Kennings in the Community

Welcome to Kennings in the Community, a resource for teachers, poets and any interested members of the public who want to learn about the scope for the use of kennings as a stimulus for poetic creativity. Kennings are riddle-like phrases used by Viking and Anglo-Saxon poets to refer to or describe something without naming it directly. This resource explores the ways in which this medieval poetic device may be adapted to accommodate the mindset of individuals within our contemporary cultural community. Poets are constantly seeking new means of viewing and expressing the world around us. ‘Thinking’ in kennings can encourage us to question and re-imagine the way our culture understands the world.

The resources provided on this page stem from creative writing workshops run by Lucy Hamilton, Emma Hammond, Jane Monson and Debbie Potts in Cambridge and London during April 2013. Kennings are a wonderfully malleable tool for creativity; they can be surreal, disconcerting, playful, lyrical, acoustically tactile and mysterious. In the April workshops, participants took to kennings intuitively, finding them to be a great springboard for unexpected metaphors and images. We hope you find the resources given below equally productive and inspiring, and you are encouraged to offer your feedback or share your writing by leaving a reply at the bottom of this page.

Viking Kennings

Workshops & Exercises

Contributing Riddle-Smiths

Lucy Hamilton is a teacher, writer and editor based in Cambridge, UK. Ten poems from her pamphlet Sonnets for my Mother (Hearing Eye, 2009) have been translated into Arabic and several are currently being set to music. Her collection of prose poems Stalker (Shearsman, 2012) was shortlisted for the Forward Felix Dennis Prize for Best First Collection. Poems from her second collection (in progress) have recently appeared in Shearsman Magazine and PN Review. She co-edits Long Poem Magazine.


Emma Hammond is a freelance writer and experimental poet from London. She tutors on poetry and pretends to know about Skaldic Verse. Emma has a book published with Flipped Eye called ‘Tunth-sk’ and has self-published two pamphlets, ‘Sleeveless Errand’ and ‘Softly Softly Catchy Monkey’. She lives with a cat and a 7 year old girl and a fish called Bob.


Dr Jane Monson is a writer, tutor, bookseller and events organiser in Cambridge. She is the author of Speaking without Tongues (Cinnamon Press), a collection of prose poems and the editor of an anthology of Contemporary British Prose Poetry. Her second collection, The Shared Surface, is forthcoming from Cinnamon Press.


Debbie Potts recently completed her PhD on kennings in skaldic poetry at the University of Cambridge. She coordinates the cultural engagement projects Modern Poets on Viking Poetry and Kennings in the Community.

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