didn’t go swimming
at pools or beaches,
or visit an orchard;
and pick a few peaches.

I didn’t become
a guitarist or drummer,
but, boy, I played plenty
of Minecraft this summer.

I have used this kind of repetition in quite a few poems. If you like poems that repeat the first words of the lines, here are a few more you might enjoy:

Repeating a Line

Another way to emphasize or strengthen the idea of a poem is to repeat a single line over and over, possibly on every other line.

Here’s an example of a poem where I have repeated a line of conversation where one person says the same thing over and over.

I Need to Go Potty

I need to go potty.
Just hold it. You’re fine.
I need to go potty.
I heard you. Don’t whine.
I need to go potty.
You just went at noon.
I need to go potty.
We’re getting there soon.
I need to go potty.
You’ll just have to wait.
I need to go potty.
Whoops. Now it’s too late.

In this poem, the repetition of the line, “I need to go potty” emphasizes the urgency with which the speaker is trying to make his or her point. Unfortunately, the other person in the poem — probably the parent — doesn’t realize just how urgent the situation is until it’s too late.

Repeating Several Lines

When you repeat several lines, or an entire stanza, throughout a poem, this is called a “refrain.” In a song it’s called a “chorus.” Using refrains is another way to emphasize or strengthen the main idea or feeling of your poem. And because a refrain in a poem can be just like a chorus in a song, using refrains can make your poems feel or sound more like songs.

Here’s a poem I wrote about a five-year old pirate named Francis who, because of his age, was not yet very good at pirating. Notice that I repeat the same lines at the end of every other stanza, making the poem sound a lot like a “sea shanty” (a sailor’s work song) much like “Yo Ho, Yo Ho (A Pirate’s Life for Me).”

Francis the Five-Year-Old Pirate

He ain’t got a beard
and he ain’t got a scar.
He ain’t a cantankerous codger.
He isn’t a scum
with a tankard of rum.
He don’t fly a black Jolly Roger.

He ain’t got a parrot
that sits on his shoulder.
He isn’t all ornery and irate.
He’s not old enough
to be rugged and rough.
He’s Francis the Five-Year-Old Pirate.
Yo, Ho! Yo, Ho!
He’s Francis the Five-Year-Old Pirate.

He don’t like to pillage.
He don’t like to rob.
He don’t like to bury his treasure.
He don’t like to shoot
or to ransack and loot
or commandeer ships for his pleasure.

No ships has he sank
or made men walk the plank,
or hang from the yardarm and gyrate.
And everyone knows
he don’t keelhaul his foes.
He’s Francis the Five-Year-Old Pirate.
Yo, Ho! Yo, Ho!
He’s Francis the Five-Year-Old Pirate.

He ain’t got a cutlass.
He ain’t got a sword.
He ain’t got a musket or dagger.
He ain’t learned his duty
to plunder for booty
and strut with a braggardly swagger.

He don’t have an eyepatch.
He don’t have a hook.
He’s barely a buccaneer flyweight
He ain’t got no gold
cuz he’s not very bold.
He’s Francis the Five-Year-Old Pirate.
Yo, Ho! Yo, Ho!
He’s Francis the Five-Year-Old Pirate.

Now It’s Your Turn

At the risk of repeating myself (see what I did there?), repetition can be a very effective way to get your point across in a poem, and to make the poem more memorable and enjoyable to read.

Now that you’ve seen several different ways to include repetition in poems, I hope you’ll be on the lookout for in when you read poetry, and maybe even try your hand at writing some repetition poems of your own.

Kenn Nesbitt
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