The AVBOB Poetry Competition | Funeral Poems | How to Improve Your Funeral Poem

Funeral Poems: Why So Many Fall Flat and How to Improve Yours

If you have attended a few funerals and memorials, you may have heard your fair share of recited poems. Unfortunately, funeral poems get a bad rap for being melodramatic, drawn-out, or worse – boring. This need not be the case, as the written word is a beautiful medium capable of encapsulating complex thoughts and emotions. It can be used to bid a tender last farewell that the audience resonates with and embraces as their own goodbye too. If you are researching funeral poems, or if you are trying your hand at writing your own, there are a few ways to ensure that your piece steers clear of those stale stereotypes and truly captures the shared grief of those who hear it.

Insensitivity Towards the Audience

Whether or not you know the person who has passed on, it is best to write your poem with the funeral attendees in mind. The wise adage, “know your audience”, is especially true when it comes to funerals and memorials because emotions run high in these settings. For example, some groups of people are simply more conservative and reserved when it comes to their grief, and wild theatrics during a poem reading will not be kindly embraced. Other groups of families and friends might be light-hearted and would enjoy a poem on the funnier side. Failure to consider the audience may bore or even offend them. Before penning your piece, speak to some of the people who will be in attendance to understand the tone that will best accommodate everyone. While the audience is important, try to remember to stay true to your artistic flair and perspective.

Hammering on the Obvious

No one finds the obvious enthralling. While funerals are known for platitudes and banal statements made from polite gestures, your piece will not be memorable if it relies on clichés. Keep away from statements such as, “Time heals all wounds.” or “Life must go on.” as these phrases are so overused, they lose all meaning. They may also serve to diminish the pain and sorrow that many in the audience are going through. Writing from the heart means pursuing originality and moving away from everything that has been said before. If you do plan on exploring a commonplace theme, try to view it from a fresh perspective.

Making Everything Abstract

A major misconception people have about poetry is that every sentence needs to have symbolic meaning behind it. Not all poems need to contain endless metaphors or abstract concepts. While any art is open for interpretation, being too vague and figurative means that your audience might not connect with the piece easily. If you enjoy abstract funeral poems that feel more ethereal and emblematic in nature, be sure to add a few words or verses that still ground the listener and guide them to understanding it correctly.

Trying to Emulate the Classics

Classical poetry has its place. It is a peek into a past perspective that valued certain things, but it may not always be relevant today. While some emotions are universal and timeless, such as love and loss, certain language is not. Sentiments expressed in classical poetry, such as Shakespeare’s works, are often difficult to digest. This is because they condense large concepts into few words with sentence structures that are unnatural in modern speech. That said, it is never wrong to write funeral poems inspired by the classics, but it is best to keep in mind such poetry is heavy and demanding, especially for an audience in mourning.

Misplaced Meter that Feels Disconnected

Meter is the rhythm behind poetry, and it is key to maintaining fluidity and harmony in the piece. It guides voice fluctuations and cadence while reading the poem aloud and supports the tone the writer wishes to convey. If you have written something you feel is uninteresting, you can add flair by changing up the meter and breaking the tempo where needed, and then returning to the original pace near the end of the piece. Without considering the rhythm of your poem, a funeral audience may find it flat, disjointed, or choppy.

Lastly, it may help to read the celebrated pieces of fellow South Africans with a love for poetry. Passion is contagious, and if it is ideas for funeral poems you are seeking, then our library collection of heartfelt works is sure to inspire you.