The AVBOB Poetry Competition | Memorial Poems - Frequently Asked Questions About Memorial Poems

8 Frequently Asked Questions About Memorial Poems

If you have been tasked with writing a poem for a memorial or funeral, or if you would like to pen a piece to read out of your own, you may be looking for some inspiration. We at The AVBOB Poetry Project believe that everyone has what it takes to express themselves through the written word, and we have got all your questions about memorial poems covered.

1. “How Are Memorial Poems Different from Other Poetry?”

Poems that are written and performed at memorials and funerals are usually elegies. An elegy is a piece used to express mourning and grief, or even reverence. It is a way to reflect on the tragedy of a loved one’s passing and it may delve into themes such as sorrow, regret, redemption, and healing. Memorial poems need not always adhere to the traditional idea of an elegy, however, and writers are free to personalise their poems as they wish.

2. “What is the Purpose of Memorial Poetry?”

In his famous poem about searching for purpose, “O Me! O Life!”, Walt Whitman wrote, “That you are here—that life exists and identity, That the powerful play goes on, and you may contribute a verse.” Just as with life, you get to choose the meaning and purpose of your poem – and contribute how you see fit. For some, memorial poems are a way to comfort and console the people left behind after the death of someone they love. Others may use the opportunity to celebrate someone’s legacy or to remember the happy memories of the life they lived.

3. “Should Memorial Poems Always Be Sombre?”

There are a few things to keep in mind when deciding on the tone of your poem. The audience is an important consideration because it would be insensitive to offend or unsettle them during their time of grief. That said, funeral and memorial poems can be light-hearted, humorous, and even somewhat entertaining. The best elegies are those that are true to the poets who write them, while still honouring the memory of the people in whose name they are written.

4. “What Kind of Poetic Devices Should I Use?”

Poetic devices are used to amplify the meaning and intensity of a poem, so using them carefully is essential. Rhythm, repetition, and rhyming can all be employed to create a harmonious flow of verses and emphasise certain themes. Similes, metaphors, and imagery can also present powerful symbolism in the mind’s eye of the audience, which is engaging. Try not to venture too far off course with such devices, however, as it may overwhelm or confuse the audience.

5. “Should My Poem Make Sense to Everyone?”

Your audience is, once again, your most important consideration when exploring what content to include in your piece. Sharing a simple inside joke or personal experience within your poem is not wrong but aim to avoid leaving the audience confused – or worse, bored.

6. “How Do I Know if My Poem is Any Good?”

It is easy to be too hard on yourself, and it’s also easy to lack self-awareness. The best way to judge your poem is to read it to, or have it read by, someone whose judgement you trust, preferably someone with a good eye for quality writing. An outside opinion may help you refresh and refine a few things but take any criticism you receive as objectively as possible.

7. “How Do I Begin the Process?”

Getting started is half the challenge, and it may help to think of a few themes you are interested in exploring. Writing prompts are also helpful in guiding the process and sticking to a central theme, offering some creative relief to poets who feel stuck. Some ideas for writing prompts include:

  • Saying what you never got the chance to say.
  • Things you will miss the most about them.
  • Ways in which your life must now change.
  • Things you would do differently if you had another chance.
  • How they impacted the world when they were alive.
  • What their being and presence meant to those who loved them most.

8. “Where Can I Find Inspiration for My Poem?”

Inspiration is everywhere – you can find it in nature, other forms of art and media, and by reading poems written by others. Ourlibrary of poems includes thousands of entries that explore the theme of death and loss, and you are free to enjoy the talent of local poets in all 11 official languages.

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