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Kenning Poems

What is a kenning you may ask? 

The answer is simple - it’s just two words, often nouns, brought together - and in doing so they give something a new image, identity or meaning.
Kennings are great for reading, writing poetry and even performing. Importantly, they also encourage wordplay.
Frequently, when kennings are created,  the second word ends in the -er sound. Right now you are a kenning - A ‘word – reader!' The Vikings invented kennings over a thousand years ago, For example their kenning for a sword was ‘skull splitter’!– 
When using kennings in your poems, it’s a good idea to make quite a few kennings. That way, the reader gets a clear picture of your intention. It also helps if you add a little rhyme at both ends of your poem.  It acts like a sandwich and help to bring your poem to a satisfying ending. 
You can make a kenning poem about almost anything under the sun -the earth, the sea, a forest, a river and so on. What follows is a Sun Kenning written by U.K. poet, James Carter.
I chose to write a Forest Kenning. Hope you enjoy these kennings -so much fun in the making.

Sun Kenning
We thank you, Sun
for all you’ve done
You’re always such an . . .
early - riser
life - inspirer
moon - eclipser
summer - sizzler
winter - ender
lolly - melter
shadow - maker
earth - creator
nothing - greater
B r i l l i a n t
that’s what you are -
we call you ‘sun’
but you’re a S T A R !

James Carter

Forest Kenning

I exult you ancient forest of trees
I feel such peace
In green spaces,
Such as these.
I think of you as…
Carbon drainer
Biodiversity, natural serenity,
Providing for humanity 
I walk beneath your giant trees
Your shade and shadow canopies
I thank you for this special place
Contemplative, silent space.

Alan j Wright

It is, once more, Poetry Friday. Our host this week is the most talented Mary Lee Hahn. Please visit Mary Lee to discover more regarding her nostalgic poem about cooking green beans. 


  1. I had forgotten about kennings and now I want to write one! James Carter's Sun Kenning and your Forest Kenning make a great pair.

    1. Mary Lee, I thank you for your kind comments. I'm glad to have provided a reminder of the appeal of kennings.

  2. Oh! I love these kennings and thank you for providing two wonderful mentors. I'm tucking this idea into my notebook to play with sooner rather than later.

    1. Thank you Molly. I hope you get to explore these little word wonders in the not too distant future. In your notebook they can await your return.

  3. I'm with Mary Lee, I want to write Kennings now! This idea is in my journal already...and a bit of a solution to a poetry puzzle I've been attempting to solve. I love learning from you. Have you ever considered a digital collaboration with educators in the US? I think it would be so fun to connect writers from two continents. Give it a think. A million details would need to be sorted out. could be cool.

    1. Linda, it pleases me that kennings have sparked your imaginings and present as a solution to a poetry puzzle. Since Covid rattled the world, I have been increasingly involved in digital collaborations with schools and teachers across Australia. On-line workshops, podcasts, and YouTube videos have all been part of my work in recent times. I am more than happy to consider connecting with my international colleagues, if this can be arranged. I am always open to expanding opportunities around writing and poetry. I agree, it would be fun.

  4. It seems the magic in kennings is that you create a new word, and there are endless word combinations to discover. Shadow spreader, air sharer. These seem new. Thanks, Alan, for sharing these.

    1. I think you capture the magic of kennings quite succinctly. It is definitely in the creation of new words. How good is that? My pleasure to share this small, yet compelling poetic device.

  5. Very interesting! I like that format. It is fast and impactful. Just what I look for to move stories along. Thanks for sharing!

    1. Glad you like the kennings, Tim. Your description of their function within the poem is most accurate.

  6. Alan, these kennings are very satisfying to read. Thank you for reminding me of them. I had heard that "skull splitter" before, but I don't believe I have tried it yet. Like Molly, I will come back to it sooner, rather than later. "Carbon drainer" is a great reminder. Here's to more trees!

    1. Thank you, Denise. Hope you get the chance to more thoroughly connect with kennings in the days to come.

  7. I've recently written these and I had NO idea they were called kennings. Thank you for sharing this!

    1. Marcie, it's great when we can give something a name. Good for you!

  8. Kennings! What fun! I'm reminded of a number of country-pop songs that make use of these. Now you've inspired me to give some a try. Thank you!

    1. Patricia, your observation regarding song lyrics is so true. Thank you for the reminder. Go get those kennings!


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