How to Write an Apology Poem

A poem can do a lot of things. It can tell a funny story, describe an interesting image, or present an idea. Some poems are written in the form of a “direct address”—that is, the speaker in the poem is talking directly to a specific person. An apology poem is one that uses direct address as a way to apologize for something that the speaker has done or said.

One of the most famous examples of an apology poem is by William Carlos Williams. The title of this poem is “This Is Just to Say.” As you read the poem, decide for yourself whether the speaker is actually sorry for what he has done.

I have eaten
the plums
that were in
the icebox

and which
you were probably
for breakfast

Forgive me
they were delicious
so sweet
and so cold

This poem describes an action that has happened (eating the plums that someone else was saving) with special attention to the sense details of how the plums tasted. The speaker in this poem has obviously very much enjoyed eating the plums and doesn’t seem genuinely sorry about it.

Think of a situation like this from your own life. Have you ever been forced to apologize when you didn’t really mean it? Come up with at least two examples of times like this from your own experience. For each of the examples, write a very short description of what you have done (the action). Then, think about sense details (taste, touch, sound, sight, or smell) that will offer your readers a clear idea of why the action was worth it to you.

Write your apology poem in a similar format to the one by Williams, with very short lines and no punctuation. You can use “This is just to say” as your first line. If you want, you can also include the words “Forgive me” in the last stanza of your poem.

Here is another example of an apology poem using a similar format:

This is just to say
that I have knocked over
the tower of wooden blocks
you spent all morning

I watched you set each block
carefully in place

Forgive me

It made the most wonderful clatter
when they all came tumbling

Try writing a poem for each of the real-life situations that you thought of earlier. You can experiment with different ways to make line breaks or stanza breaks in order to get the effect that you want. Remember, there’s no wrong way to write an apology poem. When William Carlos Williams wrote “This Is Just to Say,” no one had ever created a poem quite like this before. You can borrow his format if you want, or you can create something totally new. Have fun!

Kenn Nesbitt
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