Writing Mini-Lessons: Use Repetition

This mini-lesson about using repetition probably seems to directly contradict the cut to the bone mini-lesson where you were urged to eliminate all redundancies.  However, in poetry and prose, there is a literary technique of creating cadence; rhythm, movement, and feeling; by using effective repetition.

To understand effective repetition, it is often easiest to first consider ineffective repetition: when the effect of repetition is wordiness that is not pleasing to the ear or helpful to the piece.  Ineffective repetition often involves words repeated too close together and to no effect save ear-grating cacophony.  Purposeless overuse of a word is another form of ineffective repetition.  If you find that you have inadvertently overused a word or used the same word in too close proximity, this is the perfect time to hone your thesaurus use to find another word or to brainstorm alternate words or phrases to convey your meaning.

On the other hand, effective repetition can be a powerful and useful tool.  Effective repetition is when a writer chooses a word or phrase significant to the meaning of a piece, and then uses it to deepen the meaning and move the piece.

Explore effective repetition in poetry and prose, using the following guidelines:

Beware of ineffective repetition: a word repeated in too close proximity to no purpose or effect and that sounds awkward. Use effective repetition to stress an important word, phrase, idea, or theme; to move a piece; to build a piece’s momentum; to create cadence. When you revise, read your piece with your ears and listen for its rhythms.

Here are a few poems written by students exploring the use of repetition:

Art

Everything you see
Everything in life
Is art

Every pencil is a paintbrush
It paints the colors of
Poetry across a notebook

Every paintbrush is a bird
Gliding across the canvas
With a rainbow of colors

Every imagination
Is a crayon
Its childish ways
Dragging color onto
Any situation

Every child is
An artist
The little fingers
Forming art
On everything they touch

Everything you see
Everything in life
Is art

Protected

 I
Feel protected
No
One sees me
I’m
Comfortable
I’m
Protected
I
Just Feel
It

I’m
Camouflaged
No
One sees me
I
Blend
With the dark
Shade
And branches

I’m
Comfortable
I’m
Protected
No
One sees me
I’m
Hidden
I’m
Hidden
I
Say

Smooth rocks
Big trees
I’m
Camouflaged
I’m
Protected
I’m
Protected
I
Say

I’m
The
Only one
Around here
Little sparks
Of
Sun
Shining light
And
Bright on
My scaly
Skin
Shining light
And
Bright
I
Say

Tree Heartbeat

The tree was there.  It was always there,
gently tap tap tapping at my window
for me to come and play.
A warm breeze lingered in its branches,
a leftover of summer,
as it dropped pointy red treasures in my hair.
I leaned against the rough autumn bark.
Remembered when my dad said the tree was alive.
Listened for a heartbeat.  Tree heartbeat.

Dressed in silver, she twirled her branches,
dumping snow when least expected.
I climbed up up up
where, nestled among branches, I stayed all afternoon.
I leaned against the snowy bark.
Listened for a heartbeat.  Tree heartbeat.

Red blossoms burst from limbs,
fireworks in April.
I caught them in my shirt
only to throw them back up to the tree’s embrace.
I leaned my head against the soft, wet bark.
Listened for a heartbeat.  Tree heartbeat.

The only shady place on the lawn
but with room enough for everyone.
A hole on the left for water balloons,
when brothers were around.
I leaned my face against the cool bark.
Listened for a heartbeat.  Tree heartbeat.

Now, a lighted match against pale blue sky,
it waits for my father, knowing its life is at an end.
A life of snow, balloons, blossoms, and buds.
I lean once more against the bark.
I remember how my dad told me it was alive.
Listened for a heartbeat.  Tree heartbeat.