WSC Stream of Consciousness Poetry Writing Workshop

WSC Stream of Consciousness Poetry Writing Workshop

Overview of Stream of Consciousness-Styled Poetry Writing

Stream of Consciousness styled poetry builds on the Philosophical style by eliminating the statement of the abstraction at the beginning of the poem. Rather, the poet uses language to imply the meaning or abstraction of the poem in a subtle manner.

Abstractions or themes (i.e. duty, aspiration, loss) with translations of the abstraction are developed through imagery. This is a staple-style for avant-garde publishers looking for a unique voice in free verse. The form provides a visual representation of the abstraction.

Minimize trying to combine imagery with an explanation in stream of consciousness styled poetry.  Focus on tone and fluidity of the verse and keep the lines balanced in form.  Rely on your imagery.  Specify your imagery and don’t try so hard to characterize your use of it with explanatory language. 

One of the poets who best exemplifies this style would be Allen Ginsberg. Images in SOC poetry dictate the course and flow of the poem. Further, Ginsberg incorporates other techniques including narrative or juxtaposition.

Every line possesses a dominant image as the seed of the metaphor/visual representation that flows into another image until the sounds and textures of language fuse to create a flow of thought or emotions. This fusing is described by the term, enjambment.

By selecting dominant or complimentary images, from the same context, the poem reads much more efficiently. Again, this is done more subtly than with explicit writing such as “love is…” simile styled Gibran poetry.

On Abstraction

In the philosophical style of poetry, the abstraction is stated explicitly and requires images, visuals and descriptive language to come to life. In contrast, the stream of consciousness style of poetry doesn’t state the abstraction directly. Instead, the poet used language to imply the meaning or abstraction in a more subtle way.

flow without self-consciousness

Baudelaire, Burroughs, Kerouac, Dylan, and of course, Ginsberg, write in a flow without self-consciousness. Instead of the abstraction being about feelings, the context is more consistently about the narrator’s perspective on society, culture, humanity, community, etc. Ginsberg’s poem “Howl” is focused on the ‘harsh footprint of American life.’

This is train of thought takes a dominant image which dictates the course and flow of the poem. In Howl, Ginsberg described this as the “monster (industrial civilization) of mental consciousness which preys on the lamb (youth, drug addicts, artists, mental health patients)”.

In contrast, Gibran introduces the abstract theme much more explicitly. For example, we have the abstractions blatantly delineated in each of the titles: ”On Love” or “On Freedom”. In doing so, the abstraction as opposed to the imagery, dictates the flow from which the metaphor is much more easily accessible/identifiable. 

Narrative with juxtaposition

Ginsberg’s stream of consciousness is a free verse with subtle, desired effect of creating a narrative and a lot of juxtaposition. Every line possesses this seed of the metaphor with a dominant image. All of the senses are fused to create a flow of emotions and thoughts–similes and symbolism are prevalent tools along with metaphors. The senses are highlighted which is interesting from a philosophical perspective.

Philosopher David Hume argued that any mental content is originally constructed through impressions of perception with the senses. I would imagine that if he were to write poetry, he would narrate a stream of consciousness starting with a dominant image as perceived through the senses and that would feed into the symbolism or metaphor bringing the qualia/quality to life in the reader’s mind.


Enjambment is the technique used heavily in stream of consciousness poetry as lines loop connecting one image, metaphor, or symbol spilling onto the next. In contrast, philosophical poetry presents a repetitive pattern with the poet’s feelings stated as the abstractions a stepping stone to the metaphor–a repetitive motif  creating a consistent context.

In contrast, enjambment is not typically utilized in philosophical poetry. Gibran writes in a way that incorporates more pauses and a more gentle flow. This make me think of use of sound patterns as writing tools to create different effects. Although they vary in use in all types of poetry, I would relate euphony (pleasing and harmonious; serene images) more closely with Gibran and cacophony (sound patterns used to create an opposite effect of discord or dissonance) with Ginsberg.  

~ namasté, Leah J. 🕊

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