How to write an ode

A woman writing

A woman ready to write an ode

Writing an ode can be lots of fun and can really get that creativity flowing; it is a great way to celebrate someone or something that you love. Would you like to know how to write an ode? We have brought together some top tips for you on how to get started with this highly enjoyable and expressive form of poetry.

What is an ode?

An ode is a lyrical poem that is dedicated to someone or something; it is written to praise and/or celebrate a person, event or object. Originating in Ancient Greece, odes were originally sung, but over time they became written works instead. Famous ode poets include John Keats, William Wordsworth, Samuel Taylor Coleridge, and Thomas Gray.

What is the formation of an ode?

Modern odes are usually rhyming — although that isn’t a hard rule — and are written with irregular meter. Each stanza has ten lines each, and an ode is usually written with between three and five stanzas.

There are three common ode types: Pindaric, Horatian, and irregular. Pindaric odes have three stanzas, two of which are written in the same structure. Horatian odes have more than one stanza, all of which follow the same structure. Irregular odes, as the name suggests, follow no set pattern.

Odes often feature similes, metaphors and sometimes hyperbole to aid the expression of how inspired the subject makes the author feel.

Woman with a poetry book

Odes are wonderfully uplifting to read

How to write an ode

Choose a topic for your ode

Think of something you are passionate about — whether that’s your pet dog, your favourite football team, or a season of the year. Make sure your subject is something you have plenty to say about. What adjectives come to mind when you think of your chosen subject? Think about how it makes you feel, how you interact with it, and the impact it has on you. Make lots of notes on all of these thoughts, and consider qualities that are specific to the subject matter too.

Choose a structure for your ode

Will you choose Pindaric, Horatian or another structure altogether?

When it comes to the overall structure of your ode, I’d recommend looking through your notes on your chosen topic and seeing where natural grouping occurs. For example, an ode to a football club might naturally separate into four stanzas; one for the past, one for the present, one for a recent game, and one for the future of the club. An ode to your cat might work best as three stanzas; one for the life he/she had before you adopted them, one for life now and a recent incident, and one for the future you will have together.

Your ode doesn’t have to rhyme but if you would like it to, it’s time to think about which rhyming format would best suit your poem.  Play around with various formats until you find the perfect one for your particular ode. You could start out with an ABAB rhyming plan and see where you go from there.

Get writing

Once you have made all of the decisions above, it’s time to write and rewrite your ode until you have produced a poem that’s written in stanzas and has a rhyming format (if you want it to). Once you feel you have done all you can, leave it for a day or so and return to it for some fine-tuning. Once it sounds smooth and rhythmic, your job is done. Think of a suitable title, and your ode is complete. Many odes are entitled An Ode to [subject] or Ode to [subject], but you can realistically name yours whatever you like.

An example of an ode

Poet, John Keats

A British stamp dedicated to John Keats

The below poem is entitled Ode to Autumn and was written by John Keats, who experimented with many different rhyming structures. I have highlighted the rhyming pattern in brackets at the end of every line.

Season of mists and mellow fruitfulness, (A)
Close bosom-friend of the maturing sun; (B)
Conspiring with him how to load and bless (A)
With fruit the vines that round the thatch-eaves run; (B)
To bend with apples the mossed cottage-trees, (C)
And fill all fruit with ripeness to the core; (D)
To swell the gourd, and plump the hazel shells (E)
With a sweet kernel; to set budding more, (D)
And still more, later flowers for the bees, (C)
Until they think warm days will never cease, (C)
For Summer has o’er-brimmed their clammy cell. (E)

Who hath not seen thee oft amid thy store? (A)
Sometimes whoever seeks abroad may find (B)
Thee sitting careless on a granary floor, (A)
Thy hair soft-lifted by the winnowing wind; (B)
Or on a half-reaped furrow sound asleep, (C)
Drowsed with the fume of poppies, while thy hook (D)
Spares the next swath and all its twined flowers; (E)
And sometimes like a gleaner thou dost keep (C)
Steady thy laden head across a brook; (D)
Or by a cider-press, with patient look, (D)
Thou watchest the last oozings, hours by hours. (E)

Where are the songs of Spring? Ay, where are they? (A)
Think not of them, thou hast thy music too,— (B)
While barred clouds bloom the soft-dying day, (A)
And touch the stubble-plains with rosy hue; (B)
Then in a wailful choir, the small gnats mourn (C)
Among the river sallows, borne aloft (D)
Or sinking as the light wind lives or dies; (E)
And full-grown lambs loud bleat from hilly bourn; (C)
Hedge-crickets sing; and now with treble soft (D)
The redbreast whistles from a garden-croft, (D)
And gathering swallows twitter in the skies. (E)

 

If you enjoy writing poetry, find out how to write a sonnet here. A guide to writing haiku can be found here, also.

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