Reverse Poems

August 1, 2022

Sign with arrows going up and down. The background is a cloudy sky, brown land, and water. Photo by Erik Mclean on

Hey folks!

I got really deep into the whole researching-poetry-styles hole (as you may have noticed from my last two posts, 10 Types of Poetry You Might Not Have Heard Of and 5 Recently Developed Types of Poetry). And while I was in that hole, I recalled a style that I love reading.

This one’s going to be short and sweet, but before we get into it, one housekeeping point:

I won’t be checking any messages starting next Monday, because I’ll be on vacation! I’ll be back on August 23rd. Still feel free to reach out to me during those two weeks, and I’ll get back to you once I’m officially off of vacation mode 🙂

There might be some blog posts still, and a few Instagram posts, but I’m going to be as hands-off as possible. Thank the tech geniuses for automatic posting! (Which is also how this one is being posted. Happy long weekend to my fellow Ontarians!)

Now, without further ado, let’s talk about one of my favourite styles of poetry: the reverse poem.

What Is a Reverse Poem?

A reverse poem, at its core, can be read top to bottom, and then bottom to top, with the second read-through containing the opposite, more positive meaning of the first. The poem that made me fall in love with these is in the collection Life (as it) Happens: A Nerdfighter Poetry Book, called “Memento Vivere/Memento Mori” by Jessica Lincoln.

To give you an idea, reverse poems can examine subjects like negative vs. positive body image, death vs. life, doubt vs. certainty, or despair vs. hope.

How Is One Made?

Cameron Bradley points it out well in the article “How to Write a Reverse Poem” (Medium) – there needs to be a mix of lines leading us to the bottom of the poem, some leading to the top, and enough neutral lines for it to make sense in either direction. Each line can’t make a statement about the subject at hand – some have to bridge the thoughts that do immediately relate to them.

It’s also important to note that those bridge lines work through enjambment. Want the ideas to carry forward and backward as best as possible? Don’t have each line be its own unit. Make the ideas flow, make those bridges truly neutral (for example, “because when I tell you that,” “I hope you listen when I say,” “if you only saw”), and tie them to a statement that works for both meanings of your poem. Check out Cara Batema’s article “How to Write a Reverse Poem” (Pen & the Pad) for tips on making the most out of enjambments.

Examples of Reverse Poems

I was going to put together a list of reverse poems that I could find on the internet that I enjoy. However, Natayle from Hey Natayle seems to have beaten me to making a STELLAR list. Seriously, all of these poems got to me. So take a peek at Natayle’s article “9 Reverse Poems Your Middle Schoolers Will Love.” And if you’re so inclined, I do recommend checking out Life (as it) Happens, if you’re able to 🙂

So there you have it! Reverse poems. They can fill you with hope and positivity after giving you a take that might be more prevalent, they can shock and astound and amaze with their creativity, and they might even give you a dose of second-hand satisfaction for the poets who so deftly wrote them.

Have you ever written a reverse poem? Or does this make you want to try and write one? In either case, I’d love to see what you come up with!

Published by Kaila Desjardins

Freelance editor, fiction writer, proud nerd.

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