NaPoWriMo Day 22: Peter Wallis – Catechism

Time for a bit of Q&A as Peter Wallis guides us through the process of writing a catechism poem.

Peter writes:

I came across the catechism form in Carrie Etter’s moving collection Imagined Sons.

A catechism is a series of questions and answers used in order to learn. In Carrie’s work the same question is repeated a number of times, each time generating a different but oblique answer.

I use this form in my forthcoming book HALF OTHER, which is in preparation with the Hippocrates Press. 

I write about being a twin and in conversation, the first question I’m usually asked is, Are you identical? I must have been asked this thousands of times. 

The answer is complicated: we were, but our lives have diverged significantly. My poem reads:


Are you identical?
There was said to be a single placenta when we were born
and Nurse Delahunty was an honest woman.

Are you identical?
I have been kissed in the street by an unknown blonde.

Are you identical?
Sometimes like snowflakes, sometimes like rain.

Are you identical?
My sons have no cousins by him.

Are you identical?
Differentiation by outcome.

I suggest four steps to writing a catechism of your own:

Pose a personal question

Generate multiple oblique answers

Select only the most interesting, allowing for a jump in thought

The final answer should land the poem in some way

Good luck and enjoy today’s writing prompt.

Peter Wallis is a Hawthornden Fellow, and Submissions Editor for the U.K. charity “Poems in the Waiting Room”. He has won several prizes and has been shortlisted in the National Poetry Competition. He won publication of a pamphlet, Articles of Twinship, in the Bare Fiction Debut Poetry Collection Competition 2015. Half Other, his first full collection, is forthcoming from the Hippocrates Press.

If you’ve enjoyed this podcast please consider showing your support with a donation via

Buy Me a Coffee at

Books by many of the poets featured on the podcast are available from the Poetry Non-Stop bookshop here. All books purchased via this link help to raise money to keep this podcast going.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s