How to Write a Poem

Updated: May 14, 2020

Want to write better poems? You have stumbled upon the right article. If you have never written a poem before, it can be daunting to write your first one. But there are certain tools that can help you improve your poetry writing skills. Writing poetry does not mean simply stringing flowery phrases together and trying your hardest to make it rhyme. Great poetry is the ability to write about simple things in a way that hasn’t been stated before.

Whether you are an aspiring poet or merely need to finish an assignment for your creative writing class, the following guidelines listed below will help you create your own masterpiece.

1) Steal Random Conversations

Don’t know where to get your poem ideas from? It’s simple, listen to random conversation, in other words, eavesdrop! Just grab a notebook and a pen and jot down snippets of conversations that you hear in your day to day life. Sit yourself down in a busy area, for example in a train, a mall or at a coffee shop and listen to the conversations that take place around you. You can now use these snippets to inspire a poem topic or use them in your poems and add your own lines to it. If you want to challenge yourself, you can make a poem using only the phrases that you heard.

Norman Mailer, an American writer, used to do it too (if that makes you feel any better about eavesdropping). Mailer used to whip out his spiral notebook and jot down conversations in the middle of parties he was attending! “Listening to others can kickstart poems, because you’ll hear things you would never say or think yourself,” Robert Lee Brewer, Senior Content Editor said in an article in Writer’s Digest.

2) It Is Okay If Your Poem Does Not Rhyme

Now that you have figured out what you are going to write about, you need to figure out how you are going to write your poem. Let go of the traditional thought, “If it doesn’t rhyme, it’s not a poem.” This is a common misconception. Your poem does not always need to rhyme. In Ancient Greek, poems didn’t always rhyme. It was only after the Middle Ages that European poetry began to use rhyme schemes. A poem can have a free verse, that is, an irregular cadence. Famous poets like Walt Whitman, Carl Sandburg, Sylvia Plath and Robert Graves, all wrote unrhymed poems. The purpose of writing poetry is to express powerful emotions to the reader and for doing this, a rhyme scheme is not always necessary. It is totally up to you to use a rhyme scheme or not.

3) Avoid The Same Old Clichés

We have all heard poems with the same cliché metaphors and similes. Avoid using clichés like busy as a bee, blind as a bat or bright like a diamond. Because of overuse of these similes and metaphors, they lose their meanings. Instead try coming up with original similes and metaphors. Try being as unique as possible, as figurative writing can add color to your poems. Skilled use of metaphors and similes can take your writing from mundane to magical.

4) Turn Ideas Into Images

Images create snapshots in the reader’s mind. The easiest way to turn your ideas into images is to think of an idea that you want to convert and then shut your eyes and note down what you saw. For example, if I say the word, love, you may see hearts or a loved one’s face. Use this image to express love instead of actually using the word love. “This is the mind’s translation of an idea, an abstract concept to a mental picture, an image. The mind does this naturally,” said Jeffrey Ingram, Creative Writing Professor at Arcadia University “this is a great tool for using imagery in your poems.”

5) Use All Five Senses

Consider using all five senses in your poem (sight, sound, texture/touch, taste and smell). These senses are a powerful tool to add dimension to your poem. They help convey a message by  creating a strong image in the reader’s mind. Think about how the subject of your poem looks like, sounds like or feels like. Write down each five senses and words that describe each of these five senses. For example, if your poem is about winter, snowflakes will constitute sight. With less activity going on in winters, you can associate this stillness with the sound and so on for all the senses. Add these descriptors to your poem. You obviously need not include all the five senses. Only use the ones that help enhance the message of the poem.

6) Choose The Structure Of Your Poem Carefully

What do you want your poem to look like on a page? Do you want your poem to have a lot of  white space around the lines or have the lines tightly packed? What words do you want to capitalize in your poem? What will be the length of your line? These are some important questions that you need to consider while deciding the structure of your poem. You need to choose the structure of your poem carefully so that it matches with the theme of your poem. This can enhance its meaning. For example, Emily Dickinson, an American poet, in her poem “By Homely Gift and Hindered Words” used increasingly shorter line lengths to reflect the diminution to nothingness that the poem discusses. Some poets even write poems that are in the shape of the thing they are writing about, for example, a poem written in a zig-zag pattern about snakes.

7) Read It Out Loud 

Once you are done writing your poem, read your poem out loud to yourself and then ask someone else to read it out loud for you. Your poem might sound different when someone else reads it out for you. Notice the sound of the poem, places where the person takes a pause and the speed of the reading. If the poem doesn’t sound like how you think it should, edit and recite it until it does.

Remember that writing poetry offers an unlimited amount of creative freedom. There are no rules when it comes to writing poems. So what are you waiting for? That poem isn’t going to write itself. So go ahead, apply all these guidelines to enhance your craft!

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