Here’s what the Blitz poetry form is:
The blitz is an invented form by Robert Keim that uses minimalism and a unique pattern of repeated words to form up to a 50-line poem with breakneck pacing.
It seems to have been initially proposed on a site called “Shadow Poetry” and has since amassed a humble following.
So if you want to learn all about the Blitz poetry type, then you’ve come to the right place.
Let’s delve into it!
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Forms of Poetry: The Blitz
The blitz poem is a bit unique in that it doesn’t come from a long and storied heritage across multiple generations, nor did it gradually evolve and blossom into its current form.
No, it’s actually a recent invention of a man named Robert Keim who is alive and well today.
The form is a series of fifty very short lines that assault the reader’s senses with abrupt images and thoughts, properly earning the name “blitz.”
While this is not a famous or far-reaching form, it seemed interesting and unique enough to warrant inclusion.
Basic Properties of the Blitz
|Appears to have been first proposed on a site called “Shadow Poetry” by Robert Keim
|New; only mentioned on a handful of websites
How Is the Blitz Structured?
A blitz is exactly 50 lines, with different rules that define each line or set of lines.
The poem is ultimately 25 couplets, but the only thing that unites each couplet is the first word, which is repeated in both lines of the couplet, with the exception of the final couplet.
The final couplet consists of the last word of the 48th line and the last word of the 47th line.
There is no rhyme scheme and the lines are short and unmetered.
The title includes the first words of lines 3 and 47, along with a preposition or conjunction connecting the two words to each other.
The entire poem lacks punctuation.
The artificiality and extensive list of rules appropriately reflect the inventor of the form, whose education and career predominantly consist of engineering.
The blitz is a uniquely mechanical poem unlike any other.
What Is the Purpose of a Blitz Poem?
A blitz poem is ultimately an experiment in tempo.
The poem throws thought afterthought at the reader in quick succession, with the repetitions of words being the only thing reminiscent of a real pause or break.
The original page on which the form was listed even clarifies that the reader should stop “only to breathe” if reading the poem out loud.
This ultimately creates a poem that is uniquely hectic, but also deeply connected to itself mechanically, as if wires were strewn haphazardly from line to line and even back to the title.
The blitz is a poem that is as much engineered as it is written and presents a fun challenge that can break up the tedium of writing sonnets or ballads.
This doesn’t mean the poem can’t tell a story, though.
One way to rise to the challenge of the form is to decide that you will tell a meaningful story or express some important feeling despite the limitations.
The experience can be likened to managing a situation while a mad scientist interferes with your efforts but in a good way.
Example of a Blitz Poem
Droves and Mayhem
Screaming in voices
Screaming in droves
Droves of people
Droves of sheep
Sheep that follow orders
Sheep that march along
Along to nowhere
Along to everywhere
Everywhere but here
Everywhere they can go
Go somewhere else
Go far away
Away to a pasture
Away to the country
Country air and farms
Country people and manners
Manners that delight
Manners that entice
Entice me away from crowds
Entice me to nowhere
Nowhere like home
Nowhere to escape
Escape from the noise
Escape from the chaos
Chaos of the city
Chaos of the sidewalk
Sidewalk full of nonsense
Sidewalk full of ads
Ads that want attention
Ads that steal money
Money we don’t have
Money we need
Need to get away
Need to relax
Relax in a bed
Relax for hours
Hours of peace
Peace and tea
Peace and hobbies
Hobbies like painting
Hobbies like people watching
Watching the crowds
Watching the mayhem
Mayhem of the streets
Mayhem in the city
The above example showcases the form’s many strange rules in their entirety.
While the word game elements should be self-explanatory, take special note of the title.
The title “Droves and Mayhem” may sound like it’s referring to the themes of the poem, which it is, but it’s also specifically taken from the first words of lines 3 and 47, as per the rules of the blitz.
Similarly, the last two lines end up forming the common phrase “city streets” which appropriately describes the central image of the poem, but this is also the result of the ends of lines 47 and 48.
As such it’s important to choose the words you’ll use in all of these places carefully since they’ll determine key points in the poem and should look natural if possible.
This particular blitz purposely chooses an image that fits the blitz remarkably well. Since the blitz is such a fast-paced and chaotic form, images like city streets and people watching actually lend themselves quite well to the form.
Tips for Writing a Blitz Poem
Don’t pause for too long to think between the lines.
Internalize the basic rules of the poem as a word game first, specifically the repetitions.
If you’re familiar with word games like one-word story or shiritori, then this will come more naturally.
After that, just flow naturally with your thoughts.
Try to avoid using too many decorative words like adjectives and adverbs. While you don’t have to completely exclude them, they hinder the goal of having short lines. Shoot for lines of two to four words.
The meaning will come from all the lines jumbled together, rather than from any one line pulling its own weight.
Pay special attention to how you build line 47. Line 47 will end up determining both the final word of the poem and the final word of the poem’s title, so it’s important that you be aware of how significant it is to the blitz.
The form is more flexible than you’ll initially think it is, so don’t be afraid to change out some of your words here and there.
Do not add any unnecessary rules for yourself. Deciding that you’re going to write the first metered or rhyming blitz might sound cute on paper, but in reality, it’s going to result in a completely different effect than what the blitz is going for.
The unbridled chaos and sudden jumping motions of the blitz are where it gets its unique charm. Don’t do anything to jeopardize that.
I was genuinely surprised by how fun it was to write a blitz.
The form sounds intimidating when you hear the rules rattled off one after the other since no common form functions quite like this.
But it’s actually pretty easy to chew through the whole poem in a manner of minutes once you dive into it, so don’t be afraid.
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