Inside: Examples of 12 line poems that are so creative. Putting rules and structure on your creativity sometimes makes you have to get even more creative.
Poetry is such a fun and creative outlet, and we all know that creatives hate boundaries. But sometimes, it makes art a little more interesting when you draw a line. When you give someone rules to be broken, you get something that you didn’t think you were going to ever get.
The result is usually something that rocks your world and changes your perspective on the art form, and 12 line poems are no different. While many poems probably end up being 12 lines without even trying, when you make it your goal to either stretch your 10 line poem a little longer, or reduce your 14 line poem a little shorter, you have to think harder about what you’re saying in a way that gives you more to say, or makes your previous statements more succinct.
This is such a fun way to stretch yourself, challenge yourself, and find great poetry. We see it all the time with haikus, and this is no different!
As you check out these 12 line poems, notice how they could have extended the poetry but expertly shortened it, or vice versa. When it could have been shorter but they artfully added something to the overall poem that made a world of a difference.
12 line poems are truly their own craft, and you have to check these out!
Why Are 12 Line Poems Different
Poetry with specific line counts is an interesting style of poetry.
Twelve line poems can also be called Randeau Prime poems, though this form is usually more of a 13 line poem, this is more of a Randeau poem while 12 lines is the Randeau prime. This is a French format of writing poetry, and translated into English is really very simply put, just that of 12 lines.
There are more rules when written in French, but as these poems have been translated to English, the other rules are lost in translation and we are left with a beautifully written and translated 12 line poem.
Overall, there isn’t anything different about these styles of poems, other than the specification of the number of lines in which you tell the readers your story or paint the picture. But again, it always adds something interesting to a poem when written in a specific style like this because it either stretches the writer to tell the story in less words and leave more of the image to interpretation, or it encourages the writer to add more detail than before to create a more in depth story.
Whatever it is about these poems that makes them interesting is beautiful, and I just love all of the creative writing that goes into each one.
Who Is Shel Silverstein?
One of the most famous poets to repeatedly write and publish 12 line poems is Shel Siverstein. Some of the poems in this post are credited to him, but he didn’t stop at simply just publishing poems that consist of specific numbers of lines. Rather he was an author of so many iconic childrens’ books and stories, that he accompanied them with illustrations of his own. Maybe you’ve heard of The Giving Tree or A Light In The Attic.
He also wrote songs that topped charts and plays that wowed crowds. Shel Silverstein was truly an honored poet of our time and had mastered the art of the 12 line poem. Many of his works consisted of these stanzas and organization, and has become quite iconic with these works.
12 Line Poems That Rhyme
1. 12 Lines
For every When? There is a Why?
For every push, there is a pull
For every truth there is a lie
For every fall there is a fool
For every Where? There is a How?
For every Heaven, there is a Hell
For every moment there is a now
For every nose there is a smell
For every foe there is a friend
For every smile there are many tears
For every start there is an end
When every day we face our fears
by Gordon David
2. Falling Up
I tripped on my shoelace
And I fell up–
Up to the rooftops,
Up over the town,
Up past the tree tops,
Up over the mountains,
Up where the colors
Blend into the sounds.
But it got me so dizzy
When I looked around,
I got sick to my stomach
And I threw them down
by Shel Silverstein
The water understands
It wets my foot, but prettily,
It chills my life, but wittily,
It is not disconcerted,
It is not broken-hearted:
Well used, it decketh joy,
Adorneth, doubleth joy:
Ill used, it will destroy,
In perfect time and measure
With a face of golden pleasure
by Ralph Waldo Emerson
4. There Will Come Soft Rains
There will come soft rains and the smell of the ground,
And swallows circling with their shimmering sound;
And frogs in the pools singing at night,
And wild plum trees in tremulous white,
Robins will wear their feathery fire
Whistling their whims on a low fence-wire;
And not one will know of the war, not one
Will care at last when it is done.
Not one would mind, neither bird nor tree
If mankind perished utterly;
And Spring herself, when she woke at dawn,
Would scarcely know that we were gone.
by Sara Teasdale
Poetry With 12 Lines
5. The Swing
How do you like to go up in a swing,
Up in the air so blue?
Oh, I do think it the pleasantest thing
Ever a child can do!
Up in the air and over the wall,
Till I can see so wide,
Rivers and trees and cattle and all
Over the countryside—
Till I look down on the garden green,
Down on the roof so brown—
Up in the air I go flying again,
Up in the air and down!
by Robert Louis Stevenson
6. The Happiest Heart
Who drives the horses of the sun
Shall lord it but a day;
Better the lowly deed were done,
And kept the humble way.
The rust will find the sword of fame,
The dust will hide the crown;
Ay, none shall nail so high his name
Time will not tear it down.
The happiest heart that ever beat
Was in some quiet breast
That found the common daylight sweet,
And left to Heaven the rest.
by John Vance Cheney
7. To My Dear and Loving Husband
If ever two were one, then surely we.
If ever man were loved by wife, than thee;
If ever wife was happy in a man,
Compare with me, ye women, if you can.
I prize thy love more than whole mines of gold,
Or all the riches that the East doth hold.
My love is such that rivers cannot quench,
Nor aught by love from thee give recompense.
Thy love is such I can no way reply;
The heavens reward thee manifold, I pray.
Then while we live, in love let’s so persever,
That when we live no more we may live ever.
by Anne Bradstreet
These poems are some of my favorites, I just love when poetry has to play to specific rules. It brings out all new levels of creativity and craft that you wouldn’t normally get when the poets just write it all out. It requires a little bit of editing and redrafting to make it perfect.
It’s so simple, and 12 lines feels like such a specific number of lines for a poem to have, but it really is a category all of its own.
Sonnets are more specific than you probably originally thought, and we already know about haikus. As we dive deeper into other technical kinds of poetry, there’s going to be a major difference in learning about the ways that they’re written and observing how poets tell stories in their poetry using these different kinds of writing methods.
Whatever you’re looking for next, try these Japanese poems of five lines, you might really enjoy the short and sweet nature of these poems and appreciate how the poets are able to write such incredible content in such succinct manners.