Occasion, Event, and Ritual Poetry Forms

“Oooooo. Aaaaahhh,” my children chant as we drive to the Habitat for Humanity thrift shop with our donation of gently used clothing. Twinkling lights drape houses like lace, and figures of Santa, his reindeer, and light speckled trees frolic in front yards. Some streets look like they were misplaced by New York or Las Vegas, they have so many lights, but Florida has to make up somehow for the lack of snow.

The December holidays are upon us and they give rise to several occasions, rituals, and events, depending on your culture, and family traditions. I thought this a perfect time to cover these types of poetry and poetry forms.

Occasional Poetry

More of a poetry genre’ than a poetry form, occasion poems document an occasion. While they are most often written about those special occasions, like weddings and births, they can also be about winning a race or baking cookies with grandma.


As long as there have been occasions, there have been occasional poems. Whenever in history you find written language and a culture’s literature, you will probably find that someone wrote a poem about an occasion.


–Write about an occasion, that’s it.

COULD HAVES or What’s The Poet’s Choice In All This?

–Any form (or no particular form) just follow the form’s rules if you use one.

–Any rhyme (or no rhyme), unless a form is used, then you follow the rhyme scheme for that form.

–Any meter (or no set meter) unless a form is used, then you follow the meter required for that form.

–Length can be long or short. However, if you use a form, that form might dictate the length.

Ritual Poem

At first glance a ritual poem seems like it might be similar to an occasional poem. We all have specific things we do every morning and night that are ritualistic in nature. A ritual poem is actually very spiritual; a way to connect with your God.


Just like the occasion poetry above, the ritual poem is as old as sacred rituals, and can be found in as many places.


There are two variations of ritual poem. One is to simply mention the ritual, a spiritual item, or a holy place. The second is like a list of instructions for the ritual. The Teachers and Writers Handbook of Poetic Forms has a fantastic modern example of this type of poem, as well as a list of instructions. Here is that excerpt:

Inspired by a recent eclipse, a student wrote this ritual poem:

Eclipse Ritual

1. Turn off the lights and give paper moons to everyone.

2. Pretend your face is the sun and put the moon in front of it.

3. Say DARK DARK DARK DARK and close your eyes.


5. Then become one by wearing dark clothes.

Here are some things to remember when writing this type of ritual poem:

1. Decide what you would like to have occur.

2. Examine all aspects of the subject.

3. Think of actions to illustrate some of these aspects.

4. Write each action down as a command.

5. Number the commands.

6. Let yourself go.

(Padgett 157)

COULD HAVES or What’s The Poet’s Choice In All This?

As you can see by the example above, you don’t have to write a religious ritual if you don’t want to, however, you will want to choose a moment that might convey a spiritual feeling.

Event Poem

The event poem is another form of poetry that is a numeric listing. In the ritual poem, it contains a ritual of some sort. However, an event poem, doesn’t feature an event.


“Event poems emerged in the late 1950’s, the same time as the art form called ‘Happenings.’ In fact, an event poem could be seen as the written equivalent of a Happening” (Padgett 74). Happenings were plays with no plots, in which wacky things happened. The event poem takes an ordinary object and lists wacky things to do to and with it.


–An object to write about.

–Start lines with verbs. No verbs of being (is, am, are, was, were been, etc). Only action here!

–At least three lines.

–Nothing you would normally do with or to the object in the poem.

Example from my favorite book of poetic forms:

Pineapple Event Poem

1. Cut the pineapple in half and wear the two halves as earmuffs on a cold winter day.

2. Peel the skins off 100 pineapples and glue them down to the floor as tiles.

3. Cut out five of the little round lozenges on the pineapple skin and sew them on your jacket as buttons.

4. Look at the pineapple. It looks like the torch of the Statue of Liberty.

5. Feel the pineapple. It feels like a suede sneaker on the foot of a very large kid.

(Padgett 75)

COULD HAVES or What’s The Poet’s Choice In All This?

–Any object.

–Any length that is more than 3 lines.

–Rhyme or not (although most do not).


Try using this type of poem as a way to practice your creative thinking, or a fun way to beat writers block.

Source Notes:

Padgett, Ron. The Teachers & Writers Handbook of Poetic Forms. 2nd. NY: T & W Books, 2000.

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