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  • Writing Poetry

How to Write Poetry for Beginners

Last Updated: January 12, 2024 Fact Checked

This article was co-authored by Alicia Cook and by wikiHow staff writer, Hannah Madden . Alicia Cook is a Professional Writer based in Newark, New Jersey. With over 12 years of experience, Alicia specializes in poetry and uses her platform to advocate for families affected by addiction and to fight for breaking the stigma against addiction and mental illness. She holds a BA in English and Journalism from Georgian Court University and an MBA from Saint Peter’s University. Alicia is a bestselling poet with Andrews McMeel Publishing and her work has been featured in numerous media outlets including the NY Post, CNN, USA Today, the HuffPost, the LA Times, American Songwriter Magazine, and Bustle. She was named by Teen Vogue as one of the 10 social media poets to know and her poetry mixtape, “Stuff I’ve Been Feeling Lately” was a finalist in the 2016 Goodreads Choice Awards. There are 13 references cited in this article, which can be found at the bottom of the page. This article has been fact-checked, ensuring the accuracy of any cited facts and confirming the authority of its sources. This article has been viewed 233,746 times.

Writing poetry is a way to convey emotions, memories, and nostalgia without directly stating what you are describing. Writing poetry for the first time can be challenging, since there are so many ways to start and finish a poem. If you are a beginner and want to write poetry for the first time, use a journal to keep track of your inspiration and expand your language by using metaphors and similes to create beautiful and relatable poetry.

Finding Time and Inspiration for Poetry

Step 1 Read famous poems as examples to follow.

  • Langston Hughes, Maya Angelou, and Sylvia Plath are also famous poets that have varying styles.
  • You can also see some examples of different styles and tones in poetry by comparing and contrasting authors.

Step 2 Get in tune with your emotions.

  • Understanding your own emotions can be difficult. Try to dissect how you feel on a daily basis, and what situations disrupt your mood often.
  • Emotions are a great tool to use in poetry because people feel them universally.

Step 3 Set aside time to write every day.

  • If you think you will forget to write, try setting an alarm on your phone or using a post-it note to remind you.

Step 4 Keep a poetry journal with you to write when inspiration strikes.

Tip: Use a journal that is small enough to keep in your bag, or even your pocket.

Step 5 Use writing prompts to give you inspiration.

  • For example, answer a prompt like, “Write about your first birthday party,” or, “Convey an emotion using only colors.”
  • You can often find poetry writing prompts on sites that accept poetry submissions.

Beginning Your Poem

Step 1 Choose the type of poem you want it to be.

  • A poem doesn't have to make sense grammatically. What matters is that your audience gets the message you want to communicate using your own formation of the words.

Alicia Cook

For example: Do you like the sunflower? Does it invoke any emotions in you? Does the sunflower represent or remind you of something?

Step 3 Use descriptive language to convey emotions.

  • How does the sea look? Use descriptive terms relating to colors, motion, depth, temperature, and other standard features. The sea might be foaming, producing whirlpools, looking glassy, or turning grey at the advent or a storm; describe whatever comes to mind for you.
  • What are some of its aspects that are noticeable in your sea? The froth of the waves, the fish under the surface, the height of waves during a storm, the lull when the wind dies down, the mounting garbage greys, a school of dolphins passing through, sea level rise along coastlines, the mournful cries of the Pacific gulls––these are all things you might notice in relation to the sea of your poem.

Writing the Rest

Step 1 Use rhyming words if you’d like your poem to have a rhythm.

  • Try to think of these words yourself rather than looking them up in a dictionary or online so that your poem flows better.
  • Stressed and unstressed syllables also create rhythm in a poem. In the sentence “He’d like some pumpkin pie,” “like,” “pump-,” and “pie” are all emphasized based on how you say them.
  • Remember that not all poems rhyme! It's okay if you don't want your poem to rhyme.

Step 2 Write your poem using metaphors and similes.

For example, you could say, “The sea was a night sky, expanding like an inkblot in the water.”

Step 3 Don’t feel like your poem has to be a certain length.

  • Your first poem can be short. You can work your way up to longer poetry over time.

Step 4 Revise your first draft of your poem.

  • Remember that you are the poet, expressing your feelings through your poems so intuition, above anything else, is key.

Step 5 Create a final draft of your poem.

  • If you will be submitting your poem anywhere, it is very important to make sure your final copy looks exactly how you want it to.

Poetry for Beginners Worksheet

writing poetry for beginners

Community Q&A

wikiHow Staff Editor

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You Might Also Like

Write a Poem

  • ↑ https://earlybirdbooks.com/most-famous-poems
  • ↑ https://www.nwp.org/cs/public/print/resource/402
  • ↑ https://www.familyfriendpoems.com/poem/article-write-poetry-every-day
  • ↑ https://www.loc.gov/poetry/180/007.html
  • ↑ https://poetrysociety.org.uk/competitions/national-poetry-competition/resources/poetry-writing-prompts/
  • ↑ https://www.familyfriendpoems.com/poems/other/
  • ↑ Alicia Cook. Professional Poet. Expert Interview. 11 December 2020.
  • ↑ https://jerz.setonhill.edu/writing/creative1/poetry-writing-tips-how-to-write-a-poem/comment-page-4/
  • ↑ https://www.poetryfoundation.org/articles/70212/learning-image-and-description
  • ↑ https://literaryterms.net/rhyme/
  • ↑ https://www.poetryfoundation.org/articles/69588/the-start-writing-your-own-poem
  • ↑ https://jerz.setonhill.edu/writing/creative1/poetry-writing-tips-how-to-write-a-poem/#10
  • ↑ https://abegailmorley.wordpress.com/2012/12/30/drafting-a-poem/

About This Article

Alicia Cook

If you’re a beginner trying to write poetry, start by deciding what your poem will be about, like love or a meaningful experience. Then, choose a structure that you're comfortable with, like rhyming or free-form. Next, come up with an interesting or mysterious first line that entices your reader to keep reading. Once you have a good opening line, use as many strong, descriptive words as you can in the rest of the poem to express your thoughts and feelings to the reader. To learn how reciting your poem out loud as you write can make your poem even better, keep reading! Did this summary help you? Yes No

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To learn how to write a poem step-by-step, let’s start where all poets start: the basics.

This article is an in-depth introduction to how to write a poem. We first answer the question, “What is poetry?” We then discuss the literary elements of poetry, and showcase some different approaches to the writing process—including our own seven-step process on how to write a poem step by step.

So, how do you write a poem? Let’s start with what poetry is.

What Poetry Is

It’s important to know what poetry is—and isn’t—before we discuss how to write a poem. The following quote defines poetry nicely:

“Poetry is language at its most distilled and most powerful.” —Former US Poet Laureate Rita Dove

Poetry Conveys Feeling

People sometimes imagine poetry as stuffy, abstract, and difficult to understand. Some poetry may be this way, but in reality poetry isn’t about being obscure or confusing. Poetry is a lyrical, emotive method of self-expression, using the elements of poetry to highlight feelings and ideas.

A poem should make the reader feel something.

In other words, a poem should make the reader feel something—not by telling them what to feel, but by evoking feeling directly.

Here’s a contemporary poem that, despite its simplicity (or perhaps because of its simplicity), conveys heartfelt emotion.

Poetry is Language at its Richest and Most Condensed

Unlike longer prose writing (such as a short story, memoir, or novel), poetry needs to impact the reader in the richest and most condensed way possible. Here’s a famous quote that enforces that distinction:

“Prose: words in their best order; poetry: the best words in the best order.” —Samuel Taylor Coleridge

So poetry isn’t the place to be filling in long backstories or doing leisurely scene-setting. In poetry, every single word carries maximum impact.

Poetry Uses Unique Elements

Poetry is not like other kinds of writing: it has its own unique forms, tools, and principles. Together, these elements of poetry help it to powerfully impact the reader in only a few words.

The elements of poetry help it to powerfully impact the reader in only a few words.

Most poetry is written in verse , rather than prose . This means that it uses line breaks, alongside rhythm or meter, to convey something to the reader. Rather than letting the text break at the end of the page (as prose does), verse emphasizes language through line breaks.

Poetry further accentuates its use of language through rhyme and meter. Poetry has a heightened emphasis on the musicality of language itself: its sounds and rhythms, and the feelings they carry.

These devices—rhyme, meter, and line breaks—are just a few of the essential elements of poetry, which we’ll explore in more depth now.

Understanding the Elements of Poetry

As we explore how to write a poem step by step, these three major literary elements of poetry should sit in the back of your mind:

  • Rhythm (Sound, Rhyme, and Meter)
  • Literary Devices

1. Elements of Poetry: Rhythm

“Rhythm” refers to the lyrical, sonic qualities of the poem. How does the poem move and breathe; how does it feel on the tongue?

Traditionally, poets relied on rhyme and meter to accomplish a rhythmically sound poem. Free verse poems—which are poems that don’t require a specific length, rhyme scheme, or meter—only became popular in the West in the 20th century, so while rhyme and meter aren’t requirements of modern poetry, they are required of certain poetry forms.

Poetry is capable of evoking certain emotions based solely on the sounds it uses. Words can sound sinister, percussive, fluid, cheerful, dour, or any other noise/emotion in the complex tapestry of human feeling.

Take, for example, this excerpt from the poem “Beat! Beat! Drums!” by Walt Whitman:

elements of poetry: sound

Red — “b” sounds

Blue — “th” sounds

Green — “w” and “ew” sounds

Purple — “s” sounds

Orange — “d” and “t” sounds

This poem has a lot of percussive, disruptive sounds that reinforce the beating of the drums. The “b,” “d,” “w,” and “t” sounds resemble these drum beats, while the “th” and “s” sounds are sneakier, penetrating a deeper part of the ear. The cacophony of this excerpt might not sound “lyrical,” but it does manage to command your attention, much like drums beating through a city might sound.

To learn more about consonance and assonance, euphony and cacophony, and the other uses of sound, take a look at our article “12 Literary Devices in Poetry.”


It would be a crime if you weren’t primed on the ins and outs of rhymes. “Rhyme” refers to words that have similar pronunciations, like this set of words: sound, hound, browned, pound, found, around.

Many poets assume that their poetry has to rhyme, and it’s true that some poems require a complex rhyme scheme. However, rhyme isn’t nearly as important to poetry as it used to be. Most traditional poetry forms—sonnets, villanelles , rimes royal, etc.—rely on rhyme, but contemporary poetry has largely strayed from the strict rhyme schemes of yesterday.

There are three types of rhymes:

  • Homophony: Homophones are words that are spelled differently but sound the same, like “tail” and “tale.” Homophones often lead to commonly misspelled words .
  • Perfect Rhyme: Perfect rhymes are word pairs that are identical in sound except for one minor difference. Examples include “slant and pant,” “great and fate,” and “shower and power.”
  • Slant Rhyme: Slant rhymes are word pairs that use the same sounds, but their final vowels have different pronunciations. For example, “abut” and “about” are nearly-identical in sound, but are pronounced differently enough that they don’t completely rhyme. This is also known as an oblique rhyme or imperfect rhyme.

Meter refers to the stress patterns of words. Certain poetry forms require that the words in the poem follow a certain stress pattern, meaning some syllables are stressed and others are unstressed.

What is “stressed” and “unstressed”? A stressed syllable is the sound that you emphasize in a word. The bolded syllables in the following words are stressed, and the unbolded syllables are unstressed:

  • Un• stressed
  • Plat• i• tud• i•nous
  • De •act•i• vate
  • Con• sti •tu• tion•al

The pattern of stressed and unstressed syllables is important to traditional poetry forms. This chart, copied from our article on form in poetry , summarizes the different stress patterns of poetry.

2. Elements of Poetry: Form

“Form” refers to the structure of the poem. Is the poem a sonnet, a villanelle, a free verse piece, a slam poem, a contrapuntal, a ghazal, a blackout poem , or something new and experimental?

Form also refers to the line breaks and stanza breaks in a poem. Unlike prose, where the end of the page decides the line breaks, poets have control over when one line ends and a new one begins. The words that begin and end each line will emphasize the sounds, images, and ideas that are important to the poet.

To learn more about rhyme, meter, and poetry forms, read our full article on the topic:


3. Elements of Poetry: Literary Devices

“Poetry: the best words in the best order.” — Samuel Taylor Coleridge

How does poetry express complex ideas in concise, lyrical language? Literary devices—like metaphor, symbolism, juxtaposition, irony, and hyperbole—help make poetry possible. Learn how to write and master these devices here:


How to Write a Poem, in 7 Steps

To condense the elements of poetry into an actual poem, we’re going to follow a seven-step approach. However, it’s important to know that every poet’s process is different. While the steps presented here are a logical path to get from idea to finished poem, they’re not the only tried-and-true method of poetry writing. Poets can—and should!—modify these steps and generate their own writing process.

Nonetheless, if you’re new to writing poetry or want to explore a different writing process, try your hand at our approach. Here’s how to write a poem step by step!

1. Devise a Topic

The easiest way to start writing a poem is to begin with a topic.

However, devising a topic is often the hardest part. What should your poem be about? And where can you find ideas?

Here are a few places to search for inspiration:

  • Other Works of Literature: Poetry doesn’t exist in a vacuum—it’s part of a larger literary tapestry, and can absolutely be influenced by other works. For example, read “The Golden Shovel” by Terrance Hayes , a poem that was inspired by Gwendolyn Brooks’ “We Real Cool.”
  • Real-World Events: Poetry, especially contemporary poetry, has the power to convey new and transformative ideas about the world. Take the poem “A Cigarette” by Ilya Kaminsky , which finds community in a warzone like the eye of a hurricane.
  • Your Life: What would poetry be if not a form of memoir? Many contemporary poets have documented their lives in verse. Take Sylvia Plath’s poem “Full Fathom Five” —a daring poem for its time, as few writers so boldly criticized their family as Plath did.
  • The Everyday and Mundane: Poetry isn’t just about big, earth-shattering events: much can be said about mundane events, too. Take “Ode to Shea Butter” by Angel Nafis , a poem that celebrates the beautiful “everydayness” of moisturizing.
  • Nature: The Earth has always been a source of inspiration for poets, both today and in antiquity. Take “Wild Geese” by Mary Oliver , which finds meaning in nature’s quiet rituals.
  • Writing Exercises: Prompts and exercises can help spark your creativity, even if the poem you write has nothing to do with the prompt! Here’s 24 writing exercises to get you started.

At this point, you’ve got a topic for your poem. Maybe it’s a topic you’re passionate about, and the words pour from your pen and align themselves into a perfect sonnet! It’s not impossible—most poets have a couple of poems that seemed to write themselves.

However, it’s far more likely you’re searching for the words to talk about this topic. This is where journaling comes in.

Sit in front of a blank piece of paper, with nothing but the topic written on the top. Set a timer for 15-30 minutes and put down all of your thoughts related to the topic. Don’t stop and think for too long, and try not to obsess over finding the right words: what matters here is emotion, the way your subconscious grapples with the topic.

At the end of this journaling session, go back through everything you wrote, and highlight whatever seems important to you: well-written phrases, poignant moments of emotion, even specific words that you want to use in your poem.

Journaling is a low-risk way of exploring your topic without feeling pressured to make it sound poetic. “Sounding poetic” will only leave you with empty language: your journal allows you to speak from the heart. Everything you need for your poem is already inside of you, the journaling process just helps bring it out!

3. Think About Form

As one of the elements of poetry, form plays a crucial role in how the poem is both written and read. Have you ever wanted to write a sestina ? How about a contrapuntal, or a double cinquain, or a series of tanka? Your poem can take a multitude of forms, including the beautifully unstructured free verse form; while form can be decided in the editing process, it doesn’t hurt to think about it now.

4. Write the First Line

After a productive journaling session, you’ll be much more acquainted with the state of your heart. You might have a line in your journal that you really want to begin with, or you might want to start fresh and refer back to your journal when you need to! Either way, it’s time to begin.

What should the first line of your poem be? There’s no strict rule here—you don’t have to start your poem with a certain image or literary device. However, here’s a few ways that poets often begin their work:

  • Set the Scene: Poetry can tell stories just like prose does. Anne Carson does just this in her poem “Lines,” situating the scene in a conversation with the speaker’s mother.
  • Start at the Conflict: Right away, tell the reader where it hurts most. Margaret Atwood does this in “Ghost Cat,” a poem about aging.
  • Start With a Contradiction: Juxtaposition and contrast are two powerful tools in the poet’s toolkit. Joan Larkin’s poem “Want” begins and ends with these devices. Carlos Gimenez Smith also begins his poem “Entanglement” with a juxtaposition.
  • Start With Your Title: Some poets will use the title as their first line, like Ron Padgett’s poem “Ladies and Gentlemen in Outer Space.”

There are many other ways to begin poems, so play around with different literary devices, and when you’re stuck, turn to other poetry for inspiration.

5. Develop Ideas and Devices

You might not know where your poem is going until you finish writing it. In the meantime, stick to your literary devices. Avoid using too many abstract nouns, develop striking images, use metaphors and similes to strike interesting comparisons, and above all, speak from the heart.

6. Write the Closing Line

Some poems end “full circle,” meaning that the images the poet used in the beginning are reintroduced at the end. Gwendolyn Brooks does this in her poem “my dreams, my work, must wait till after hell.”

Yet, many poets don’t realize what their poems are about until they write the ending line . Poetry is a search for truth, especially the hard truths that aren’t easily explained in casual speech. Your poem, too, might not be finished until it comes across a necessary truth, so write until you strike the heart of what you feel, and the poem will come to its own conclusion.

7. Edit, Edit, Edit!

Do you have a working first draft of your poem? Congratulations! Getting your feelings onto the page is a feat in itself.

Yet, no guide on how to write a poem is complete without a note on editing. If you plan on sharing or publishing your work, or if you simply want to edit your poem to near-perfection, keep these tips in mind.

  • Adjectives and Adverbs: Use these parts of speech sparingly. Most imagery shouldn’t rely on adjectives and adverbs, because the image should be striking and vivid on its own, without too much help from excess language.
  • Concrete Line Breaks: Line breaks help emphasize important words, making certain images and ideas clearer to the reader. As a general rule, most of your lines should start and end with concrete words—nouns and verbs especially.
  • Stanza Breaks: Stanzas are like paragraphs to poetry. A stanza can develop a new idea, contrast an existing idea, or signal a transition in the poem’s tone. Make sure each stanza clearly stands for something as a unit of the poem.
  • Mixed Metaphors: A mixed metaphor is when two metaphors occupy the same idea, making the poem unnecessarily difficult to understand. Here’s an example of a mixed metaphor: “a watched clock never boils.” The meaning can be discerned, but the image remains unclear. Be wary of mixed metaphors—though some poets (like Shakespeare) make them work, they’re tricky and often disruptive.
  • Abstractions: Above all, avoid using excessively abstract language. It’s fine to use the word “love” 2 or 3 times in a poem, but don’t use it twice in every stanza. Let the imagery in your poem express your feelings and ideas, and only use abstractions as brief connective tissue in otherwise-concrete writing.

Lastly, don’t feel pressured to “do something” with your poem. Not all poems need to be shared and edited. Poetry doesn’t have to be “good,” either—it can simply be a statement of emotions by the poet, for the poet. Publishing is an admirable goal, but also, give yourself permission to write bad poems, unedited poems, abstract poems, and poems with an audience of one. Write for yourself—editing is for the other readers.

How to Write a Poem: Different Approaches and Philosophies

Poetry is the oldest literary form, pre-dating prose, theater, and the written word itself. As such, there are many different schools of thought when it comes to writing poetry. You might be wondering how to write a poem through different methods and approaches: here’s four philosophies to get you started.

How to Write a Poem: Poetry as Emotion

If you asked a Romantic Poet “what is poetry?”, they would tell you that poetry is the spontaneous emotion of the soul.

The Romantic Era viewed poetry as an extension of human emotion—a way of perceiving the world through unbridled creativity, centered around the human soul. While many Romantic poets used traditional forms in their poetry, the Romantics weren’t afraid to break from tradition, either.

To write like a Romantic, feel—and feel intensely. The words will follow the emotions, as long as a blank page sits in front of you.

How to Write a Poem: Poetry as Stream of Consciousness

If you asked a Modernist poet, “What is poetry?” they would tell you that poetry is the search for complex truths.

Modernist Poets were keen on the use of poetry as a window into the mind. A common technique of the time was “Stream of Consciousness,” which is unfiltered writing that flows directly from the poet’s inner dialogue. By tapping into one’s subconscious, the poet might uncover deeper truths and emotions they were initially unaware of.

Depending on who you are as a writer, Stream of Consciousness can be tricky to master, but this guide covers the basics of how to write using this technique.

How to Write a Poem: Mindfulness

Mindfulness is a practice of documenting the mind, rather than trying to control or edit what it produces. This practice was popularized by the Beat Poets , who in turn were inspired by Eastern philosophies and Buddhist teachings. If you asked a Beat Poet “what is poetry?”, they would tell you that poetry is the human consciousness, unadulterated.

To learn more about the art of leaving your mind alone , take a look at our guide on Mindfulness, from instructor Marc Olmsted.


How to Write a Poem: Poem as Camera Lens

Many contemporary poets use poetry as a camera lens, documenting global events and commenting on both politics and injustice. If you find yourself itching to write poetry about the modern day, press your thumb against the pulse of the world and write what you feel.

Additionally, check out these two essays by Electric Literature on the politics of poetry:

  • What Can Poetry Do That Politics Can’t?
  • Why All Poems Are Political (TL;DR: Poetry is an urgent expression of freedom).

Okay, I Know How to Write a Good Poem. What Next?

Poetry, like all art forms, takes practice and dedication. You might write a poem you enjoy now, and think it’s awfully written 3 years from now; you might also write some of your best work after reading this guide. Poetry is fickle, but the pen lasts forever, so write poems as long as you can!

Once you understand how to write a poem, and after you’ve drafted some pieces that you’re proud of and ready to share, here are some next steps you can take.

Publish in Literary Journals

Want to see your name in print? These literary journals house some of the best poetry being published today.


Assemble and Publish a Manuscript

A poem can tell a story. So can a collection of poems. If you’re interested in publishing a poetry book, learn how to compose and format one here:


Join a Writing Community

writers.com is an online community of writers, and we’d love it if you shared your poetry with us! Join us on Facebook and check out our upcoming poetry courses .

Poetry doesn’t exist in a vacuum, it exists to educate and uplift society. The world is waiting for your voice, so find a group and share your work!

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Sean Glatch


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I’m starting to use poetry as an outlet for my blogs, but I also have to keep in mind I’m transitioning from a blogger to a poetic sweet kitty potato (ha). It’s a unique transition, but I’m so used to writing a lot, it’s strange to see an open blog post with a lot of lines and few paragraphs.

Anyway, thanks again!

I’m happy this article was so helpful, Eternity! Thanks for commenting, and best of luck with your poetry blog.

Yours in verse, Sean

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Writing Poetry for Beginners

Too often, new writers associate poetry with some of the most complicated and foreign poetic movements. No longer is poetry just Whitman, Blake, or Keats. Poetry has evolved in many ways, making it more accessible than ever to beginners. This is writing poetry for beginners.

Common Types of Poetry

There are various types of poetry, but that doesn’t mean you have to only write one or that you must follow all of the “rules.” Here are a few different types of poetry that you should become familiar with, especially when you’re a beginner.

Prose Poetry

Prose poetry has steadily been rising in popularity, and is perhaps one of the most accessible forms for beginner poets. This type of poetry is written in prose sentences, but can adopt many of the common attributes of poetry. For example, prose poems might focus on sound, tone, symbolism, metaphor, or a specific theme.

List of Famous Hats , by James Tate is an excellent example of a prose poem.

Napoleon’s hat is an obvious choice I guess to list as a famous hat, but that’s not the hat I have in mind. That was his hat for show. I am thinking of his private bathing cap, which in all honesty wasn’t much different than the one any jerk might buy at a corner drugstore now, except for two minor eccentricities. The first one isn’t even funny: Simply it was a white rubber bathing cap, but too small. Napoleon led such a hectic life ever since his childhood, even farther back than that, that he never had a chance to buy a new bathing cap and still as a grown-up–well, he didn’t really grow that much, but his head did: He was a pinhead at birth, and he used, until his death really, the same little tiny bathing cap that he was born in, and this meant that later it was very painful to him and gave him many headaches, as if he needed more. So, he had to vaseline his skull like crazy to even get the thing on. The second eccentricity was that it was a tricorn bathing cap. Scholars like to make a lot out of this, and it would be easy to do. My theory is simple-minded to be sure: that beneath his public head there was another head and it was a pyramid or something.

Narrative Poetry

If you read poetry, you’ve definitely read narrative poetry. This type of poetry, generally has an arch, a strong narrative voice, and a plot regardless of the length.

These poems can range in form and length. While they may “sound” like more complicated forms of poetry, they tend to be easier to follow.

Ever heard of William Shakespeare? Well, he’s the King of Sonnets. This type of poetry follows a specific form. Made up of 14 lines, iambic meter, and a ending rhyme scheme, sonnets are a more traditional type of poetry.

Enjoy Sonnet XXII , by Shakespeare

My glass shall not persuade me I am old, So long as youth and thou are of one date; But when in thee time’s furrows I behold, Then look I death my days should expiate. For all that beauty that doth cover thee Is but the seemly raiment of my heart, Which in thy breast doth live, as thine in me: How can I then be elder than thou art? O, therefore, love, be of thyself so wary As I, not for myself, but for thee will; Bearing thy heart, which I will keep so chary As tender nurse her babe from faring ill. Presume not on thy heart when mine is slain; Thou gavest me thine, not to give back again.

Epic Poetry

The hero’s journey is encapsulated in epic poetry . Epic poems are longer, and follow the trials and tribulations of a heroine. Many epics are rooted in mythology – this is why you may be familiar with some of them.

Homer’s The Odyssey is an example of an epic poem.

Free Verse Poetry

Ready to throw rules out the window? Free verse poetry follows no particular format, rhyme scheme, tone, or pattern. As a beginner, free verse is a fun way to start writing poetry because it does not place any limitations on the writer.

Want to Write Good Poetry? Follow These 3 Rules

Being a poet requires more than writing (yes, it’s true). By adopting some of these rules into your routine, you can ensure that your poetry grows and develops.

1. Read Poetry

While this sounds obvious, you’d be surprised to learn that few poets READ a lot of poetry. If you want to become a famous poet, you need to read the poets who can come before you.

Reading poetry can also help you identify which styles of poetry you’re interested in writing. Plus, it’s a great way to get inspired when writer’s block inevitably creeps out its head.

If you’re having trouble finding a great poetry book, or don’t want to commit to a collection of only one author, we highly recommend anthologies (our editor’s favorite is the The Penguin Anthology of Twentieth-Century American Poets).

2. Don’t Overcomplicate It

We understand that this may be easier said then done, however, starting small is a great way to start doing anything new.

For example, don’t try to start writing poetry by writing a 1,000 line epic poem . Instead, start with something shorter, like a 3 line haiku or minimalist poem .

Starting small will help you to grow your skills, and eventually help you grow your confidence to try harder forms of poetry.

3. Attend or Watch Local Poetry Slams / Groups

Creative spaces help to cultivate and hone your poetic style. We highly recommend you get involved in your local creative scene. This means attending poetry readings, joining a local writers or readers group, and maybe even sharing and editing your work in a workshop.

If you’re unable to connect with local poets, there are numerous spaces online to do so. Instagram, Twitter, and Medium are welcoming spaces for new poets and writers. From prompts, to resources and encouragement, you can find fellow poets online that can help keep you focused and driven in your pursuit to be a poet. You can follow us on Twitter or Instagram as well!

Pro Tip: There are some Instagram accounts that do awesome live poetry readings! Also, learn more about growing your poetry account on Instagram here.

This practice benefits poets in two ways. First, it encourages you to write due to the accountability factor. Second, it makes writing more community-driven versus you, being in a room, banging your head on the desk because you’re not feeling inspired.

How to Start A Poem

Many people want to write poetry, but they don’t know where to start. Luckily, it’s pretty easy to start a poem.

Do you write in other genres ? If so, what themes and topics do you usually explore?

For example, if you tend to write fantasy, use fantastical elements, like hidden forests, magic spells, and an evil-doer to inspire your poetry.

Start writing poetry using what you already know. Using this technique makes it much easier to start a poem. Additionally, examine and be present in your surroundings. Describe what you see, feel, smell. Use your senses to brainstorm possible poetry topics and to add poetic imagery to your writing.

If you need further inspiration, check out our Glossary of Poetic Terms . It may help nudge if you get stuck.

5 Poetry Writing Exercises

Still scratching your head when it comes to writing poetry? Try one or all of these poetry writing exercises. Writing exercises are a great way to get your creative juices flowing.

1.) Look at an old photo. Write about everything not in the picture. Feel free to move to and from reality.

2.) Describe a place you’ve never been to. Be as realistic as possible. The catch? It has to be a single word list.

3.) What’s the last dream you remember? Use colors and smells to describe it.

4.) Finish the sentence and continue the story… “When my head hits the pillow…”

5.) In 13 words, describe your oasis.

These poetry writing exercises can be recycled. Get creative, and exploratory. Write what comes to mind. These prompts are meant to help you begin your poetry writing journey. There are no right or wrong ways to approach them. And remember, revision always comes later on.

What Makes a Good Poem?

This is an age-old question, and one that writers now and into the future will keep asking.

But, honestly, what makes a good poem?

If someone reads your poem, and feels something – anything – then you’ve written a good poem. There are many people that will argue with this, but at the end of the day, it’s about how the writing makes you feel, not anyone else.

Yes, some of the common types of poetry follow a set of “rules,” but you’re the writer, and when you’re the writer, you get to write whatever kind of poetry you want.

No matter which forms you find yourself writing, all poetry elicits a response in readers. As a beginner, if you can stick to that rule of thumb, chances are you’re moving in the right poetic direction.

Want more tips? Read our 10 tips to improve your poetry .

Ready to Try Writing Poetry?

Poetry isn’t an inaccessible form of writing, but it can come across that way when you’re a beginner. Instead, writing poetry for beginners is pretty simple. Hopefully, this brief guide has made poetry feel more approachable. Now, it’s time to write poetry!

Be sure to check out our submissions page – we’d love to read what you’ve been working on!

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The Ultimate Guide to Writing Poetry for Beginners

By Rofida Khairalla

poetry for beginners

Poetry is not everyone’s cup of tea. But if you’ve always had a passion for the sonnets of Shakespeare, the verses of Petrarch, or even the works of Edgar Allan Poe, then you might just be gifted with an inner lyricists.

Poetry is one of the genres of writing that is both different and similar to other forms of creative writing. How can this be?

Well, poetry is a much tighter type of writing compared to a novel or even a short story, but it’s also highly descriptive.

Wait a second, you’re thinking, how do you explain works like the Divine Comedy then?

Here’s the rub:

Although there are types of poetry that are considered unrestricted, like free form, poetry is still very much a genre that has rules, just like fiction and non-fiction.

One of the most important rules to know right off the bat: there are forms of poetry, like epics, that are considered relatively outdated. Can you break the rules? Sure. But you better have a really good reason as to why.

So now that you’re more acquainted with modern poetry, it’s time to get a handle on the basics. But with so many different types of poetry out there, and an abundance of theories about what makes a good poem, where do you even start?

Well, it starts with getting to know the types of poetry and identifying which forms pull you. That’s where this ultimate guide to writing poetry for beginners comes in.

Use this article as a beginner’s guidebook. Whether you’re an aspiring artist or a college student that feels way out of their depth, this is a guide that can help you get a little more comfortable with poetry.

Curious to try your hand at a couple of verses? Let’s dive in.

Table of Contents

Part One: Finding Your Form

Read lots of poetry, find the right genre for you, emulate a poet you admire, know which themes/genres are popular today, part two: crafting a good poem, imagery, imagery, imagery, keep images simple, no to clichés, brush up on the poet’s toolbox, keep a journal, be observant, write regularly, challenge yourself, think once, twice, and thrice before you rhyme, part three: revise, often, read your work aloud, poetry workshops.

writing poetry for beginners

The first part of any endeavor is finding your niche. That’s especially the case for poetry. Every poem takes on a certain form, or structure, that helps define the shape, rhythm, and even the subject of that poem.

There are an abundance of forms to choose from and each form comes with its own set of rules. For example, a lyrical poem, like those of Robert Frost, have a very different structure than some of the narrative poems written by Joyce Carole Oats.

Here’s the beauty of poetry:

You don’t have to stick to one kind of form. Pick up any book of modern poetry and you’ll find that most poets write in five, six, or even ten different forms. You can become a master of multiple forms, but its starts with experimentation and getting really good at one or two forms.

Where should you start? Well, it starts with becoming a connoisseur of poetry. Here a few starting points.

If you’re a writer you probably already know this rule. The more you read of any style, genre, or subject, the better you’ll get at writing it. Same goes for poetry.  Read as much as you can as often as you can. Ideally, you want to be reading not only different poets like these ones on Twitter , but also from different time periods.

The reason you should read from varying time periods, and not limit yourself to modern poetry, is that reading older works, like those of Shakespeare or even the romance period, can give you a historical and philosophical background for your writing. This can be especially important as you progress in your writing, allowing you to tackle bigger and bigger subjects.

Like fiction, there are lots of different genres of poetry. You might find that in some genres you excel more than others.

Narrative poetry is one of the oldest forms of poetry around. If you happen to be a fiction writer, or someone who just loves a good story, this may be one of the best places to start when it comes to poetry because a narrative poem is one that tells a story.

Just like a novel, or short story, narrative poems usually have a narrator (or speaker) and follow a sequence of events.

However, the big difference between narrative poetry and fiction writing is that the language is much more condensed. Remember, as a poet you have a limited amount of space to develop the story along with any critical imagery, metaphors, similes, etc.

The thing that sets narrative poetry apart from other forms of storytelling is that the language is much “cleaner,” meaning that there are no unnecessary details or fluff.

Ideally, you don’t want to spend stanza after stanza describing a scene in a narrative poem. However, you can and should focus on one or two key details, like smell, taste, or something visual to highlight.

Keep in mind, narrative poems can be written like a typical narrative or they can feature lyrical elements like rhyme, rhythm, etc.

Another type of narrative poem is the lyrical poem. As mentioned above, these types of poems typically feature musical elements, including meter and rhyme.

Unlike the broad category of narrative poems, lyrical poems usually have a set structure, which defines them by the number of lines in a stanza or even the number of lines in total.

There are several types of lyrical poems. They include the ode, the ballad, the villanelle, and the sonnet.

An ode is a form of poetry that praises a particular person, concept or place. One of the best examples of ode poetry is the work of John Keats , with works like “Ode to a Grecian Urn” and “Ode to an Nightingale.”

When it comes to ballads, you may be more familiar with the term under pop culture contexts, such as the love ballads written by famous musicians including Journey. So what is a ballad? It’s a narrative poem written in four line stanzas that features a refrain, which repeats. In pop culture, that refrain is known as a chorus.

A villanelle, which became a popular form of poetry near the 19 th century, has six stanzas and nineteen lines. The first five stanzas are comprised of three lines (known as tercets) and are followed up by a four-line stanza (known as a quatrain).  It also features two refrains and two rhymes that repeat. Although topics can vary, villanelles are typically used to address darker themes like obsession.

Sonnets are a very peculiar type of lyrical poetry because they come in two forms: the Spenserian (named after poet Edmund Spencer), or more popularly known as Shakespearean, and the Italian, or Petrarchan, sonnet. Both sonnets are typically fourteen lines and begin by establishing a concept, setting, or scenario, and end by responding to the situation or shifting perspective—known as the “turn” or “Vola” for Petrarchan sonnets.

They are also both written in iambic pentameter. However, they differ in their rhyme scheme. Petrarchan sonnets follow an “ABBAABBA” rhyme scheme, while Shakespearean sonnets follow an alternating rhyme scheme of “ABABCDCDEFEFGG,” which ends with a rhyming couplet that usually adds to or refutes the main concept presented.

Typically speaking, language poetry is one of the harder forms of poetry to master both as a reader and a writer. It’s a much more modern form of poetry that can be traced back to the 1970s.

Language poetry focuses on deriving meaning from language rather than traditional imagery. A really good example of language poetry is the work of Charles Bernstein.

If you’ve ever read the Odyssey or the Iliad , then you’re very familiar with epic poetry. Epics are some of the oldest forms of poetry, and can be traced all the way back to the ancient Greeks.

An epic is a type of narrative poem that usually focuses on the concept of heroism or a major social-cultural event (think the battle of Troy in the Illiad ). These tend to be longer works that can span hundreds of pages and that tell a very detailed story.

Over the centuries there have been many types of epics that have been published, including Virgil’s The Aeneid, Beowulf, Divine Comedy, and Paradise Lost .

One thing to keep in mind, however, is that epic poetry is something that people don’t often read anymore. For that reason, you may want to rethink writing the next groundbreaking epic.

You may be familiar with the elegy if you’ve ever attended a funeral. Simply put, an elegy is a poem that reflects upon and laments the death of a particular person.

However, an elegy can also reflect upon other serious topics such as regret or sorrow. Elegies usually focus on three major topics throughout the poem: lament, grief, and praise for the dead.

One of the cool things about elegies is that they’re not restricted to a particular form. Although they have evolved over the years from the traditional hexameter of the ancient Greeks, they can also be written in free verse or iambic pentameter.

  • Meditative:

Meditative poetry can have two meanings. The first is in a religious context that focuses on spirituality and prayer. The second follows the idea of meditating, or reflecting, upon a particular subject.

Think of meditative poems as an exploration of a topic or theme. It can be religious, but it can also be social, political, or personal. There’s no exact structure for how a meditative poem should be written and most are written in free verse.

One of the best writers of meditative poetry is Ann Carson . Her work The Beauty of a Husband strictly focuses on meditating upon the idea of fidelity.

Although Haikus are popularly associated with children’s poems, they are far from easy to master. The Japanese form is comprised of seventeen syllables that are broke up into three lines of five syllables, seven syllables, and then five syllables. Traditionally the subject of these poems is nature.

This doesn’t mean you have to become a communist like Pablo Neruda or commit to the life of a seamstress like Emily Dickenson. But you can try to emulate their style. Try using dashes in your poetry or experiment with musicality.

One of the best exercises to do is to pick a poet you’ve been reading and try emulating their writing technique. These types of exercises are so important because you can learn so much about the craft of poetry by doing them.

Like to try your hand at a poetry exercise?

Here’s one: pick a poem you’ve read recently and try to emulate its form and even rhythm as much as possible. Do your best to restrict yourself to crafting a poem that’s similar in language and style, but not in subject.

Let’s be honest, Chaucer is beautiful—but if you try to write a poem in Middle English no one will understand you. Similarly, while the poetry of the romantics is considered some of the best, currently, it’s considered one of the most out dated forms of written poetry. While you don’t want to put a limit on your creativity, it’s a good idea to get familiar with the school of contemporary poetry—especially if you hope to get published.

writing poetry for beginners

Now that you have a good grasp on the kinds of poetic form you’d like to explore, it’s time to get your hands dirty with a few verses. But before we begin, there are a few things you should note about the process of crafting a poem.

One of the biggest mistakes first-time poets make is that they often get caught up in exploring a particular idea or subject without grounding the exploration in “tangible” images. Of course, while not all poems have to be grounded in imagery, such as language poetry. You really have to think through your purposes for writing a poem in a certain way or even selecting a particular form.

For example, you don’t want to write a poem about death in the form of a sonnet unless you’re choosing to be satirical about the death (which depending on the context maybe inappropriate) because the musicality of the poem will be off.

Another mistake you want to steer clear of is choosing images that are too abstract. For instance, using a “river of love” as an image is much harder to picture for your audience than a river that caresses the bank as the water ebbs and flows. One is much easier to picture than the other. Ideally, you want to select these types of concrete details as you write over abstract concepts.

If you’re truly serious about writing poetry think of the following tips as your poet’s toolbox that will help you construct a great poem.

Unless you’re writing a language poem, don’t underestimate the power of imagery in your work. Just like fiction is dependent on solid descriptions, so is poetry. One of the best things to do when writing a poem is to select a specific image and expand upon it.

For example, let’s say you’re writing a nostalgic poem about your childhood. Choose a place, smell, or sound that reminds you of your childhood and expand upon it. A great example of this Marge Piercy’s “Barbie Doll.”

On another note, keep in mind that the space in which you are writing is typically limited to a few stanzas. The last thing you want to do is overdo the detail.

In most cases, imagery is where readers will draw meaning from your poem, so be very selective about the images you chose to include. Only chose a few scenes to describe and be thorough, but precise in your descriptions.

Avoid Clichés like the plague. This is another instance where understanding the rules of modern poetry will be critical. Unless you’re being satirical or humorous, clichés will bore your reader because they’re already familiar with the imagery or idea.

Additionally, using clichés has a tendency of introducing drama, or melodrama, into your poem. That’s another thing you want to steer clear of. Rather than dripping your poem in emotion, try using images that will evoke emotion.

Poems are really one of those forms of art where you have to depend on your tools in order to convey meaning.

Symbols are especially important within poetry because they can help you to explore abstract ideas in a concrete way. A symbol can be anything from a place, word, action, or object. However, commonly it’s an object or word.

Once again, the key thing to keep in mind about symbols and imagery is that you don’t want to overdo it. When it comes to symbols and the meaning associated with them, less is more.

  • Metaphor/Simile:

Metaphor and similes are forms of comparisons. Similes use “like” or “as” to make the comparison, whereas within a metaphor the comparison is innate. For instance, the saying “easy as pie” is a simile, while the saying “love is a battlefield” is a metaphor. The meaning pulled from it isn’t literal, but rather symbolic.

Within poetry you can also run into another kind of metaphor, called an extended metaphor. These are comparisons that go on for an extended period, which can be anywhere from a few lines to several stanzas depending on the poem.

Within poetry, rhythm is the pattern of stressed and unstressed syllables that make the musicality of a poem. Usually when we discuss the rhythm of a poem we are referring to its meter.

If you’ve read the works of Shakespeare than you’ve probably come across one of the more popular types of meter, which is iambic pentameter. Meter is the sequence of stressed and unstressed syllables in a poem. In some cases, such as Shakespeare, meter is very pronounced and you can quickly identify it. In other cases, a meter can be much more subtle and hard to catch unless you’re listening carefully.

There are several types of meter in poetry. They include:

There’s an abundance of meters to choose from, but the ones on this list happen to be the most popular in the English language. Although you might not run into a whole lot of meter in modern poetry, some writers still use it, and it’s definitely the mark of a master poet.

If you want to try your hand at a few metered poems, one of the best things to do is begin by studying works that use metered verse. As you go along, mark each syllable as stressed or unstressed.

The more you do this, the better your ear will get at identifying which syllables ought to be stressed or unstressed depending on the meter. Over time, this will make writing in a particular meter much easier.

Often, when people think of rhyme they might think of Dr. Seuss. However, poetic rhyme has been around since ancient times and still continues until today. There are two main types of rhyme to keep in mind:

  • End rhyme : This is the most popular type of rhyme, where the last word of a line rhymes with last word of a following or preceding line. Examples of this include Shakespeare’s sonnets and Dr. Seuss.
  • Internal rhyme: Internal rhyme is a much more complex and difficult type of rhyme to manage because it requires that two—or more— words within the same line rhyme. One of the masters of this type of rhyme actually happens to be rapper and musician, Eminem. Many of his lyrics feature this type of internal rhyme throughout, such as the song “low down dirty” when he says: “It was predicted by a medic I’d grow to be an addicted diabetic, living off liquid Triaminic pathetic.
  • Caesura vs. Line Break:

One of the key elements of any poem are pauses; not only do pauses allow the reader to take a breath before beginning the next line or word, but—if done right—they can also add meaning to your poem.

For example, take Emily Dickenson’s dashes. In a lot of cases those dashes can serve as an implication or even a sort of pregnant pause that adds another layer of meaning to her poems.

Two of the most important types of pauses within poetry are the Caesura and the line break. A caesura is basically the use of punctuation in the middle of a line. This can be a comma, a dash, semicolon, or even a period. The other type of break is the line break, which is basically where one line ends and another begins.

As a poet, there are a few choices you have to think about while you’re writing. The first choice is if, when, and where you plan on using a caesura. Sometimes you might just add a caesura because it makes the poem flow better. In other circumstances, you may add a caesura for the sake of creating a choppy rhythm.

It all just depends on how YOU chose to handle a particular subject in your poetry. The other choice you’ll have to make is in regards to where your lines breaks will take place. Ideally, you want to keep your lines about the same size, but sometimes an irregular break can serve a purpose.

  • Enjambment:

Enjambment is somewhat of the opposite of a caesura or a line break. An enjambment is when one line continues into the next line without a pause.  The use of a enjambment forces the reader to speed up, which can also add a layer of meaning, especially if you write a poem that uses regular line breaks but features one or two enjambments.

Assonance is the repetition of a vowel sound close enough together that it almost seems to create an echo. This is one of those tools that’s not always easy to use and, for readers, it can sometimes be hard to pick up on depending on the vowel or diphthong used.

The key to becoming a pro at assonance is to practice pairing words together that have the same vowel sounds. One of the best examples of this literary device: Pink Floyd. Just take a look at this line: “Fleet feet sweep by sleeping geese.”

  • Repetition/ Refrain:

Repetition is another one of those literary devices that can be especially important in a poem because it adds emphasis. There are several types of repetition that you can choose from as a poet, but the two most popular tend to be:

  • Anaphora: repeating the same word at the start of a stanza.
  • Anadiplosis: repeating the last word in a line or stanza.

Another key aspect of repetition is the refrain, which is a repeating line that reappears multiple times throughout the poem.

  • Alliteration:

The key thing about alliteration is that it can add a layer of musicality to your poem as well as meaning. Alliteration is the repetition of a particular letter or sound that comes at the beginning of words that are close in proximity. For example, take this famous tongue twister:

Peter Piper picked a bag of pickled peppers

Here, the alliteration is the repetition of “p” sounds throughout the sentence.

  • Structure/Layout of a Poem:

Another critical element of any poem is its structure. This not only includes the poem’s form, such as literary, narrative, etc., but also the actual physical appearance of the poem. Most poems you’ll run across will be linear, which means that they appear as one or multiple stanzas that follow each other in consecutive order.

However, that doesn’t always have to be the case. You can get playful with the way your poem is laid out, depending on your subject. A good example of this: concrete poetry, which is a poem that’s been written to take a specific shape, like that of a tree, an apple, or even a pyramid.

Another one of the key parts of any poem is a stanza. Traditionally stanzas are broken up into a set of lines, which are listed as follows:

  • Couplets: two lines that typically rhyme.
  • Tercets: three lines.
  • Quatrains: four lines.
  • Sestets: six lines.
  • Octave: Eight lines.

In free verse, you may not be restricted in the exact amount of lines in each poem. As a beginner, however, you may want to try limiting yourself to a particular stanza structure in order to maximize your use of language.

Remember, sometimes less is more, and especially as a beginner you can learn so much by placing certain restrictions upon yourself.

  • Ending your Lines:

Something that plenty of beginning poets and even teachers can overlook is how a poet chooses to break up their lines.  When it comes to line breaks, try challenging yourself to end each line on a noun or verb, rather than a preposition.

The reason for this is twofold: ending on a preposition can actually add a choppiness to your poem that you may not intend, while ending on a verb or noun adds an additional layer or significance because it’s the last word your audience will read before moving on to the next line.

That’s not to say that you can’t ever end a line on preposition, but definitely think hard about the purpose behind the action before you do it.

Any writer should do this, but poets stand the most to benefit from keeping a journal. The reason? You can refer back to the images you see or the ideas you write down later on in your poetry.

As we noted earlier, poetry is all about imagery . The more observant you become of the world around you, the more unique and “eye-catching” your imagery will become.

The more you write and the more time you dedicate to the craft, the better a poet you will become.

You may be a really great free verse poet, but have you ever tried to write a lyrical poem? What about a Haiku? Try writing different types of poetry. Sometimes, restriction brings out the best in us creatively speaking.

This is another instance where being familiar with the school of contemporary fiction will help. Rhyming is another one of those things that’s typically considered outdated, unless you’re really really really good.

writing poetry for beginners

Just like any type of writing, poetry can benefit from going through the stages of drafting and revising. Don’t forget, poetry is all about trying to create a meaning within a limited amount of space and words, so the more you revise the better your poem can get.

But after you’ve taken the time to write a poem, where to begin when it comes to revision? Here are a few tips to help you identify those weaker areas of your poem.

Poems sound different when read aloud. Because of their structure, language, and meter, they tend to come alive. Whether you’re reading your own work, that of a colleague or friend, or a poem written by an 18th century master, make sure you take the time to read it aloud.

When it comes to revision, reading aloud will make any areas that feel choppy or awkward really pop out.

With fiction, workshops tend to be hit or miss. However, when it comes to poetry, you should definitely attend a workshop. Especially as a beginner you need the input of your peers. Since poems are meant to be read aloud, you also need a forum where you can do comfortably.

There’s a lot you stand to gain by revising your poetry. Typically, the more you revise the better your poem will become. Think of it this way: a poem is written in layers. The first layer is just the idea. The next layer you might add more refined imagery. The third time around you may work on the musicality. Typically speaking, poems can go through many drafts, just like a novel or short story.

Even if you have no intention of becoming a legendary poet, there’s still a lot that any writer can benefit from practicing poetry.

Remember, poetry teaches you to embrace concrete images over abstractions and to use precise and tight wording to explore an idea. That kind of restriction can be a benefit to your overall creativity, as well as the overall quality of your writing.

But it starts with having the courage to pick up a pen and dabble a few lines of verse.

Looking for advice on writing fiction? Be sure to take a look at our Beginner’s Guide to Writing a Novel.

The Ultimate Guide to Writing Poetry for Beginners is an article from Writing Tips Oasis . Copyright © 2014-2017 Writing Tips Oasis All Rights Reserved

As a graduate from the University of Arizona in English and Creative Writing, Rofida Khairalla’s love for classical literature and post-modern fiction extends beyond the realm of books. She has provided her services independently as a freelance writer, and wrote on the news desk for the student-run newspaper, The Daily Wildcat. As an aspiring children’s book author, she’s refined her craft amongst the grand saguaros of the Southwest, and enjoys playing with her German Shepherd on the slopes of Mount Lemmon.

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5 Tips for Poetry Writing: How to Get Started Writing Poems

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Hannah Yang

A beginner's guide to poetry

Poetry is a daunting art form to break into.

There are technically no rules for how to write a poem , but despite that—or perhaps because of it—learning how to write a successful poem might feel more difficult than learning how to write a successful essay or story.

There are many reasons to try your hand at poetry, even if you’re primarily a prose writer. Here are just a few:

  • Practice writing stronger descriptions and imagery
  • Unlock a new side of your creative writing practice
  • Learn how to wield language in a more nuanced way

Learning how to write poetry may seem intimidating, but it doesn’t have to be.

In this article, we’ll cover five of our favorite tips to get started writing poetry.

How Do You Start Writing Poetry?

How do you write a poem from a new perspective, how do you write a meaningful poem, how do you write a poem about a theme, what are some different types of poetry, tip 1: focus on concrete imagery.

One of the best ways to start writing poetry is to use concrete images that appeal to the five senses.

The idea of starting with the specific might feel counterintuitive, because many people think of poetry as a way to describe abstract ideas, such as death, joy, or sorrow.

Examples of abstract words

It certainly can be. But each of these concepts has been written about extensively before. Try sitting down and writing an original poem about joy—it’s hard to find something new to say about it.

If you write about a specific experience you’ve had that made you feel joy, that will almost certainly be unique, because nobody has lived the same experiences you have.

That’s what makes concrete imagery so powerful in poetry.

A concrete image is a detail that has a basis in something real or tangible. It could be the texture of your daughter’s hair as you braid it in the morning, or the smell of a food that reminds you of home.

The more specific the image is, the more vivid and effective the poem will become.

Examples of concrete thoughts from abstract words

Concrete imagery: Example

Harlem by Langston Hughes

What happens to a dream deferred?

Does it dry up like a raisin in the sun? Or fester like a sore— And then run? Does it stink like rotten meat? Or crust and sugar over— like a syrupy sweet?

Maybe it just sags like a heavy load.

Or does it explode?

Notice how Langston Hughes doesn’t directly write about dreams, except for the very first line. After the first line, he uses concrete images that are very specific and appeal to the five senses: “dry up like a raisin in the sun,” “stink like rotten meat,” “sags like a heavy load.”

He conveys a deeper message about an abstract concept—dreams—using these specific, tangible images.

Concrete Imagery: Exercise

Examine your surroundings. Describe what you see, hear, feel, taste, and smell.

Through these concrete images, try to evoke a specific feeling (e.g., nostalgia, boredom, happiness) without ever naming that feeling in the poem.

Once you've finished writing, you can use ProWritingAid’s Sensory Check to see which of the five senses you've used the most in your imagery. Most writers favor one or two senses, like in the example below, which can resonate with some readers but alienate others.

ProWritingAid's Sensory Check using I Wandered Lonely As a Cloud

Sign up for a free ProWritingAid account to try the Sensory Check.

Bonus Tip: Start with a free verse poem, which is a poem with no set format or rhyme scheme. You can punctuate it the same way you would punctuate normal prose. Free verse is a great option for beginners, because it lets you write freely without limitations.

Tip 2: Play with Perspective

A persona poem is a poem told in the first-person POV (point of view) from the perspective of anything or anyone. This could include a famous person, a figure from mythology, or even an inanimate object.

The word persona comes from the Latin word for mask . When you write a persona poem, it’s like you’re putting on a mask to see the world through a new lens.

What is a persona poem

If you’re a new poet and you haven’t found your own voice yet, a persona poem is a great way to experiment with a unique style.

Some persona poems are narrative poems, which tell a story from a specific point of view. Others are lyric poems, which focus more on the style and sound of the poem instead of telling a story.

You can write from the perspective of a pop star, a politician, or a figure from fable or myth. You can try to imagine what it feels like to be a pair of jeans or a lawn mower or a fountain pen. There are no limits except your own creativity.

Types of persona poems

Play with Perspective: Example

Anne Hathaway by Carol Ann Duffy

Item I gyve unto my wief my second best bed … (from Shakespeare’s will)

The bed we loved in was a spinning world of forests, castles, torchlight, cliff-tops, seas where he would dive for pearls. My lover’s words were shooting stars which fell to earth as kisses on these lips; my body now a softer rhyme to his, now echo, assonance; his touch a verb dancing in the centre of a noun. Some nights I dreamed he’d written me, the bed a page beneath his writer’s hands. Romance and drama played by touch, by scent, by taste. In the other bed, the best, our guests dozed on, dribbling their prose. My living laughing love— I hold him in the casket of my widow’s head as he held me upon that next best bed.

In this poem, Carol Ann Duffy writes from the perspective of Anne Hathaway, the wife of William Shakespeare.

She imagines what the wife of this famous literary figure might think and feel, with lines like “Some nights I dreamed he’d written me.”

The poem isn’t written in Shakespearean English, but it uses diction and vocabulary that’s more old-fashioned than the English we speak today, to evoke the feeling of Shakespeare’s time period.

Play with Perspective: Exercise

Write a persona poem from the perspective of a fictional character out of a book or movie. You can tell an important story from their life, or simply try to capture the feeling of being in their head for a moment.

If this character lives in a different time period or speaks in a specific dialect, try to capture that in the poem’s voice.

Tip 3: Write from Life

The best poems are the ones that feel authentic and come from a place of truth.

Brainstorm your own personal experiences. Are there any stories from your life that evoke strong feelings for you? How can you tell that story through a poem?

Examples of personal experiences

Try to avoid clichés here. If you want to write about a universal experience or feeling, try to find an entry point into that feeling that’s unique to your life.

Maybe your first hobby was associated with a specific pair of shoes. Maybe your first encounter with shame came from breaking a specific promise to your grandfather. Any of these details could be the launching point for a poem.

Write from Life: Example

Discord in Childhood By D.H. Lawrence

Outside the house an ash-tree hung its terrible whips, And at night when the wind arose, the lash of the tree Shrieked and slashed the wind, as a ship’s Weird rigging in a storm shrieks hideously.

Within the house two voices arose in anger, a slender lash Whistling delirious rage, and the dreadful sound Of a thick lash booming and bruising, until it drowned The other voice in a silence of blood, ’neath the noise of the ash.

Here, D.H. Lawrence writes about the suffering he endured as a child listening to his parents arguing. He channels his own memories and experiences to create a profoundly relatable piece.

Write from Life: Exercise

Go to your phone’s camera roll, or a physical photo album, and find a photo from your life that speaks to you. Write a poem inspired by that photo.

What does that part of your life mean to you? What were your thoughts and feelings at that point in your life?

Tip 4: Save the Theme for the End

In a poem, the last line is often the most important. These are the words that echo in your reader’s head after they’re done reading.

Many poems will tell a story or depict a series of images, allowing you to draw your own conclusions about what it’s trying to say, and then conclude with the takeaway at the very end. Think of it like a fable you might tell a child—often, the moral of the story comes at the end.

Tip for writing the last line of a poem

In sonnets it’s a common trend for the final couplet to summarize the theme of the whole poem.

Save the Theme: Example

Resumé by Dorothy Parker

Razors pain you; Rivers are damp; Acids stain you; And drugs cause cramp. Guns aren’t lawful; Nooses give; Gas smells awful; You might as well live.

Here, Dorothy Parker doesn’t make the poem’s meaning clear until the very last line: “You might as well live.” The poem feels fun, almost like a song, and its true meaning doesn’t become obvious until after you’ve finished reading the poem.

Save the Theme: Exercise

Pick your favorite proverb or adage, such as “Actions speak louder than words.” Write a poem that uses that proverb or adage as the closing line.

Common adages

Until the closing line, don’t comment on the deeper meaning in the rest of the poem—instead, tell a story that builds up to that theme.

Tip 5: Try a Poetic Form

Up until now, we’ve been writing in blank verse because it’s the most freeing. Sometimes, though, adding limitations can spark creativity too.

You can use a traditional poetic form to create the structure and shape of your poem.

If you have a limited number of lines to use, you’ll concentrate more on being concise and focused. Great poetry is minimalistic—no word is unnecessary. Using a form is a way to practice paring back to the words you absolutely need, and to start thinking about sound and rhyme.

The basic elements of a poem

The rules of a poetic form are never set in stone. It’s okay to experiment, and to pick and choose which rules you want to follow. If you want to use a form’s rhyme scheme but ignore its syllable count, for example, that’s perfectly fine.

Let’s look at some examples of poetic forms you can try, and the benefits of each one.

The haiku is a form of Japanese poetry made of three short, unrhymed lines. Traditionally, the first line contains 5 syllables, the second line contains 7 syllables, and the last contains 5 syllables.

Because each haiku must be incredibly concise, this form is a great way to practice economy of language and to learn how to convey a lot with a little. Even more so than with most other poetic forms, you have to think about each word and whether or not it pulls its weight in the poem as a whole.

The Old Pond by Matsuo Bashō

An old silent pond A frog jumps into the pond— Splash! Silence again.

What is a haiku?

The limerick is a 5-line poem with a sing-songy rhyme scheme and syllable count.

Limericks tend to be humorous and witty, so if you’re usually a comedic writer, they can be a great form for learning how to write poetry. You can treat the poem as a joke that builds up to a punchline.

Untitled Limerick by Edward Lear

There was an Old Man with a beard Who said, "It is just as I feared! Two Owls and a Hen, Four Larks and a Wren, Have all built their nests in my beard!"

how to write a limerick template

The sonnet is a 14-line poetic form, invented in Italy in the 13th century.

There are multiple types of sonnet. One of the most well-known forms is the Shakespearean sonnet, which is divided into three quatrains (4-line stanzas) and one couplet (2-line stanza).

Almost every professional poet has tried a sonnet at some point, from classical poets such as William Shakespeare , John Milton , and John Donne , as well as contemporary poets such as Kim Addonizio , R.S. Gwynn , and Cathy Park Hong .

Sonnets are great for practicing more advanced poetry. Their form forces you to think about rhyme and meter.

Sonnet 116 by William Shakespeare

Let me not to the marriage of true minds Admit impediments. Love is not love Which alters when it alteration finds, Or bends with the remover to remove. O no, it is an ever fixed mark That looks on tempests and is never shaken; It is the star to every wand’ring barque, Whose worth’s unknown although his height be taken. Love’s not time’s fool, though rosy lips and cheeks Within his bending sickle’s compass come; Love alters not with his brief hours and weeks, But bears it out even to the edge of doom. If this be error and upon me proved, I never writ, nor no man ever loved.

what is a shakespearean sonnet?

The villanelle is a 19-line poem with two lines that recur over and over throughout the poem.

The word “villanelle” comes from the Italian villanella , meaning rustic song or dance, because the two lines that are repeated resemble the chorus of a folk song. Using this form helps you to think about the sound and musicality of your writing.

Mad Girl’s Love Song by Sylvia Plath

I shut my eyes and all the world drops dead; I lift my lids and all is born again. (I think I made you up inside my head.)

The stars go waltzing out in blue and red, And arbitrary blackness gallops in: I shut my eyes and all the world drops dead.

I dreamed that you bewitched me into bed And sung me moon-struck, kissed me quite insane. (I think I made you up inside my head.)

God topples from the sky, hell’s fires fade: Exit seraphim and Satan’s men: I shut my eyes and all the world drops dead.

I fancied you’d return the way you said, But I grow old and I forget your name. (I think I made you up inside my head.)

I should have loved a thunderbird instead; At least when spring comes they roar back again. I shut my eyes and all the world drops dead. (I think I made you up inside my head.)

Try a Poetic Form: Exercise

Pick your favorite poetic form (sonnet, limerick, haiku, or villanelle) and try writing a poem in that structure.

Remember that you don’t have to follow all the rules—pick the ones that spark your imagination, and ignore the ones that don’t.

These are our five favorite tips to get started writing poems. Feel free to try each of them, or to mix and match them to create something entirely new.

Have you tried any of these poetry methods before? Which ones are your favorites? Let us know in the comments.

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Hannah Yang is a speculative fiction writer who writes about all things strange and surreal. Her work has appeared in Analog Science Fiction, Apex Magazine, The Dark, and elsewhere, and two of her stories have been finalists for the Locus Award. Her favorite hobbies include watercolor painting, playing guitar, and rock climbing. You can follow her work on hannahyang.com, or subscribe to her newsletter for publication updates.

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Promising Poetry

Promising Poetry

Find solace in reading, writing & gifting poetry

Starting from Scratch: A Beginner’s Guide to Writing Poetry

  • 3 February 2023

Picture that reads Starting from Scratch: A Beginner's Guide to Writing Poetry

Why poetry?

Where did i start, a path of creative self-expression, forget editing & go with the flow, show, not tell, write for one person, make it relatable, read it aloud, edit and evolve, trust the process.

I’m sure if you are reading this, at least for once you would have written poetry or attempted to write one. Whether a student, teacher, parent, someone from a literary background, homemaker or an uneducated person, everyone makes an effort to write a poem at some point in their lifetime. The simple reason behind this is that poetry is a means of self-expression, to capture emotions, thoughts, and experiences in a creative and imaginative way. Here’s a beginner’s guide to writing poetry from scratch.

Poetry can be used to tell a story, convey a message, evoke a feeling, or simply play with language. Writing poetry can also be a form of therapy, allowing people to work through difficult emotions and explore their inner selves. Additionally, poetry has been a significant part of human culture for thousands of years, passing down stories, beliefs, and traditions from one generation to the next.

So whatever your reason for writing poetry be, know that you are not alone and every expression matters. You don’t need a degree in literature or great writing skills to pen poetry. If you don’t believe me, let me tell you how I started writing one. It is a little embarrassing for me to put it here but then if it could help you see a possibility for your own poetry-writing journey, then why not, right?

When I was around 11 years old (that’s 23 years back) I started writing and my very first fascination was nature and it still remains to be so. My ‘idea’ of poetry at that time was just about lines ending with rhymes. This is how my very first poem, started (don’t laugh at it; it was a kid’s expression then!):

Do you see that? At this age, after years of writing experience, I can see so many things flawed in the above stanza. For one, it has to be God’s ‘creation’ & not ‘creature’ and the whole thing looks like a ‘forced rhyming’ just to call it poetry. Don’t even ask me about the rest of the stanzas. But wait, does it matter that it was flawed? Absolutely no; because I see it as a ‘start’.

Yes, that day, a small kid started her journey towards self-expression and all that mattered to her were words that helped her make sense of what was happening around her and also inside her mind. And my dear friend, that’s all that should matter to you too when you are starting to pen poetry.

Writing poetry is a path of creative self-expression.

Choose a theme that talks to you

Now that you know what really matters, let’s get to the act of writing. All you need is an intention to write one. Firstly, choose a theme that talks to you or tap into an emotion that you are currently experiencing. That way you can easily get into the flow of writing instead of getting about it mechanically. Start somewhere, anywhere but just start. It really doesn’t matter if you write a great starting line or not, trust me!

If you are still stuck wondering where to start, then simply borrow a line/phrase from any book you read or a poem you liked. You can later replace the first line with something of your own; it really works. And yeah, it is not copying, it’s simply taking inspiration.

If you ask any of the writers or poets, they will tell you how most times their first drafts end up nothing but crap. So fret not about perfection and simply add one word after the other. Remember, just one word after the other. Easy, right? For beginners, free verse is the best bet but if you are in the mood for experimentation with different forms like haiku, lyrical poems, etc, then go for it. Just don’t let the structure restrict the flow of your ideas.

How To Write Better Poetry

Poetry is enriched with vivid imagery (descriptions). Showing and not telling is a writing technique used to create vivid and engaging descriptions by allowing readers to experience and interpret events and emotions, rather than just being told about them. All you need to do is to tap a little deeper into your sense of touch, vision, hearing, smell or taste. Here are some examples of showing and not telling:

  • Telling: The food was delicious. Showing: The flavors exploded in his mouth as he savored each bite of the perfectly cooked biriyani.
  • Telling: She was sad. Showing: Tears streamed down her cheeks as she sat alone, staring blankly out the window.
  • Telling: The view was breathtaking. Showing: The sun set over the mountains, painting the sky in shades of pink and orange and taking his breath away.

Every individual has different perspectives and it’s the ability to put our perspectives out loud and clear that matters. So, loosen up, leave your hesitations and write for one person-yourself. Even if you plan to publish, it’s just you and the other person who is reading that is involved in this equation. So write for either yourself or just one reader. That way, the connection between you and the reader is easily established.

Have you noticed that a song lyrics appeals to you so much that it feels it was written just for you? Well, that’s where relatability comes into the picture. Even while you are writing your personal experiences, try and make it relatable to the reader.

To make a poem written from personal experience relatable to the reader, you can focus on universal themes and emotions that are common to many people. This can include topics such as love, loss, joy, fear, hope, etc. Additionally, you can use concrete and specific details that paint a vivid picture of your experiences and help the reader connect with them on an emotional level.

Avoid using jargon or uncommon terminology that may confuse or alienate the reader. Finally, you can use literary devices such as imagery, metaphor, and simile to enhance the emotional impact of the poem.

Reading your poem aloud can help you to identify and correct any issues in your writing, and to gain a better understanding of how the poem will be received by an audience. This is when you will get an idea of how the usage of words complement each other or not, whether is there a rhythmic flow to the poem, is the tone and theme of the poem are conveyed or not, etc.

So, own your poem and read it aloud to help you understand the nuances intuitively. It may sound difficult but try and see. You will get better at it with every poem.

Now that you know how your poetry has turned out and how it sounds while reading, it’s time that you make the edits and polish your poem. Though editing may take time to learn, it’s still your poem to experiment and evolve. Take charge of it and check the tone and mood of the poem. Make sure they match the content and the emotional impact you want to convey.

Read the poem several times, paying attention to each line and stanza. Look for areas that could be improved, such as awkward phrasing or unclear meaning. Consider using synonyms, metaphors, and similes to add depth and impact. Check the structure of the poem. Make sure each stanza and line break serves a purpose, and that the poem has a clear beginning, middle, and end. Finally, have someone else read the poem and provide feedback. This can give you a fresh perspective and help you to identify areas that could be improved.

Poetry is a creative form of self-expression. So, trust the process and evolve with each piece of writing. Also, poetry gives you the liberty to break the rules and simply have fun. So what stops you from writing a poetry, today? Get creative. Get bold. Get writing!

P.S. At the start of this post you read the childish poetry that I started with. To know how my writing has evolved over years, you can check these two poems (click on the below images) that are inspired by my all-time fascination with nature. You will see that with years, the experiences and perspectives have evolved. And, that is all that I wish for you to know, so you honour your expressions and emotions in verses without any hesitation.

How I Fell in Love With Her
If Only You Wake Up To Become the Sunlight

Hope this post helps. If you are just beginning to pen poetry, feel free to post it in the comments or share it on Twitter and tag me @PoetryPromising .

If you are an established poet, do share your very first piece of poetry. Let others be inspired.

Happy Poetrying!

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Last updated on Nov 23, 2022

How to Write a Poem: Get Tips from a Published Poet

Ever wondered how to write a poem? For writers who want to dig deep, composing verse lets you sift the sand of your experience for new glimmers of insight. And if you’re in it for less lofty reasons, shaping a stanza from start to finish can teach you to have fun with language in totally new ways.

To help demystify the subtle art of writing verse, we chatted with Reedsy editor (and published poet) Lauren Stroh . In 8 simple steps, here's how to write a poem:

1. Brainstorm your starting point

2. free-write in prose first, 3. choose your poem’s form and style, 4. read for inspiration, 5. write for an audience of one — you, 6. read your poem out loud, 7. take a break to refresh your mind, 8. have fun revising your poem.

Qap_5aHX1q4 Video Thumb

If you’re struggling to write your poem in order from the first line to the last, a good trick is opening with whichever starting point your brain can latch onto as it learns to think in verse.

Your starting point can be a line or a phrase you want to work into your poem, though it doesn’t have to take the form of language at all. It might be a picture in your head, as particular as the curl of hair over your daughter’s ear as she sleeps, or as capacious as the sea. It can even be a complicated feeling you want to render with precision — or maybe it's a memory you return to again and again. Think of this starting point as the "why" behind your poem, your impetus for writing it in the first place.

If you’re worried your starting point isn’t grand enough to merit an entire poem, stop right there. After all, literary giants have wrung verse out of every topic under the sun, from the disappointments of a post- Odyssey Odysseus to illicitly eaten refrigerated plums .

How to Write a Poem | Tennyson's "Ulysses" revisits a character from Greek epic, but that's only one of the topics you can address in your poetry

As Lauren Stroh sees it, your experience is more than worthy of being immortalized in verse.

"I think the most successful poems articulate something true about the human experience and help us look at the everyday world in new and exciting ways."

It may seem counterintuitive but if you struggle to write down lines that resonate, perhaps start with some prose writing first. Take this time to delve into the image, feeling, or theme at the heart of your poem, and learn to pin it down with language. Give yourself a chance to mull things over before actually writing the poem. 

Take 10 minutes and jot down anything that comes to mind when you think of your starting point. You can write in paragraphs, dash off bullet points, or even sketch out a mind map . The purpose of this exercise isn’t to produce an outline: it’s to generate a trove of raw material, a repertoire of loosely connected fragments to draw upon as you draft your poem in earnest.

Silence your inner critic for now

And since this is raw material, the last thing you should do is censor yourself. Catch yourself scoffing at a turn of phrase, overthinking a rhetorical device , or mentally grousing, “This metaphor will never make it into the final draft”? Tell that inner critic to hush for now and jot it down anyway. You just might be able to refine that slapdash, off-the-cuff idea into a sharp and poignant line.

Whether you’ve free-written your way to a beginning or you’ve got a couple of lines jotted down, before you complete a whole first draft of your poem, take some time to think about form and style. 

The form of a poem often carries a lot of meaning beyond the structural "rules" that it offers the writer. The rhyme patterns of sonnets — and the Shakespearean influence over the form — usually lend themselves to passionate pronouncements of love, whether merry or bleak. On the other hand, acrostic poems are often more cheeky because of the secret meaning that it hides in plain sight. 

Even if your material begs for a poem without formal restrictions, you’ll still have to decide on the texture and tone of your language. Free verse, after all, is as diverse a form as the novel, ranging from the breathless maximalism of Walt Whitman to the cool austerity of H.D . Where, on this spectrum, will your poem fall?

How to Write a Poem | H.D.'s poetry shows off a linguistically sparse, imagistically concrete style

Choosing a form and tone for your poem early on can help you work with some kind of structure to imbue more meanings to your lines. And if you’ve used free-writing to generate some raw material for yourself, a structure can give you the guidance you need to organize your notes into a poem. 

A poem isn’t a nonfiction book or a historical novel: you don’t have to accumulate reams of research to write a good one. That said, a little bit of outside reading can stave off writer’s block and keep you inspired throughout the writing process.

Build a short, personalized syllabus around your poem’s form and subject. Say you’re writing a sensorily rich, linguistically spare bit of free verse about a relationship of mutual jealousy between mother and daughter. In that case, you’ll want to read some key Imagist poems , alongside some poems that sketch out complicated visions of parenthood in unsentimental terms.

How to Write a Poem | Ezra Pound's two-line poem is a masterclass in using everyday language in verse

And if you don’t want to limit yourself to poems similar in form and style to your own, Lauren has you covered with an all-purpose reading list:

  • The Dream of a Common Languag e by Adrienne Rich
  • Anything you can get your hands on by Mary Oliver
  • The poems “ Failures in Infinitives ” and “ Fish & Chips ” by Bernadette Mayer.
  • I often gift Lunch Poems by Frank O’Hara to friends who write.
  • Everyone should read the interviews from the Paris Review’s archives . It’s just nice to observe how people familiar with language talk when they’re not performing, working, or warming up to write.

Even with preparation, the pressure of actually producing verse can still awaken your inner metrophobe (or poetry-fearer). What if people don’t understand — or even misinterpret — what you’re trying to say? What if they don’t feel drawn to your work? To keep the anxiety at bay, Lauren suggests writing for yourself, not for an external audience.

"I absolutely believe that poets can determine the validity of their own success if they are changed by the work they are producing themselves; if they are challenged by it; or if it calls into question their ethics, their habits, or their relationship to the living world. And personally, my life has certainly been changed by certain lines I’ve had the bravery to think and then write — and those moments are when I’ve felt most like I’ve made it."

You might eventually polish your work if you decide to publish your poetry down the line. (If you do, definitely check out the rest of this guide for tips and a list of magazines to submit to.) But as your first draft comes together, treat it like it’s meant for your eyes only.

A good poem doesn’t have to be pretty: maybe an easy, melodic loveliness isn’t your aim. It should, however, come alive on the page with a consciously crafted rhythm, whether hymn-like or discordant. To achieve that, read your poem out loud — at first, line by line, and then all together, as a complete text.

How to Write a Poem | Emily Dickinson's poetry shows off her extraordinary musicality

Trying out every line against your ear can help you weigh out a choice between synonyms — getting you to notice, say, the watery sound of “glacial”, the brittleness of “icy,” the solidity of “cold”.

Reading out loud can also help you troubleshoot line breaks that just don't feel right. Is the line unnaturally long, forcing you to rush through it or pause in the middle for a hurried inhale? If so, do you like that destabilizing effect, or do you want to literally give the reader some room to breathe? Testing these variations aloud is perhaps the only way to answer questions like these. 

While it’s incredibly exciting to complete a draft of your poem, and you might be itching to dive back in and edit it, it’s always advisable to take a break first. You don’t have to turn completely away from writing if you don’t want to. Take a week to chip away at your novel or even muse idly on your next poetic project — so long as you distance yourself from this poem a little while. 

This is because, by this point, you’ve probably read out every line so many times the meaning has leached out of the syllables. With the time away, you let your mind refresh so that you can approach the piece with sharper attention and more ideas to refine it. 

At the end of the day, even if you write in a well-established form, poetry is about experimenting with language, both written and spoken. Lauren emphasizes that revising a poem is thus an open-ended process that requires patience — and a sense of play. 

"Have fun. Play. Be patient. Don’t take it seriously, or do. Though poems may look shorter than what you’re used to writing, they often take years to be what they really are. They change and evolve. The most important thing is to find a quiet place where you can be with yourself and really listen."

Is it time to get other people involved?

Want another pair of eyes on your poem during this process? You have options. You can swap pieces with a beta reader , workshop it with a critique group , or even engage a professional poetry editor like Lauren to refine your work — a strong option if you plan to submit it to a journal or turn it into the foundation for a chapbook .

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The working poet's checklist

If you decide to fly solo, here’s a checklist to work through as you revise:

✅ Hunt for clichés. Did you find yourself reaching for ready-made idioms at any point? Go back to the sentiment you were grappling with and try to capture it in stronger, more vivid terms.

✅ See if your poem begins where it should. Did you take a few lines of throat-clearing to get to the actual point? Try starting your poem further down.

✅ Make sure every line belongs. As you read each line, ask yourself: how does this contribute to the poem as a whole? Does it advance the theme, clarify the imagery, set or subvert the reader’s expectations? If you answer with something like, “It makes the poem sound nice,” consider cutting it.

Once you’ve worked your way through this checklist, feel free to brew yourself a cup of tea and sit quietly for a while, reflecting on your literary triumphs. 

Whether these poetry writing tips have awakened your inner Wordsworth, or sent you happily gamboling back to prose, we hope you enjoyed playing with poetry —  and that you learned something new about your approach to language.

And if you are looking to share your poetry with the world, the next post in this guide can show the ropes regarding how to publish your poems! 

Anna Clarke says:

29/03/2020 – 04:37

I entered a short story competition and though I did not medal, one of the judges told me that some of my prose is very poetic. The following year I entered a poetry competition and won a bronze medal. That was my first attempt at writing poetry. I am more aware of figurative language in writing prose now. I am learning to marry the two. I don't have any poems online.

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