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How Do I Write an Ode?

Mark Wollacott
Mark Wollacott

Approach the writing of an ode as you would any other structured poem. A free poem can be written in any form or style, but there are specific rules and traditions to adhere to or to purposefully break when attempting to write an ode. When composing an ode, you first consider the topic you are writing about, then develop your thoughts on the topic, write the ode so it fits into the structure and then you edit the ode until it feels finished.

First, decide on the subject matter. In writing an ode, you wish to dedicate a poem to a single person, object or thing. Think about the subject matter at great length. Write about all of its qualities and functions. Start with the most basic things you can think of. Form brief lines, ideas and word combinations. Note them all down on a piece of paper.

The first step in writing an ode is choosing a subject, such as something in nature.
The first step in writing an ode is choosing a subject, such as something in nature.

Develop your thoughts on the ode’s subject. When you wish to write an ode, you need to know the subject in great depth. Move beyond the basics into more meditative or abstract thoughts. What does this object or person mean to you? Your feelings are important. Think about the message you want your ode to convey to its readers.

Be aware of the structure. The classic Pindar or Horace ode is divided into three elements: the strophe, the antistrophe and the epode. The strophe sets the tone of the poem and outlines the poetic form you want to use. When you write an ode, this is the most important structural element. The antistrophe uses the same form as the strophe, but uses an opposite movement within the poem.

The epode is the one element of the ode with specific structure. You can use iambic pentameter or dactylic hexameter for the strophe and antistrophe, but the epode has two stanzas. The first stanza is iambic trimeter and the second stanza is iambic dimeter. This means the first verse has three poetic feet each with two syllables, and the second has two feet or four syllables.

You may wish to steer away from the traditional Pindar ode. Abraham Crowley created the irregular ode, which did not follow Pindar’s repeating cycles of strophe, antistrophe and epode. Crowley’s followed any set pattern he wished, while continuing to eulogize the subject matter.

Once you have chosen the format of your ode, begin to write it. Let the words flow first until you have a full poem. Once written, you can go back and edit it to make the flow better or to make sure the poem fits the rules you are using to write an ode. Once finished, leave it for a while and come back with fresh eyes. Also, let a friend read it and take into account his or her opinion.

Discussion Comments


@Ana1234 - I think it all depends on the poem and the purpose. All structure has a purpose in poetry. Often the strict lines and meters are there in order to make the poem sound a certain way.

If you are going to mess with some of the rules of how to write traditional poems, you really have to understand how they work and what effect each rule has. Otherwise your poem will sound clunky and it won't flow properly.

That might be the point though. Truly great poets take all of that kind of thing into consideration when writing a poem. If they write one that sounds clunky, that's entirely on purpose, because it adds another layer to the reader's understanding and experience.


@irontoenail - It depends on what you want to do. If you are just writing for yourself, then I say do whatever you want! Some people enjoy the constraints of traditional poetry forms. When writing an ode poem, for example, you need to be very clever to make it both meaningful and traditional without using the same words that have been used a thousand times already.

But if you want to write a free form poem and call it an ode, then you definitely won't be the first person to do that and I don't think there's anything wrong with it.


I think, when it comes to poetry, it's really important to be able to stick by the rules before you break them. So if you want to know how to write an ode, try to write traditional forms of this before heading into the modern forms and then, if you want to, break free entirely.

I think a lot of people consider an ode at its most basic level to just be a poem that is made in praise of something, but they do actually have a fairly rigid structure.

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    • The first step in writing an ode is choosing a subject, such as something in nature.
      By: stefanolunardi
      The first step in writing an ode is choosing a subject, such as something in nature.