How to Write a Mask Poem

Halloween is great fun right? You get to wear a mask and be someone else for a day. This is the idea behind the mask poetry form, it’s written from the point of view of an object, an animal, or a person who is NOT you. There are no rules as far as meter or rhyme pattern goes but its important to select an interesting subject and use your imagination to reveal the feelings of the object. Is the object lonely, joyful, afraid? Why?

Here are the rules:

  1. Pick a topic.
  2. Write the poem as if you were the subject using the word “I”.
  3. Try to make the identity of the speaker clear by the end of the poem. You may or may not use the title as a hint or shout out.
  4. Decide if the poem will rhyme or not. Anything goes!
  5. Start brainstorming the feelings the object might have.
  6. Brainstorm sensory words. What does the object hear/see/smell?
  7. Think of a slant you will use for the poem. If you are the Statue of Liberty your slant might be how happy you are to meet new friends along the shoreline or how you feel when birds perch upon your crown (ugh!). Your poem should convey your feelings as if you are the object and convey who you are to the reader in a unique way. Maybe you are a mailbox on a busy city corner and you want to describe to the reader how you feel about people stuffing letters in your mouth. Who do you see daily? Do you like eating mail? Why or why not?
  8. Use punctuation and grammar to mimic the subject. If you are a hail storm, you might use lots of exclamation points and shorter lines to convey the immediacy and turbulence of a storm… Rumble! crash! bam! splat!  

Example: Here’s a children’s mask poem I wrote about a shorn sheep. He’s feeling a bit used and has no problem saying so. The reader knows exactly how the sheep feels about the give and take of the situation! 

Behind the poem

The techniques of the mask poem (also called the persona poem) have theatrical roots and are evident in many ancient Greek dramas, but the dramatic monologue as a poetic form was first seen in the work of poet Robert Browning (1812-1889).