Abstract Poetry Lesson for Kids: Definition & Symbolism

Instructor: Michelle Acker

Michelle has a degree in English and a Master's in Education from Temple University. She has taught special education, 4th grade, and high school Communication Arts.

Abstract poetry is a fun way to express an idea by not really saying what you mean. Sound confusing? Take a closer look at abstract poetry in this lesson!

I Had a Dream


Have you ever woken up from a dream and tried to describe it to someone? If you have, then you know that it's pretty hard to do. The events, the people, and the overall plot or idea of the dream are all a little hazy or fuzzy. As you try to describe it, you start to sound a little silly, because things that happened in the dream don't quite make sense and parts are a little vague, or unclear.

That's the best way to explain what abstract poetry is - it's like describing a dream. It can seem like gibberish, or nonsense; you're saying something, but it's not clear and concise. An abstract poem is a verse that's written like a stream of consciousness, or thinking out loud. The words connect in a sort of flowing rhythm that stir up feelings and thoughts, but they don't tell the reader what to think.

Open for Debate

Abstract poetry is known for being open to interpretation, meaning that abstract poems' subjects and ideas are so vague that each reader understands them differently. There are very few concrete, or definite, nouns used in these poems, because the subject is meant to be elusive, or imagined differently. A title is concrete and might tell the reader what to think, so a lot of times authors chose not to title their abstract poems. More often than not, you will have to read the poem more than once before you start to get a sense of what it's about, and it's even possible that your opinion will change the more you read it.

Say it Another Way

One way that abstract poems accomplish this feeling of vagueness and ambiguity is by using symbolism, which means using an object, person, animal, or even a color or sound to represent an idea or quality.

Try it Out!

Here's an example of an abstract poem that I wrote which uses a lot of color words to create an idea and tell a story:

Cool blue,

Becomes cold white

When temperature's

just right

Bright yellow melts

All it sees

Brings back greens

and melodies

Visualizing Symbolic Language

What is this poem about? What does it mean to you?

Because it's an abstract poem, there really is no right or wrong answer. What it's really about isn't as important as noticing the qualities that make it an interesting abstract poem.

  • Did you notice the symbolism?

There are no concrete nouns. The colors 'blue', 'white', and 'yellow' are meant to symbolize other nouns, but you have to decide for yourself what they are.

  • Did you notice the flow and rhythm to the words?

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