Try the Inverted Stanza

If you’re ready for something different in poetry, try the inverted stanza format. It’s basically one stanza followed by another one that repeats exactly the lines of the first but in reverse. I learned about this format from Cleopatra Mathis in one of my favorite poetry writing books, Wingbeats II: Exercises and Practice in Poetry. According to Ms. Mathis, and I concur, this exercise “encourages surprise and invention.”

Below is my attempt, which was written for my beloved doctor. Hint: Keep your sentences short and consider the first stanza as an argument and the second as a reply, which will give you reasons to re-use the same words. As you will see, I chose words that could double as a noun or verb. Have fun!

Ode to My Neurologist
A Poem for Both Sides of the Brain

Dr. Freedman requests
a poem. He shall have. Why
not? Because he’s my doctor?
Due to our friendship?
We debate literature and
travel freely, yet he cares
and offers counsel.
My doctor leads me
into a world where I dance
like an angel. I can wear heels!

Like an angel, I can wear heels
into a world where I dance.
My doctor leads me
and offers counsel:
“Travel freely!” Yet he cares.
We debate literature. And
due to our friendship
(not because he’s my doctor!),
a poem he shall have. Why?
Dr. Freedman requests.

For examples of more inverted stanza poems (and poetry prompts galore!), check out Wingbeats II.

2 thoughts on “Try the Inverted Stanza

    1. Scott, thank you so much for reaching out. I actually mentioned both Wingbeats I and II in the poetry workshop I led a couple of week ago, recommending them to beginning poets. They are among the most dog-eared in my collection.

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