Poetry is prose with a melody. It is rather easy to put down your ideas in prose writing, but with poetry writing, you need to express things that the human eye will often overlook.
Consider a four-year-old holding a lollipop at a mall.
One would normally see it as just a child with candy. But a poet would imagine the child smearing the candy all over his face and clothes while his mother isn’t looking. Then at the motherly instinct of supervising her child, she turns to see the baby smeared in pink from head to toe and as sticky as melted rubber, as she slowly turns red in anger.
This form of creative writing can appear quite challenging for beginners, but with our tips on how to write a poem, you have all the necessary tools to excel as a poem writer.
Tips on How To Write A Poem
Whether you want to be a full-time poet or you are interested in learning the art for your own pleasure, these tips will help you learn how to write poems.
1. Understand The Types Of Poetry
You probably didn’t know that poetry isn’t just one kind. There are three types of poetic writing styles with different structures:
Narrative Poetry – This poem has a well-defined narrative, much like a story or script. There is a plot as well as characters and a climax leading up to the finale.
Dramatic Poetry– This kind is meant to describe an event or a story.
Lyrical Poetry – This is the more common idea of poetry that people have. It flows almost like a song and is used to portray the author’s feeling or a particular imagination.
An example of lyrical poetry is taken from one of Shakespeare’s Sonnets
“Two loves I have of comfort and despair,
Which like two spirits do suggest me still
The better angel is a man right fair,
The worser spirit a woman coloured ill.
To win me soon to hell, my female evil
Tempteth my better angel from my side,
And would corrupt my saint to be a devil,
Wooing his purity with her foul pride.
And, whether that my angel be turn’d fiend,
Suspect I may, yet not directly tell,
But being both from me both to each friend,
I guess one angel in another’s hell.
Yet this shall I ne’er know, but live in doubt,
Till my bad angel fire my good one out.”
Shakespeare’s Sonnet 144
2. Think up A Starting Point when learning how to write a poem
The starting point being referred to here does not necessarily have to be the first line of the poem, but it is the central feeling that you want to portray through the piece. It’s the reason for the creation of a written poem and will be pivotal in helping you branch out and complete the entire verse and understand how to write poems.
It could be subtle imagery of the calm breaths of a sleeping child or the rampant movements of the waves of a troubled sea.
It is imperative that you build on a strong starting point, if you aren’t confident in it, then you might as well not go any further. This is just like finding your goal. Do you want to give a description of a personal experience or explore the wonders of nature? Or do you intend to protest some act of injustice or praise an act of heroism?
“Poetry … is the revelation of a feeling that the poet believes to be interior and personal which the reader recognizes as his own.” — Salvatore Quasimodo
3. Find A Structure on how to write a poem
A poem’s format is subject to versatility. The writer has the discretion to express himself in whatever way he desires. Unlike prose, poetry is more about emotions, and readers are drawn to how strongly the author’s feelings are portrayed in the piece.
However, a useful tip on how to write a poem for beginners is to have a structure in mind. With creative writing, following a specific poem format helps in bringing out your productivity and allowing you greater control over your ideas.
You can structure your poetry based on form, or punctuation to understanding better how to write a good poem
Structure of Poems Based On Form
The common forms of poetry are determined based on the number of words in a line (line length), the number of lines or stanzas, and the presence or absence of rhyme.
Sonnet – Like Shakespeare’s Sonnet cited above, a sonnet consists of 14 lines of alternate rhyme.
Limerick – This 5-line poem has a peculiar rhyming arrangement. The 1st, 2nd, and 5th lines end in similar rhyme, while the 3rd and 4th end in a different rhyme.
Haiku – This is one of the shortest forms of poetic writing. It consists of three lines, where the first and last lines each have five syllables and the second line has 7.
Epic – An epic is a long poem that describes the adventures of heroes.
Acrostic – Here, the author intentionally uses the first letter of each line to emphasize the theme of the poem or to deliver a strong message.
Couplet – A couplet is a stanza of two lines that can stand as a separate poem or be a part of a lengthier one.
Free Verse – Just as the name suggests, free verse is essentially a freestyle poem. Its arrangements for line and rhyme are up to the discretion of the author. He or she may decide to make up a unique structure or not use any at all.
Structure of Poems Based On Punctuation to understand how to write poems
A comma in English Language can completely transform the meaning of a sentence. For instance;
- Let’s eat mum.
- Let’s eat, mum.
The first would mean you are suggesting to eat your mum, and the next means you are inviting your mother to eat. Such a miniature demarcation between two words can turn a rather creepy phrase to a pleasant one.
Punctuation is just as powerful in poetry, although it is used differently than in regular writing.
To learn how to write a good poem, punctuation is primarily used to add effect – create suspense or allow room for thought. It regulates where the reader takes a pause as well as the length of the pause. Here are the possible applications of punctuation in poetry:
Grammatical Punctuation – You can apply punctuation as you would in regular writing. This means that if all lines were to be joined together, they would make complete sense grammatically.
Stylistic Punctuation – For stylistic punctuation, a comma would indicate a short pause while a full stop will signify a longer one. Completely ignoring punctuation is also another style of writing poetry. It gives a feeling of ‘rush’ to the piece and could be useful if that is the emotion you are trying to pass across.
Combination – The possibility to mix and match is probably the greatest perk of written poems. You can decide to implement stylistic punctuation as well as a line or two of grammatical punctuation. As long as your chosen style is intentional and purposeful, it is fine to deviate from a predefined structure.
Poetry breaks the standard rules of punctuation because it transcends ordinary language.
A famous quote by Paul Engle says,
“Poetry is ordinary language raised to the Nth power. Poetry is boned with ideas, nerved and blooded with emotions, all held together by the delicate, tough skin of words.”
4. Read and Be Inspired to know how to write a poem
Every successful writer has to be an avid reader. Learn how poets write by reading up on poetry written by others. It could be those by amateurs like yourself or recognized professionals. If perhaps you already have an idea in mind, then focus on similar kinds of poetry to understand how to write a good poem.
For a better understanding of a genre, choose a classic – you can’t go wrong.
Examples of classics are:
‘Night funeral in Harlem’ by Langston Hughes.
Where did they get
Them two fine cars?
Insurance man, he did not pay—
His insurance lapsed the other day—
Yet they got a satin box
for his head to lay.
Who was it sent
That wreath of flowers?
Them flowers came
from that poor boy’s friends—
They’ll want flowers, too,
When they meet their ends.
‘I measure every grief I meet’ by Emily Dickinson.
“I measure every Grief I meet
With narrow, probing, eyes –
I wonder if it weighs like Mine –
Or has an Easier size.
I wonder if they bore it long –
Or did it just begin –
I could not tell the Date of Mine –
It feels so old a pain –”
5. To understand how to write poems, Utilize Imagery To The Fullest
When learning how to write a good poem, one of the poet’s strongest weapons is his imagination. Imagery, as a literary device, does not have to do with physical pictures but refers to elements that can cause a reaction in any of the five senses.
Here’s an example of visual imagery:
Daffodils by W.W.Worth
“I wandered lonely as a cloud
That floats on high o’er vales and hiils,
When all at once I saw a crowd,
A host, of golden daffodils;
Beside the lake, beneath the trees,
Fluttering and dancing in the breeze.”
Here, the author engages our sense of sight by using strong and explicit descriptions of a wanderer and the field of Daffodils he stumbles upon. The reader is able to imagine almost vividly the situation as if he were the speaker.
An example of auditory imagery is the following excerpt from After Apple Picking by Robert Frost
“I feel the ladder sway as the boughs bend.
And I keep hearing from the cellar bin
The rumbling sound
Of load on load of apples coming in.”
6. Simile And Metaphor are necessary when learning how to write a poem
Simile and metaphor are the most common literary devices in writing. As a writer learning how to write a poem, you will find that these tools have more than a few uses.
A simile compares two objects by linking them with ‘as’ or ‘like,’ while metaphor classifies one thing as something else without a direct comparison.
Examples of simile:
- When at last he reached the well, it was as dry as a bone
- He was infuriated but remained as cool as a cucumber
Examples of metaphor:
- Her voice was music to my ears
- I finally realized the chameleon that he is
They serve to create a clearer or more vivid image of the object.
The well wasn’t just dry; it was completely arid. Her voice wasn’t just beautiful; it was melodious.
A simile is not more effective than a metaphor, and neither is metaphor more than a simile. What matters is the appropriate usage of comparison or inference.
7. Speak To The Senses Through Concrete Words
Using concrete words makes it easier for the reader to have a sensory response. Abstract words like love and freedom can be interpreted in different ways, and the reader’s interpretation could derail from the author’s intentions. However, concrete words like apple, dog, or cold are easy to grasp. You can taste an apple, you can hear a dog, and you can feel cold.
Using concrete words immerses the reader and makes the emotions come alive.
Consider these two phrases:
“I felt sad.”
“My heart sunk down my chest as torrents of tears flowed from my eyes.”
The first sentence merely states that you are unhappy, while the second phrase expresses the feeling of sadness is a more in-depth and gut-wrenching manner.
8. Be Careful With Rhyme when Writing Poetry
Not every poem has to rhyme, but adding melody to poetry is like adding honey to tea – it makes it more savory. However, keep in mind that rather than forcing rhyme when learning how to write a poem, it is better to not have it at all. Forced rhymes end up leaving a sour taste.
There are other options on how to write a good poem that is pleasurable to the ear. You can appeal to readers through alliteration, assonance, and internal rhymes.
Alliteration – This is the style of using a string of words that begin with the same consonant. Alliteration is a common instrument used in poetry writing because it produces a staccato effect, especially with hard consonants like C, T, N, or CH.
“While I nodded nearly napping, suddenly there came a tapping…” by Edgar Allen Poe
Assonance – To get the effect of rhyme without actually rhyming, the use of assonance is key. Assonance is similar to alliteration, except that it has to do with vowels—for example, mellow wedding bells.
Internal Rhyme – You could use internal rhyme to avoid the sometimes cramped-up feeling that generates with regular rhymes. Instead of rhyming end words, rhyme words inside the lines.
9. Learn how to write a poem For Yourself
An impactful poem makes the reader feel what the poet feels. If you plan to get your work published, it is normal to fear how well it will be received by the audience or even how meaningful the final product will turn out. The proven way to get rid of that anxiety is to think only of one audience member, yourself.
A poet’s greatest validation is himself. If you have been changed or had your beliefs challenged in some way by your own work, that is the greatest sign that you have succeeded.
You could always polish the draft before going ahead to publish.
10. Cliches Murder The Art In Writing Poetry
That alliteration that has been used one too many times, that simile that has lost its value, or that metaphor that no longer stimulates the mind are clichés that can turn your poem into a mere joke.
Some overly used phrases include:
- Busy as a bee
- Strong as a lion
- Blind as a bat
- Working my fingers to the bone, etc.
If you want to create a strong piece, avoid clichés. If you feel you may have heard a phrase a couple of times already, then try rewriting it. Poetry is art written on paper, and an artist thrives on originality.
Here are three steps to putting an original spin on a cliché
- Find out what the cliché is trying to say
- Think of a different way of expressing the same meaning
- Use your own words to create a new phrase
You want the reader to be continuously intrigued and constantly surprised. Use crisp and concrete wording, and remember to never force a rhyme.
11. Pay Attention To The Last Words
We often recognize poetry by the way in which the last words in a line end – either by rhyme or the unusual punctuation. Knowing how to start a poem is essential but even more so is how you end it. That last word resonates in the subconscious mind and is the easiest way to recollect a piece of poetry that you may have come across.
The last line of the piece should also be very emphatic as it is a climax of feelings, emotions, or the narrative plot. In a written poem, there is no right or wrong method. The only method should be the one that precisely portrays what the author intends and produces the desired effect on the reader. Doing that will help you to master how to write a poem
12. Cut Straight To The Chase
Creating poems is usually shorter than other forms of writing. Some poems like epic can be rather lengthy, but the majority consist of just a few lines. Long poem or not, it is crucial to take a minimalist approach in getting your point across.
“Use no superfluous word, no adjective, which does not reveal something. Don’t use such an expression as ‘dim land of peace.’ It dulls the image. It mixes an abstraction with the concrete. It comes from the writer’s not realising that the natural object is always the adequate symbol. Go in fear of abstractions.” – Ezra Pound
You shouldn’t beat around the bush; even one meaningless line can cut readers off from the build-up of emotions. If any word seems even the least bit unnecessary, consider cutting out and stick to the bare necessities. It will help you to master how to write a poem
13. Revise, Polish, and Refine
Learning how to write a poem requires lots of patience. The best poems aren’t driven by the writer but are those that drive the writer. Rushing a piece of poetry to meet a deadline can take away from the impact it would have had otherwise. The moment you are done with the first draft of a written poem is only the beginning. A short poem may take months or years to perfect, and you should never get tired of revising it.
This shouldn’t put you off, rather think of it as a form of recreation every time to look over the poem.
If you intend to publish your work, a good idea would be to get a second opinion from an expert in the field. Feedback like “it’s a good poem” should be unsatisfactory to you. Constructive criticism is what you require. Another great option is to seek the help of a poetry editor.
Try taking your mind off it for a while, and then come back to it with a refreshed and reinvigorated mind. Re-reading it at this point will help you see it from another perspective, and you can easily pick out details that need improvement.
Benefits of Learning How to write a poem
Samuel Taylor Coleridge was quoted saying “I wish our clever young poets would remember my homely definitions of prose and poetry; that is prose; words in their best order; – poetry; the best words in the best order.”
Just as poetry brings out the best in words, writing poetry also brings out the best in people.
Learning How to write a poem helps to Connect With Your Emotions
When writing a novel or a script, there is a plot that establishes the direction the writer proceeds in. But when you write a poem, you follow your emotions wherever they take you. Although a narrative poem has a plotline, the manner in which every line is expressed is influenced by the poet’s feelings.
Learning How to write a poem Strengthens Your Knowledge Of Writing Prose
Poetry and writing are two similar concepts. Poetry uses strong language that is brief and concise, so a good knowledge of how to write a poem will make you stronger in writing prose.
Learning How to write a poem Improves Your Imagery And Patience
Poetry increases your skills in solid imagery because poems are highly dependent on this tool. Plus, it is common knowledge that a verse of poetry can take longer to finish than a 10,000-word novel, so when you learn how to write poems, you are also getting schooled in patience.
Learning How to write a poem will serve as a Source Of Income That Attracts Recognition
By learning how to write a poem, you not only acquire personal qualities but material ones too. You can make writing poetry your full-time job and earn a steady stream of profits. Even better is the recognition that the profession brings. Think William Shakespeare, Emily Dickinson, and Langston Hughes – perfect examples of how poetry can bring fame to last a lifetime and beyond.