The AVBOB Poetry Competition | Tips for Writing Impactful Memorial Poems that Engage Your Audience

Tips for Writing Impactful Memorial Poems that Engage Your Audience

You might have heard of “In Loving Memory” poems before, or even attended a memorial service in which one was read. It is a common practice used to honour the life of someone who has passed on and is often considered a remembrance tribute. Memorial poems are also sometimes printed on funeral programmes, gifts such as bookmarks, and small keepsakes for all in attendance. If you are looking for tips on writing memorial poems, whether as part of a prayer or eulogy, here are a few tips to get you started.

Jot Down Your Best Ideas First

Every writer’s process looks different. Some like to write and refine as they go, while others need a plan set in place before they begin. When writing memorial poems, however, it might be helpful to pen a few of your ideas as they pop up. Think about keywords, phrases, and imagery you would like to include, and spend time remembering the individual about whom you plan to write.

Set a Clear Intention

Memorial poems are read at a service, which means that your audience will engage with whatever it is you write. If you choose to write a piece that contains personal memories and inside jokes, for example, it is important to realise that your audience might not understand each reference or relate to it as strongly as you do. Personal recollections are powerful, however, and offer much closure to those in mourning. You could also decide to write about shared experiences and memories to which most people attending will relate. Your theme ties strongly into your intention for your piece. Examples of themes include honouring your loved one’s life, focusing on their character and legacy, or exploring your own, personal sense of loss and what it means to navigate this grief.

Choose a Structure Carefully

The rhyme scheme and rhythm of your poem adds a lot to the overall tone and sense of relatability. As the “heartbeat” of your poem, the rhythm is the timing behind each word. You can play with this heartbeat by placing emphasis on certain words and syllables and communicating the feeling behind your piece. The rhyme scheme, on the other hand, provides predictable pleasure and memorability, and can let your audience know that you are expressing a harmonious idea that flows well, or if you were feeling disconnected and confused at the time of writing. Experimenting with the structure of your piece might take the most amount of time, so set aside a quiet, contemplative time for this task.

Practise Your Delivery

Whether you or someone you know intends upon reading your piece at the memorial, practising the delivery is important. As the author, you understand what emotions you wish to convey, so rehearsing before a mirror or trusted friend will help you figure out if your poem is translating the way in which you intend. Should you choose to keep your written piece private, it can still offer just as much of an emotional outlet and sense of comfort for you.

If you are seeking inspiration for memorial poems from fellow South African writers, be sure to visit our poem library and read through the themed entries that we have selected to publish.