April is National Poetry Month, and here at 16Personalities, we’re celebrating.
One of the most powerful things about poetry is its vast diversity. Poetry can be anything you want it to be: private or public, imaginative or realistic, emotional or logical, structured or free-form. We believe not only that poetry can offer something for everyone but also that every personality type is capable of writing poetry.
So we’re inviting you, our readers, to participate in our first 16Personalities Poetry Writing Challenge! Below, we offer one suggestion for every personality type – a specific type of poem, a topic for a poem, or an exercise that we believe will be an ideal match for the strengths and preferences of your personality type.
Don’t know your personality type? Take our free personality test to find out.
Of course, you shouldn’t feel restricted to the suggestion we’ve made for your personality. If another idea in this list inspires you, go for it! Anyone with the Judging trait might be interested in the recommendations we’ve made for Sentinels, for example, and a Diplomat might be drawn to all of the suggestions for their Role. You may even want to mix and match!
Without further ado, here are our suggestions for how every personality type can write poetry.
Analyst Personality Types
If you’re an Architect, the pursuit of knowledge probably plays a central role in your life. Curious and intellectual, Architect personalities enjoy learning as much as they can about the subjects that interest them, as well as sharing what they know with others. So, for Architects, we recommend writing an ode.
An ode is a poem addressed to a particular person, place, thing, or idea. Odes are often celebratory, praising all the wonderful things about the subject of the poem. But odes can also present an opportunity for poets to examine a subject from many angles in a critical way that leads them to a revelation – a new realization that they wouldn’t otherwise have had. That kind of close analysis and mastery of a topic falls squarely in your Architect wheelhouse.
Odes also provide fertile ground for allusions – so feel free to sprinkle in some references related to your topic that only those in the know (or those who take the time to Google) will understand. Certain types of odes involve formal requirements for stanzas and syllables, but we wouldn’t think of asking an Architect to follow rules like that. In irregular odes, just about anything goes, so we encourage you to start writing in that spirit.
Example poems: “Ode to My Socks” by Pablo Neruda (1956); “Ode” by David Lehman (1986); “To a Real Standup Piece of Painted Crockery” by George Starbuck (1986) – a humorous critique of John Keats’s very famous, very enthusiastic “Ode on a Grecian Urn” (1819)
Logicians are innovative, imaginative, abstract thinkers who don’t like to be ordinary. That’s an excellent recipe for creativity – and we think it’s a great fit for avant-garde poetry writing.
Avant-garde is a very broad term that could encompass any number of poetic styles, movements, and techniques. In general, avant-garde poetry involves some kind of experimentation, whether with form (stanzas, meter, rhyme, etc.), diction (grammar, vocabulary, phrasing, etc.), or subject matter. These experimental techniques may sometimes seem random or inscrutable to readers, but to the poet, every decision has a logical basis that contributes to the overall effect or meaning that they seek to create.
Ezra Pound, for example, revolutionized poetry in the early 20th century by depicting vivid, concrete images using as few words as possible. E. E. Cummings is famous for inventing his own words and changing grammatical rules as he saw fit, such as using words like because and anyhow as nouns.
You get the idea. When it comes to avant-garde poetry, you’re free to try out whatever you please – the challenge is to shape it into a coherent whole. If you’re not sure where to start, ask yourself this question: What is the first thing that comes to mind when I think of a “typical” poem?
Do you have something in mind? Good. Now do the opposite of that.
Examples: “In a Station of the Metro” by Ezra Pound (1913); “Anyone lived in a pretty how town” by E. E. Cummings (1940)
To a Commander, efficiency is essential, and patience can be a problem. After all, how can you accomplish your many goals if ineffective processes and lengthy timelines are standing in your way?
Commanders, there is only one thing to do: write a haiku.
A haiku will reward your desire for efficiency while also challenging you to exercise patience. Drawing from a traditional form of Japanese poetry, haikus focus on a simple image or pair of images (often from nature) in order to capture the mood or essence of a distinct moment in time. A haiku consists of just three lines that do not rhyme. The first line contains five syllables, followed by a line of seven syllables, and another line of five syllables.
A haiku requires you to slow down and pay close attention to your surroundings. You will likely find yourself appreciating them in a way that you haven’t before. You might also find that haiku writing brings you an unexpected or unusual sense of calmness and balance. That’s a good thing. Everyone needs to enjoy a refreshing moment of mindfulness from time to time – even Commander personalities.
Example poems: “I am moving in” by Sonia Sanchez (1998); “Blackbird Etude” by A. E. Stallings (2009); “On a branch” by Kobayashi Issa (late 18th century) – English translation with fewer syllables
Have you ever read a poem that made you feel like arguing? You’re a Debater – of course you have! Your natural affinity for debate may prove to be a major asset for poetry writing.
For thousands of years, writers have been using poetry to carry on debates on everything from petty squabbles with rivals to serious, expansive, philosophical arguments over life’s great unknowns. Compare, for instance, William Butler Yeats’s poem “To a Friend Whose Work Has Come to Nothing” (1913) and Anne Sexton’s response to that poem, “To a Friend Whose Work Has Come to Triumph” (1962). The two poets offer very different takes on the idea of failure.
So we challenge you, Debaters, to respond to an existing poem, any poem that triggers that urge to argue. Take the poem apart point by point, or focus on a single idea. Play devil’s advocate, or make a new argument. Mimic the poem’s structure, or try out a completely different style.
Don’t have a poem in mind? Consider the examples above – what would you say to a friend whose work has been judged a failure? Or maybe one of the short, provocative poems below will catch your fancy.
Example poems: “A Man Said to the Universe” by Stephen Crane (1899); “Unfortunate Coincidence” by Dorothy Parker (1926); “Dream Song 14” by John Berryman (1964)
Diplomat Personality Types
As an Advocate, you put a great deal of time and energy into helping other people, and you need to be able to retreat and recharge to remain effective in your efforts. That may be one reason why Advocates are drawn to nature more than most personality types.
Nature is one of the most timeless subjects for poetry writing. It offers us a chance to step back from our hectic daily lives, slow down, and appreciate the beauty and peace of the natural world around us. Advocates, we encourage you to write a poem inspired by nature.
Think of an aspect of the natural world that awakens your senses or sparks your imagination. Many poems about nature focus on describing details and depicting images, while many others try to capture personal impressions or emotions that the poet has experienced in nature. You may wish to try one of these approaches or blend them together.
If you’re unable to get outside as much as you would like, the act of writing a vivid poem about nature might be the next best way to achieve that rejuvenating sense of balance that you seek.
Example poems: “I wandered lonely as a cloud” by William Wordsworth (1807); “Crossings” by Ravi Shankar (2011); “Praise the Rain” by Joy Harjo (2015)
Mediators tend to have an ear for languages and a fondness for symbols and metaphors, making them one of the most poetically inclined personality types. That’s why we believe that you, Mediators, are up to the challenge of writing a sonnet.
Over the centuries, poets have developed several different types of sonnets, but for our purposes, we’ll refer to the Shakespearean sonnet (a.k.a. the English sonnet). Simply put, a Shakespearean sonnet consists of 14 lines (divided into three stanzas with four lines each and a closing couplet) that follow the rhyme scheme abab cdcd efef gg. Traditionally, each line consists of 10 syllables, and the stress, or emphasis, falls on every second syllable (think Romeo and Juliet: “Two households, both alike in dignity”). The first three stanzas of the sonnet usually develop a single idea or sentiment, and the last two lines offer a (sometimes dramatic) conclusion.
Easy, right? Believe it or not, once you get into a rhythm, writing a sonnet may come more naturally than you think. Reading a few examples will help you get a feel for it. Try not to get too hung up on syllables and stresses – focus on expressing your ideas.
Example poems: “Sonnet 18: Shall I compare thee to a summer’s day?” by William Shakespeare (1609); “Pity me not because the light of day” by Edna St. Vincent Millay (1923); “Acquainted with the Night” by Robert Frost (1928) – a slight variation on the Shakespearean form
Protagonists have a unique ability to communicate and empathize with people, to understand what motivates them and what challenges them. And these personalities are not afraid to speak up when something needs to be said.
As a Protagonist, you can apply this natural ability to poetry that serves an important social function: giving a voice to those who often go unheard in society. Poetry boasts a long tradition of standing up for important causes, from William Blake’s young chimney sweeper, who called out the exploitation of child labor in 19th-century London, to Dr. Seuss’s Lorax, who speaks for the trees.
Passionate as you are, you may already have an idea in mind – if so, go for it! But if you need some inspiration, try this: rewrite an existing poem from the point of view of someone (or something) that doesn’t get to speak. Consider, for example, Robert Browning’s much-discussed poem “My Last Duchess” (1842), in which the speaker (the Duke of Ferrara) shows off a painting of his late wife, reveals that he had her murdered because (in his mind) she flirted with everyone and was generally too cheerful, and implicitly threatens that his next wife may meet a similar fate if she doesn’t stay in line. Yikes!
Now imagine, what might the woman in the portrait say if she were still alive to speak? Alternatively, what might the young woman whose marriage to the duke is currently being negotiated by her father have to say about all this? Here you have the makings of a poem.
Example poems: “We Real Cool” by Gwendolyn Brooks (1959); “Characteristics of Life” by Camille T. Dungy (2012); “Passive Voice” by Laura Da’ (2015)
Free-spirited and creative, Campaigners are the most likely personality types (along with Protagonists) to say they tend to want to articulate their appreciation for a piece of art to others. What a perfect inspiration for a poem!
Choose a work of art (such as a painting, drawing, photograph, sculpture, or textile) or a piece of music that holds some significance to you – perhaps because you’ve had a strong positive or negative reaction to it or because something about it stands out as especially memorable.
Poetry that describes a work of art is known as ekphrastic poetry. Description is one approach you could take for your poem. If you’re writing about a work of art, include details about color, light, shapes, figures, or other distinctive features. Or, if you’re writing about music, try to capture the sounds or rhythms of the piece.
Other possible approaches include discussing what you think the piece means, describing how it makes you feel, or making up a story about what is happening in the piece or about the artist or musician who created it. You can also combine approaches, perhaps describing the work in one stanza and telling a story in the next.
Example poems: “Dream Boogie” by Langston Hughes (1951); “Landscape with the Fall of Icarus” by William Carlos Williams (1962)
Sentinel Personality Types
As a Logistician personality type, you value tradition and integrity. You like knowing that you’re part of something bigger than yourself, and you’re happy to do your part to keep things running smoothly. So we recommend writing a poem about a tradition that matters to you.
Poems about traditions can broaden our perspectives and help us learn about people, places, and cultures that we may not be familiar with. When it comes to the traditions you care about, chances are you’re something of an expert. Writing a poem about a family tradition, a cultural practice, a group you belong to, or the place you live can be a great opportunity not only to share your knowledge with others but also to remind yourself why it’s so important to you.
Be sure to include plenty of specific, concrete details about your topic to help readers picture it and understand it better. Feel free to share some interesting facts. Consider writing about how the tradition makes you feel too. All of these pieces will help you show what makes it so special.
Example poems: “Knoxville, Tennessee” by Nikki Giovanni (1968); “My Grandmother Washes Her Feet in the Sink of the Bathroom at Sears” by Mohja Kahf (2003)
When we’re feeling sad, frustrated, disappointed, or lonely, a poem that offers words of encouragement or comfort can feel like a warm hug. Sometimes a poem about a difficult situation can make us think, That’s exactly what I’m going through, and remind us that we’re not alone.
Defenders, you possess a similar superpower: the ability to connect with someone, sense or imagine what they’re going through, and offer the sort of understanding and support that makes a tangible difference in their life. Often, you prefer to help people in quiet, practical ways, but for this poetry challenge, we suggest that you express your support in writing.
Think of someone who could use some encouragement right now, perhaps a close friend or loved one (or even yourself). You probably know exactly how to cheer that person up or motivate them to get back out there and try again, whether it’s a little extra kindness and compassion, a reminder of what makes them special, or even a bit of tough love. Use that as the jumping-off point for your poem. Don’t worry about following a specific form or using fancy language. To let someone know you care, just write from your heart.
Example poems: “‘Hope’ is the thing with feathers” by Emily Dickinson (1891); “I Am Offering This Poem” by Jimmy Santiago Baca (1979); “For Women Who Are Difficult to Love” by Warsan Shire (2012)
Have you ever read something – a book, an article, a report, an email – and felt the desire to tear it up and redo it in a more organized or efficient way? You’re an Executive, so we’re pretty sure you have. (A lot.) Thus, we present you with a unique type of poetry that should appeal to your natural tendency to establish order while also allowing you to get creative: found poetry.
To create a found poem, the poet takes bits and pieces of text from one or more existing texts, reshapes and reorganizes them, and presents the result as a poem. The new poem may comment on the original text in some way or take things in an entirely different and surprising direction. You can use any sort of text for a found poem, from the kinds of prose texts mentioned above to things like street signs, advertisements, recipes, social media posts, or other poems.
When you’re creating a found poem, you have complete freedom to make up and apply your own rules, your own structure, and your own logical system of organization – but you don’t have to write a single line of poetry yourself.
Example poems: “Mornings Like This” by Annie Dillard (1995); “National Laureate” by Robert Fitterman (2009)
Poetry doesn’t always have to be a solitary pursuit. Make it a group effort! If any personality type can rally a team to compose a poem, it’s sociable, supportive Consuls.
Acrostic poems, where the first letter of each line spells out a word, lend themselves well to collaborative authorship. Kick things off by writing out a word vertically in all caps, such as C-O-N-S-U-L-S. Compose the first line (“Caring and congenial…”) or skip ahead to a random letter (“Undeterred, the Consul carries on…”), then pass the poem along to your family members or roommates or send it around a group chat with friends until each line is completed.
Spontaneity and flexibility can sometimes be challenging for Consuls. Writing a poem with other people is a great opportunity to practice going with the flow. Let the poem twist and turn with each new author. The results may surprise you – in a good way.
Example poems: “An Acrostic” by Edgar Allen Poe (1829); “Acrostic” by Lewis Carroll (1861)
Explorer Personality Types
Poetry is a craft, and if you’re a Virtuoso, you probably appreciate high-quality craftsmanship. So write about that. Think of a hobby or trade you’re particularly passionate about, and focus on the details. What skills does it require? What is your favorite thing about that activity, and how does it challenge you? What do you see with your expert’s eye that other people might miss? What does it feel like, sound like, smell like, taste like?
It’s easy to assume that poetry is all about high-minded ideals or obscure meanings. But often, one of the most enjoyable things about poetry is its concrete language: colorful adjectives, strong action verbs, and vivid images. You can use poetry to help people see your subject in a new light. If you’re passionate about it, that passion will shine through in your writing and rub off on your readers too.
Example poems: “Poetry, a Natural Thing” by Robert Duncan (1960); “Ode to the Belt Sander & This Cocobolo Sapwood” by Matthew Nienow (2013)
Few personality types enjoy reinventing themselves as much as Adventurers do. Your experimentation, spontaneity, and introspection help you evolve and transform. In that spirit, we suggest that you write a poem that celebrates you.
Sometimes Adventurers’ talents go unappreciated, and criticism from others can leave you feeling down. The act of writing a poem that captures who you are (or, perhaps, who you are right now, in this moment) can not only remind you of some of your best qualities but also help you understand something about yourself that you might not have realized before.
You may find it helpful to focus on one aspect of yourself – your attitude, your style, a quirky habit, a value you hold dear, or some of the passions or projects that excite you the most. If you start feeling really inspired, why stop at a poem? Turn your poem into a song, or express an idea about yourself as a painting or other work of art. We know there’s no limit to your creativity.
Example poems: “Still I Rise” by Maya Angelou (1978); “When I Grow Up I Want to Be a List of Further Possibilities” by Chen Chen (2017)
Carpe diem – seize the day. This well-known Latin expression urges us to live life to the fullest, because life is fleeting, and we never know what tomorrow may bring. This saying might as well be the motto of Entrepreneur personality types – and it also happens to be an age-old theme in poetry.
So this is our challenge to Entrepreneurs: write a carpe diem poem. Energetic and spontaneous as you are, we’re sure you’ve had some thrilling adventures that you can draw on. Carpe diem poems are often written from one of two angles: (1) the speaker of the poem tries to convince another character to do something, or (2) the poet offers general advice to readers on making the most of their time. You could try either of these approaches.
Ask yourself, What is one experience that I would urge everyone to try in order to live life to the fullest? Or, If I knew my time was running out, what is the number one thing I would want to do one more time? The answer is your topic. As you write, include concrete details that help the reader feel like they’re right there experiencing this adventure with you. And don’t forget to throw in a reminder or two that we must seize the day.
Example poems: “To the Virgins, to Make Much of Time” by Robert Herrick (1648), “Be Drunk” by Charles Baudelaire (1869), “Immortal Sails” by Alfred Noyes (1918)
Most Entertainers have a natural flair for drama, and they can also be great storytellers. So it seems only fitting that for you, Entertainers, we recommend a dramatic monologue.
A dramatic monologue is a poem in which an imagined speaker – a persona or character – addresses a silent listener. It’s similar to a scene in a play or movie where one character addresses another character or the audience for a long time, and the listener never says a word. “My Last Duchess” by Robert Browning (see our suggestion for Protagonists above) is a classic example of a dramatic monologue.
Begin by selecting the character who will be the speaker of your poem. This could be based on a historical figure, a favorite fictional character, or an original persona of your own invention.
Next, get into character. How might the speaker of your poem talk, move, or behave? What’s on their mind? How are they feeling? What burning message do they want to communicate to the world? Your keen eye for detail and your sensitivity to other people’s emotions will help you answer these questions instinctively. If it helps, gather a small audience and start performing. Jot down ideas as you go, and before you know it, a poem will begin to take shape.
Example poems: “The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock” by T. S. Eliot (1915); “Vampire’s Serenade” by Dana Gioia (1998)
Now It’s Your Turn
We hope that these suggestions have inspired you to take a creative leap and try your hand at poetry writing.
We’re so excited to see what you come up with that we’ve created our first ever 16Personalities Poetry Writing Challenge, a special thread in the Community area of our site where you can post your original poetry – and be entered for a chance to win a prize. Click here to learn more!
Whether you choose to share your work or not, we think you’ll find the rewards of poetry writing to be well worth the effort, no matter your personality type. Happy writing!
- If you just can’t get enough poetry, check out our profiles on the personality types of poets Maya Angelou and William Wordsworth.
- Ready for more creative writing? We’ve developed a seven-part article series on using personality theory in fiction writing. Start here.
- Take our surveys on reading preferences, music preferences, and visual art to see how your creative interests compare with those of other personality types.