Broken layouts

Another rule many people will tell you is that there’s a right way and a wrong way to format your writing. Some might look at a poem or experimental work and say “It should look like this instead.”

For essays and academic work, that might be true, but when you’re being creative, you can do whatever you want! Sometimes, experimenting with form and how words look on the page is the best way to generate new material and making something stranger while also unlocking new meanings. 

Layli Long Soldier is of native American descent and a citizen of the Oglala Lakota Nation. In her book Whereas, she talks about being both “a citizen of the United States and an enrolled member of Oglala Sioux Tribe.” Let’s take a look at some of the ways in which she breaks rules for layout in her poetry!

First, let’s take a look at three of her poems.


Isn’t it interesting how changing the way something looks on the page can affect how you read it and potentially change the meaning? 

Exercise #9:

I’d like you to write a poem a short story poem called Boundaries but you have a few rules to follow!

Divide the page up with lines and boxes, write in a shape or make a box up out of lines - take some inspiration from Layli’s work and try to create separate sections. 

Why not use lines and boxes for different speakers or ideas, or to change the way the work is read?

Write for ten minutes! Lay out the page any way you would like and after you’ve tried one way, why not try rewriting the same page in a different layout!

Complete and continue