Creative writing activity for individual writers

A Poem that Chunters along Like a Train


to use sounds to underline what we are saying

to experiment with rhythm and metre


individual work


‘Tarantella’ by Hilaire Belloc, the opening stanzas of Thomas Gray’s ‘Elegy written in a Country Churchyard’, T.S. Elliot’s ‘Shimbleshanks: The Railway Cat’, ‘Night Mail’ by W.H. Auden


Many words have a level of onomatopoeia, which can be used more consciously in the context of this activity.

This activity can be used to introduce the concept of scansion before participants try their hand at rhymed verse.


Brainstorm words or concepts (cues) that you associate with specific sounds and rhythms. (Alternatively, see the list provided.)

Choose one of the cues which appeals. Appeal should also be tested by imagining what sort of sounds and rhythms you could express through the sound of language/words.

Write down as many concepts and associations that come to mind in connection with the cue that you have chosen.

Group them according to sound: long vs. short vowels, harsh sounds, soft sounds, words and phrases whose stress patterns match the concept (e.g. dum-di-di for a waltz or di-di-dum for a train running down the track, di-dum for a clock, etc.)

Decide on a metre or rhythm that would go well with your cue (see 4).

Write a poem (unrhymed) or a short prose text using the metre and the words you find sound good.

Possible Cues

train ride, a dance (waltz, flamenco, tango), a coffee machine, a person limping, a clock (alarm), a piano lesson, someone typing, waves on the shore, bells ringing, horse race, a tennis match, a mosquito,

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