I've tried simple searches on Google and MELPA with keywords like "emacs poetry mode" or "emacs verse mode" but haven't found anything specifically built for the purpose.

The manual walks through some common extensions to text-mode but they're designed for text-plus-markup. I'm looking for text-plus-distinctive-formatting.

Org has #+BEGIN_VERSE / #+END_VERSE markup, which preserves whitespace upon export. That's about as far as you can get from what I'm looking for.

I'm looking for a mode that knows a few conventions for indentation, capitalization, and punctuation. Bonus points if it's good about respecting isolated breaks from those conventions.

  • You could certainly automate indentation and capitalization of lines if that is what you are after. However, I'm not sure that I understand what you want Emacs to do about punctuation. Do you plan on typing poetry without punctuation, and then letting Emacs "auto-correct" your punctuation errors? It might help to show a before-and-after example of some text.
    – nispio
    Commented Oct 8, 2014 at 21:53
  • I agree, I can definitely code up what I'm looking for! I just thought it would make a perfect Q-and-A if there were an Emacs-using poet out there with a recommendation. Re: punctuation. The specific example in my head was adding "--" => "–" (en dash) to the local abbrev table, or including keybindings to quickly adjust the local syntax table. I left those examples out of the Q since (1) I didn't want answers to "how to add to the local abbrev table" or "how to modify the syntax table" and (2) I didn't want to preemptively narrow the scope of valid answers. Commented Oct 8, 2014 at 22:04
  • I'll think a little more on your suggestions and will update the Q with specific examples. Commented Oct 8, 2014 at 22:05
  • I'm aware of palimpsest, which is intended for writing prose. It may or may not suit your workflow. Commented Oct 8, 2014 at 22:06
  • 1
    @purple_arrows I do use Emacs to write poetry, the best mode I can imagine is text-mode. First, when I started to search about a poetry-mode, I thought I should maybe use Markdown and then transform it in a beautiful manner with whatever library. Using markup while writing is a big problem : the poetry looks like code (it can be interesting), but it's maybe not what you are searching. If you need to count Alexandrians and show errors or something similar, a poetry-mode is ok, else, you'd better keep the content away from formatting. Or even use paper. This is an artistic answer.
    – smonff
    Commented Oct 9, 2014 at 15:12

2 Answers 2


I've been wanting the same thing so I wrote one. You can get poetry.el here:


It's somewhat modelled after 'Verse Perfect' except, of course, it's for Emacs. It works with Linux. I don't have other systems to test on.

It does these things:

  • Provides foot counts by line in the left margin.
  • Interfaces with offline and online rhyming dictionaries.
  • Provides rhyming templates (on the left) for various verse forms.

Feedback is welcome if you decide to try this out. My email address is in the code comments.

  • This is incredible. Do you know anyone who's gotten this working with Mac OSX? It looks like the rhyme package is for Ubuntu. How can I get it working on OSX? Commented Jun 23, 2015 at 17:22

Emacs Muse (also known as “Muse” or “Emacs-Muse”) is an authoring and publishing environment for Emacs. It simplifies the process of writing documents and publishing them to various output formats.Muse consists of two main parts: an enhanced text-mode for authoring documents and navigating within Muse projects, and a set of publishing styles for generating different kinds of output.

Muse Mode should automatically be activated when you visit a file with a “.muse” extension. One such file is QuickStart.muse, which is available in the examples directory of the Muse distribution. You can tell that Muse Mode has been activated by checking for the text “Muse” in your mode line. If Muse Mode has not been activated, you may activate it by type M-xmuse-mode RET.

In your case for indicating poetic stanzas, poetry requires that whitespace be preserved (I'm sure you already know this), but without resorting to monospace. To indicate this, use the following markup, reminiscent of email quotations. So open up a file with an .muse extension and type any of the following:

 > A line of Emacs verse;
 >   forgive its being so terse.

You can also use the tag, if you prefer.

 A line of Emacs verse;
   forgive its being so terse.

Multiple stanzas may be included in one set of tags, as follows.

 A line of Emacs verse;
   forgive its being so terse.

 In terms of terse verse,
   you could do worse.
  • Thanks for the pointer. I saw Muse in my Google searches but passed over it because I assumed it, like Org Mode, would give me markup to preserve whitespace on export. I've been playing with it for a weekend now and haven't found additional features that differentiate Muse Mode for writing poetry. Could you update your answer with a specific example of a non-whitespace-export feature of Muse? Commented Oct 13, 2014 at 23:36

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