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

Hannah Yang headshot

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.

Take your writing to the next level:

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20 Editing Tips from Professional Writers

Whether you are writing a novel, essay, article, or email, good writing is an essential part of communicating your ideas., this guide contains the 20 most important writing tips and techniques from a wide range of professional writers..

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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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Writing Forward

36 Poetry Writing Tips

by Melissa Donovan | Aug 10, 2023 | Poetry Writing | 72 comments

poetry writing tips

Poetry writing tips.

Poetry is the most artistic and liberating form of creative writing. You can write in the abstract or the concrete. Images can be vague or subtle, brilliant or dull. Write in form, using patterns, or write freely, letting your conscience (or subconscious) be your guide.

You can do just about anything in a poem. That’s why poetry writing is so wild and free; there are no rules. Poets have complete liberty to build something out of nothing simply by stringing words together.

All of this makes poetry writing alluring to writers who are burning with creativity. A poet’s process is magical and mesmerizing. But all that freedom and creativity can be a little overwhelming. If you can travel in any direction, which way should you go? Where are the guideposts?

Today’s writing tips include various tools and techniques that a poet can use. But these tips aren’t just for poets. All writers benefit from dabbling in poetry. Read a little poetry, write a few poems, study some basic concepts in poetry, and your other writing (fiction, creative nonfiction, even blogging) will soar.

Below, you’ll find thirty-six writing tips that take you on a little journey through the craft of poetry writing. See which ones appeal to you, give them a whirl, and they will lead you on a fantastic adventure.

  • Read lots of poetry. In fact, read a lot of anything if you want to produce better writing.
  • Write poetry as often as you can.
  • Designate a special notebook (or space in your notebook) for poetry writing.
  • Try writing in form (sonnets, haiku, etc.).
  • Use imagery.
  • Embrace metaphors, but stay away from clichés.
  • Sign up for a poetry writing workshop.
  • Expand your vocabulary.
  • Read poems over and over (and aloud). Consider and analyze them.
  • Join a poetry forum or poetry writing group online.
  • Study musicality in writing (rhythm and meter).
  • Use poetry prompts when you’re stuck.
  • Be funny. Make a funny poem.
  • Notice what makes others’ poetry memorable. Capture it, mix it up, and make it your own.
  • Try poetry writing exercises when you’ve got writer’s block.
  • Study biographies of famous (or not-so-famous) poets.
  • Memorize a poem (or two, or three, or more).
  • Revise and rewrite your poems to make them stronger and more compelling.
  • Have fun with puns.
  • Don’t be afraid to write a bad poem. You can write a better one later.
  • Find unusual subject matter — a teapot, a shelf, a wall.
  • Use language that people can understand.
  • Meditate or listen to inspirational music before writing poetry to clear your mind and gain focus.
  • Keep a notebook with you at all times so you can write whenever (and wherever) inspiration strikes.
  • Submit your poetry to literary magazines and journals.
  • When you submit work, accept rejection and try again and again. You can do it and you will.
  • Get a website or blog and publish your own poetry.
  • Connect with other poets to share and discuss the craft that is poetry writing.
  • Attend a poetry reading or slam poetry event.
  • Subscribe to a poetry podcast and listen to poetry.
  • Support poets and poetry by buying books and magazines that feature poetry.
  • Write with honesty. Don’t back away from your thoughts or feelings. Express them!
  • Don’t be afraid to experiment. Mix art and music with your poetry. Perform it and publish it.
  • Eliminate all unnecessary words, phrases, and lines. Make every word count.
  • Write a poem every single day.
  • Read a poem every single day.

Have You Written a Poem Lately?

I believe that poetry is the most exquisite form of writing. And anyone can write a poem if they want to. In today’s world of fast-moving images, poetry has lost much of its appeal to the masses. But there are those of us who thrive on language and who still appreciate a poem and its power to move us emotionally. It’s our job to keep great poetry writing alive. And it’s our job to keep writing poetry.

What are some of your favorite writing tips from today’s list? How can you apply poetry writing techniques to other forms of writing? Do you have any tips to add? Leave a comment!

72 Comments

Maria

Interesting article! 🙂 Thank you for writing this, Melissa!

Melissa Donovan

Thank you for reading it, Maria!

sandy

I find this very helpful in my search to write poetry with some help. I am finding lots of things on the internet. This is my favorite so far.

Thanks for your kind words, Sandy. I’m glad you found this article helpful!

Connie Brzowski

Nice article~ I started writing poetry on a regular basis back in November. Gave myself permission to write really bad stuff without hitting the delete key 🙂

I’d like to see recommendations for poetry blogs ands sites if you don’t mind sharing.

Hi Connie. In my experience, creative freedom (permission to write bad stuff) is essential in poetry writing. Most of the poetry sites I visit are online literary magazines, but I actually get most of my poetry from books. There are some excellent podcasts too — IndieFeed: Performance Poetry and Poem of the Day come to mind as two favorites.

Mrs.GurlieGurl

Poem: Our Promise Kiribaku

You promised You promised me the world You promised You promised me your last name You promised You promised me heaven You promised You promised me Money You promised me freedom But now I am shackled by the pain of our broken promise

--Deb

I have not written a poem lately. I don’t know why, but I only feel compelled to write poetry when I’m overflowing with emotion of some kind. Anger, passion, remorse, grief, love … the things that are so hard to contain in prose and need the stretchier boundaries of poetry to give them the room they need. Otherwise, I’m a down-to-earth, prose girl, and since, as a rule, I’m pretty even-keeled as emotions go … I don’t do the poetry thing very often. I think about it, though. Does that count?

Do you read a lot of poetry? I too tend to get the urge to write poetry when I’m overflowing with emotion, so I know what you mean. And it’s easy to drift away from poetry writing, especially when you’re blogging and writing copy! I don’t know if thinking about it counts, but I guess if your thoughts eventually lead to a poem, then it does count! Ha!

I really don’t read that much poetry, I like to think of myself as a creative person, but I’m still a prose girl at heart. Also, I have an aversion to things that rhyme (other than song lyrics) because sappy Hallmark cards pretty much ruined that for me when I was in my teens (grin).

Hallmark hasn’t exactly been a positive PR machine for poetry in general, has it? But what about Dr. Seuss-ish rhymes? Nursery rhymes? Rhymes in song lyrics? Can you tell I love rhyming? I know what you mean about sappy rhymes and greeting-card poems. When I’m writing (or reading) I always look for clever and unexpected rhymes. That sort of levels out the cheesiness factor.

zz

Hi Melissa,

Thanks for posting this list!

My illustrious poetry career was cut short around the age of 13, when I became more obsessed with journaling about boys than writing witty epic poems commemorating family members’ birthdays.

I’ve decided that this will be the year that I finally open up to poetry again! I’ll probably start up with writing in my signature “grade 6” style of poetry which is likely to include rhymes like “bee” and “pee” and classic highbrow toilet humour. Hopefully I can grow from there. I’m currently trawling through your previous posts and comments for poetry tips, terms and reading suggestions – the one on meter and musicality looks especially good.

You asked for topic requests in a previous post, so here are a few post suggestions that I’d be interested in reading about:

1. A list of your favourite poets or pieces? (I’m currently asking all my friends for suggested readings as a starting point!) 2. More poetic devices or techniques that you may know about?

Hi zz. I’ll have to think about compiling a list of my favorite poems and poets. Some of my favorites are ee cummings, Maya Angelou, Margaret Atwood, Emily Dickinson, and so many more…

Like you, I started writing poetry when I was 13 years old. Since then, I’ve been in and out of poetry writing over the years. It’s comforting to know that I can always return to it. Good luck this year with your poetry!

vamn

All the tips are most useful for anyone who wants to become a poet. But it is not easy to follow each and every step. Concentration and hard work is essential to reach the goal.

True, although it depends on the goal. I’ve known a lot of writers who write poetry solely for personal expression. Their poems are private, much like a journal. You’re right in that it’s not easy to follow every step, and becoming a (published) poet takes concentration and hard work.

J.D. Meier

I think I never write poems because I don’t know when a poem is a poem and when it’s not. I never figured out any simple criteria for something to be a poem.

Do you ever read poetry? I think that learning through example is the best way to figure out what is a poem, although I have come across a few poems that I would consider prose or fiction — these are often referred to as “prose poems.” If you wanted to try your hand at poetry writing, you could always go the traditional route and compose sonnets or haiku. Those are definitely poems.

Nithin

Thanks for sharing your insights on poetry.It is a nice article.Surely to improve poetry,one has to keep writing and editing.

That’s true. Improvement comes from practice, so keep on writing.

Praverb

I made a New Year’s resolution to write a poem a day…so far I have strayed from my resolution hehe…nice post

Aw, but you still shouldn’t give up. You can also double up to catch up. Good luck!

Thank you Melissa, I will catch up by doubling up. The hardest thing to do is to employ various poetical techniques in a hip-hop form and present them to an audience that may be too dense to grab or understand dedication to the craft. I have learned that there is a market for everything though.

Don’t underestimate your audience! One of the reasons I fell in love with hip hop was because of its poetry (Jay-Z in particular). Of course, then there was the dance element!

Mary

Hi Melissa! Thanks for this site.It feels nice being with people who loves to write and your tips are really very useful. I am a lover of poems and I have tried writing poems myself. I’ve tried to write poems everyday as suggested and I realized that it is good practice…although most of them are not really even worth sharing, but it gives me time to critic my own work and at the same time improve on them. Oftentimes I dream that someday my poems will entertain others the way some poems entertain me, but many I find my poems very shallow. And much as I would like to say that poetry is just a way of expressing myself and sometimes venting myself of some negative feelings so I have to keep them to myself, most of the time, I have the urge to share it to somebody. Sometimes, the beauty of the poem for me is when you are able to share what it is you want to express and somebody else understands it the way you wanted it to be understood. It may be vain, but I think it is also a great feeling when someone says he/she liked my poem. Is it normal for a writer?

Hi Mary. Yes, I think what you’re experiencing is completely normal for a writer. Often, what seems obvious or ordinary to you is fascinating to someone else. If we, as writers, write what we know, then it’s not necessarily new or exciting, but for someone who hasn’t walked in our shoes or lived inside our heads, our words are fresh and compelling.

Of course it’s a wonderful feeling when someone likes your poem! The trick is to also experience a wonderful feeling when someone likes it enough to offer suggestions for improvements: “I like this poem a lot, but it would be even better if…” That’s a sign that someone believes in your work enough to want to help you grow.

My suggestion is to read tons and tons of poetry. There is plenty of great work online, but be sure to explore the classics and literary journals too. Good luck to you!

CHARAN

i have written a lot of poems. where can one send these for publishing….

Hi Charlan. Your question is really beyond the scope of what I can answer in a blog comment. There are hundreds, if not thousands, of publications that accept submissions. But before you submit to any of them, you should read them. I recommend searching for literary magazines, poetry magazines, literary journals, and poetry journals. That should be a good start.

Rose Mattax

.35 read a poem every day.

Well, there are lots of great tips here, but I thought I’d share a source of poetry that allows me to read a sacred poem everyday. It’s great–stuff all the way from Rumi to Levertov. And it draws on all spiritual traditions. Here’s the link! http://www.poetry-chaikhana.com/

Thanks for sharing that link, Rose. I’ll have to check it out. Great poetry is a bit hard to find online, so I appreciate your suggestion.

Lauren @ Pure Text

I love poetry. I recently got the word tattooed on my right arm. 🙂 Now that I’ve read this, I’m inspired to write a sonnet! Thank you!

Thank you, Lauren. Good luck with your sonnet.

Alex Marestaing

Though I write youth fiction now, I can’t get away from poetry and end up scribbling poetic lines down in my journal every now and then. I guess that stems from my teen music writing days, where I had notebooks full of songs, poetry, whatever. Poetry is such a free form of writing, kind of like dancing 🙂

I couldn’t agree more, Alex. My focus these days is more on fiction and creative nonfiction, but the poems still show up at will. When they do, I write them in my journal. It’s definitely like dancing (a magical kind of dancing).

Donnie

Melissa Donovan, I could disagree with everything you said, but that would make me a fool. And I am no fool no sir re, although I act a bit like one from time to time. Yes Notebooks galore are stored in my little pad.

I don’t read a lot as I am creating a lot and posting and maintaining my Blogs and websites along with all their supporting Bookmakers and Indexers. Forums are great and workshops are better. But the thing I find most supportive is pretending to be your own Publisher your own Boss.

This is what I am doing day in and day out or whenever the spirits move me. I talk about mostly creating as I am not educated enough in the forms of other poetry just free verse and prose. I guess I should try others forms and I may at a latter date.

But right not I am trying to make my poetry work for me, as I am Home bound and disabled to a great extent. Well I enjoyed this write it states much truth for Poets and Poetesses a like, God Bless and may you Keep on Keeping On!

Donnie/ Sinbad the Sailor Man

I believe that reading is essential to good writing. Many writers have reasons for not reading, but I think the reasons to read are far more convincing. In fact, I think spending an hour a day reading and twenty minutes writing will improve your writing faster and more thoroughly than spending an hour and twenty minutes a day writing. Keep at it, Donnie.

ash

hi melissa, i am 14 and i wrote my firt poem a month ago. since then my school had registered my name for a competition. i am not really experienced and i am worried since i have to write a poem on a topic given by thejudges, in an hour. any tips?

My first tip would be this: don’t take the competition too seriously. It’s an honor that you were selected. Most poets aren’t constrained by a one-hour time limit, but this is definitely an opportunity to have a little fun with your creativity and challenge yourself. I say, just go with it. If you can, give yourself about ten minutes to jot down words and images once you’ve been given your subject. Then spend about thirty minutes working that material into a poem. Use the remaining twenty minutes to edit and revise. Good luck to you, Ash!

Wing

These are really good advise. I love point 23 especially, to meditate before penning down. I’ve always find poetry writing a way to connect with my own spirituality. I have always been smitten by poems of others with their powerful rhyming and rhythm, which I always have difficulty pulling it off. It always seem to me that they have not one word wasted. What would you suggest to make an improvement on ths aspect?

The best suggestion I can offer you is to edit your poems slowly and thoughtfully. Poems can happen very quickly and many beginning poets are inclined to go over the poem once or twice, sweeping it rather than giving it a deep cleaning. Spend time with the poem. Look for alternative words in a thesaurus. If you’re having trouble with rhyme, use a rhyming dictionary. If the rhythm is off, use a metronome or play music (without lyrics) while you write, or study music on the side to get a sense of rhythm and meter.

Nibedit

Wow!!!! Found it just awesome.. Yeah I have written some poems, but haven’t published anywhere, so, how can I do it to publish on this site.. This made me, to devote myself more and more for my dream Thaanxx for the article

Hi Nibedit. This is not a publishing platform for poetry, but you can do a search for “poetry journals” and “literary magazines” to find a host of sites that accept work for publication. I wish you the best of luck with your writing!

Summer

Well-written tips Melissa! Reading a lot definitely helps you to produce better poetry. I always have a small book in my bag, so that I could write whenever I feel to 🙂

Thanks, Summer! I carry a tiny notebook too, plus my phone, which I can use if I’ve forgotten my notebook for some reason.

Celine

Hey, Melissa! I’ve read through your article, but I’m still stuck on how I’m supposed to write a poem with deeper meaning. It seems like every other poem I’ve ever written have the same words on it and I’m running out of ideas of how to start. I would’ve considered myself to be fairly good as a learning poet but now i think I’m doubting myself because i used to know more vocabularies and now i can’t seem to think of any witty writings. I would appreciate any suggestions you may offer.

My best suggestion is to read some poetry and read some books on the craft of poetry. I always found those to the best ways to break through a plateau. You can check my Writing Resources page, where I have listed some of my favorite poetry resources.

Thomas

I’m 13 and I’m trying to put together a poetry book. It’s about being gay and losing friends because of it, people not liking me back, etc. So far the poems I have written are very good (in my opinion), although depressing. I sent one in to a literary agent asking if it was professional material and he said he would gladly help me publish it.

So, what I wanted to say is that I barely ever read poetry and I can still write well. My ideas, rhythm patterns, rhyme schemes, etc. are original, and I like that about them. I’m not going for perfect or a masterpiece. I just want to get my messages and emotions across, so I don’t read the poetry of others. I can see why other poets would, but I just don’t. I just let myself write, and then I edit and revise whatever I come up with. Just stop when it sounds good.

Also, I want to add that you shouldn’t be afraid to write dark or depressing poetry. Just write with the emotions that you feel inside. Almost all of my poems are depressing, but it doesn’t mean that I cut myself or anything. So don’t be afraid to do that. (Writing depressing poetry, not cutting yourself. Lol)

Good luck to all of you aspiring poets out there!

Thanks, Thomas

Thomas, I think it’s wonderful that you’re writing poetry at age thirteen (coincidentally, that’s the age I started writing it, too) and that you’re using poetry to express yourself and address important social issues. I applaud you!

However, I cannot get on board with the notion that one can write great poetry without reading it. You say you write good poems, but how could you possibly know whether your poems are good if you don’t read any other poetry? What, exactly, are you comparing your poems to? You may very well be a born talent, but I can assure you that if you study your craft, your poems will be a thousand times better.

You say “I just want to get my messages and emotions across, so I don’t read the poetry of others.” It sounds to me like you want the world to listen to you but you don’t want to listen to anyone else, which is too bad. I hope that in time, you’ll change your mind and decide to embrace poetry in full, which means reading it as well as writing it.

Teresa Albert

I do enjoy reading a poem everyday. I subscribed to Academy of American Poets Poem A Day. That way I’m sure to read a different poem each day delivered to my email. The last time I wrote a poem was a week ago. I need to get back into a better routine with writing poetry. I enjoy it very much and I do try to find different journals and contests to submit my poetry to at least a few times a year. Thanks for the motivation with this article.

I’ve always viewed poetry as the most artistic (and sometimes magical!) form of writing. I just wish more people would embrace it.

Tristan Paul

hi. i’ve been so empty lately. the thought of making poems is that it interests me, at my good times and bad times. i dont know if it is talent or something. they dont even know, my friends and my family. im a little shy and ashame about it. they would say poetry sucks, its not for you, they would never understand the feeling. this is what i really love to do . i want to play with words. they found me. help me understand it. thanks.bye

If you want to make poems, then make poems. Other people don’t get to decide how you spend your free time. Why on earth would you be ashamed about wanting to write poetry? There are always people who want to shame and bully people because they are different. Don’t let them control you. Can you imagine shaming someone because they like soccer or knitting?

Don As Tauno

Ms Melissa, Also “steal” techniques and then perfect them to your purpose.

Gayle De souza

Thank you so much for this article Melissa! I wanted to write a book on my life for so many years but decided it would hurt too many people, even though they never thought about their actions. I woke up one morning and wrote poems(literally) based on the way i felt which I felt was less hurtful but more direct and expressive! My poems are free form and I’ve been reading up on writing good poetry. Although I find it difficult to fit to the guidelines. This article really helps! Cheers!

Hi Gayle! I’m so glad you liked this article. I once had an idea for a book based on real life, but like you, it wasn’t worth it to risk upsetting people, and I had plenty of other things that I wanted to write. Actually, it was a good way to eliminate an idea at a time when I had too many of them! And I agree that poetry is the most expressive and cathartic form of writing. Thank you for your comment.

David Irvine

Thank you so much for this fantastic article Melissa. I have just published my first book and working on my next one. I’m always on the outlook for crafted information to help me as a writer. I have developed my own style when writing poetry but it’s always nice to dapple using different ideas and constraints. Thanks…

You’re welcome, David. Congratulations on finishing your first book. May there be many more to follow!

Grace A

This is encouraging. I’ve written a couple of poems but didn’t think they were good enough. Now I know there are really no limits. Thanks!

I’m glad you found this encouraging, Grace. As long as you stick with it, there are no limits. Keep writing.

Jeffery Williams

Thanks beloved friend & Poetess I appreciate all your tips Everyone is On point, Phenomenal brilliant Food for a, poetry writer & speaker To use.

Lovely! Thanks, Jeffrey.

D. J. Irvine

I’ve been writing poetry for years and have a collection of books on Amazon. When it comes to critique from your audience, it may surprise you! You might find teachers, other poets, writers and artists love your work. However, you will get feedback from people who hate your words. They will be harsh and leave you with a terrible review. This doesn’t mean you should stop and feel terrible, it just means you didn’t resonate with that person. Every type of creative work is open to good and bad feedback. It’s all part of the process. Just keep doing what you love.

This is so true. All art is subjective. I’ve had some interesting debates with people who don’t care for the poetry of ee cummings. Personally, I love his work. Unfortunately, reviewers often lack objectivity. For example, a trained and experienced reviewer can probably acknowledge the merit of a work while expressing their dislike (“it’s good work but not to my taste”). Some say you haven’t really “made it” until you get your first negative review. Writers can use feedback to grow and improve, but we should not let negative reviews impede our progress or determination. Thanks for your comment!

Valiant-heart

I lost my muse trying to find it again. So I wrote this

consciously asleep

Yellow is the sun Blue is the sky Hot is the desert Blank is the heart

Filled is the store Hungry do we wake

Many are they None is there

Alive we are Dead are we walking

Happy is the face Sad is the heart

Many are friends Lonely is he

Beauty is the body Ugly is the being

Island do we dwell Thirst are we

Kings are we born Shackles around neck

Love do they preach Hate do we see

Blessed are we born Cursed are we

Perfect is the earth made Chaos do we see

Mercy sowth the creator Vengeance ignited the creation

Noises do we hear Yet deaf are we.

Thank you for sharing your poem with us. Lovely.

Donetta

This list is awesome. The one item on the list that renosontes with me would be supporting your favorite poets, your local poets, and read their marietial. I recently had a poem accepted by Spillwords called “Running with Scissors.” I’d like to attend a poetry slam in the future.

Thanks, Donetta! I too would love to attend a poetry slam. They look so fun!

Kymber Hawke

You have some wonderful tips here. 🤍🌺 I’ve learned so much!

Thanks, Kymber! I love how you use the Sims to illustrate your stories! That’s awesome.

V.M. Sang

Thanks for this wonderful post. In December last year I committed myself to write one poem a day for a year. So far, I’m on track, but am running out of inspiration. Some of my poems are traditional rhyming poetry, one or two are free verse. I’ve written some Haiku, a few limericks, one or two narrative poems and some on things I feel deeply about, like what we are doing to our lovely planet. I hope to publish in two volumes–January to June and July to December. People will then be able to read one poem each day for a year.

What a fun challenge. I always mean to write a poem a day in April for National Poetry Month, but I keep forgetting! That seems to be a busy time of year for me.

@donnablackwrites

I write a lot of poetry and have published a couple of collections. But with no rules, I wonder if there are more things I should know. I do/have done most of your list, but there are some good additions here. Thanks

You’re welcome!

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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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Poetry writing tips: 10 helpful hacks for how to write a poem.

Jerz > Writing > General Creative Writing Tips [  Poetry  | Fiction  ]

If you are writing a poem because you want to capture a feeling that you experienced , then you don’t need these tips. Just write whatever feels right. Only you experienced the feeling that you want to express, so only you will know whether your poem succeeds.

If, however, your goal is to communicate with a reader — drawing on the established conventions of a literary genre (conventions that will be familiar to the experienced reader) to generate an emotional response in your reader — then simply writing what feels right to you won’t be enough.  (See also “ Poetry is for the Ear ” and “ When Backwards Newbie Poets Write .”)

These tips will help you make an important transition:

  • away from writing poetry to celebrate, commemorate, or capture your own feelings (in which case you, the poet, are the center of the poem’s universe)
  • towards writing poetry in order to generate feelings in your reader (in which case the poem exists entirely to serve the reader).

Poetry: 10 Tips for Writing Poems

  • Avoid Clichés
  • Avoid Sentimentality
  • Use Metaphor and Simile
  • Use Concrete Words Instead of Abstract Words
  • Communicate Theme
  • Subvert the Ordinary
  • Rhyme with Extreme Caution
  • Revise, Revise, Revise

Tip #1 Know Your Goal.

If you don’t know where you’re going, how can you get there?

You need to know what you are trying to accomplish before you begin any project. Writing a poem is no exception.

Before you begin, ask yourself what you want your poem to “do.” Do you want your poem to explore a personal experience, protest a social injustice, describe the beauty of nature, or play with language in a certain way? Once your know the goal of your poem, you can conform your writing to that goal. Take each main element in your poem and make it serve the main purpose of the poem.

Tip #2 Avoid Clichés

Stephen Minot defines a  cliché as: “A metaphor or simile that has become so familiar from overuse that the vehicle … no longer contributes any meaning whatever to the tenor. It provides neither the vividness of a fresh metaphor nor the strength of a single unmodified word….The word is also used to describe overused but nonmetaphorical expressions such as ‘tried and true’ and ‘each and every'” ( Three Genres: The Writing of Poetry, Fiction and Drama , 405).

Cliché also describes other overused literary elements. “Familiar plot patterns and stock characters are clichés on a big scale” (Minot 148). Clichés can be overused themes, character types, or plots. For example, the “Lone Ranger” cowboy is a cliché because it has been used so many times that people no longer find it original.

A work full of clichés is like a plate of old food: unappetizing.

Creative Writing Tips

More creative writing tips.

Clichés work against original communication. People value creative talent. They want to see work that rises above the norm. When they see a work without clichés, they know the writer has worked his or her tail off, doing whatever it takes to be original. When they see a work full to the brim with clichés, they feel that the writer is not showing them anything above the ordinary. (In case you hadn’t noticed, this paragraph is chock full of clichés… I’ll bet you were bored to tears.)

Clichés dull meaning. Because clichéd writing sounds so familiar, people can finish whole lines without even reading them. If they don’t bother to read your poem, they certainly won’t stop to think about it. If they do not stop to think about your poem, they will never encounter the deeper meanings that mark the work of an accomplished poet.

Examples of Clichés:

How to improve a cliché.

I will take the cliché “as busy as a bee” and show how you can express the same idea without cliché.

  • Determine what the clichéd phrase is trying to say. In this case, I can see that “busy as a bee” is a way to describe the state of being busy.
  • Think of an original way to describe what the cliché is trying to describe. For this cliché, I started by thinking about busyness. I asked myself the question, “What things are associated with being busy?” I came up with: college, my friend Jessica, corporation bosses, old ladies making quilts and canning goods, and a computer, fiddlers fiddling. From this list, I selected a thing that is not as often used in association with busyness: violins.
  • Create a phrase using the non-clichéd way of description. I took my object associated with busyness and turned it into a phrase: “I feel like a bow fiddling an Irish reel.” This phrase communicates the idea of “busyness” much better than the worn-out, familiar cliché. The reader’s mind can picture the insane fury of the bow on the violin, and know that the poet is talking about a very frenzied sort of busyness. In fact, those readers who know what an Irish reel sounds like may even get a laugh out of this fresh way to describe “busyness.”

Try it! Take a cliché and use these steps to improve it. You may even end up with a line you feel is good enough to put in a poem!

Tip #3 Avoid Sentimentality.

Sentimentality is “dominated by a blunt appeal to the emotions of pity and love …. Popular subjects are puppies, grandparents, and young lovers” (Minot 416). “When readers have the feeling that emotions like rage or indignation have been pushed artificially for their own sake, they will not take the poem seriously” (132).

Minot says that the problem with sentimentality is that it detracts from the literary quality of your work (416). If your poetry is mushy or teary-eyed, your readers may openly rebel against your effort to invoke emotional response in them. If that happens, they will stop thinking about the issues you want to raise, and will instead spend their energy trying to control their own gag reflex.

Tip #4 Use Images.

“BE A PAINTER IN WORDS,” says UWEC English professor emerita, poet, and songwriter Peg Lauber. She says poetry should stimulate six senses:

  • kinesiology (motion)
  • “Sunlight varnishes magnolia branches crimson” (sight)
  • “Vacuum cleaner’s whir and hum startles my ferret” (hearing)
  • “Penguins lumber to their nests” (kinesiology)

Lauber advises her students to produce fresh, striking images (“imaginative”). Be a camera.  Make the reader  be there with the poet/speaker/narrator. (See also: “ Show, Don’t (Just) Tell “)

Tip #5 Use Metaphor and Simile.

Use metaphor and simile to bring imagery and concrete words into your writing.

A metaphor is a statement that pretends one thing is really something else: Example: “The lead singer is an elusive salamander.” This phrase does not mean that the lead singer is literally a salamander. Rather, it takes an abstract characteristic of a salamander (elusiveness) and projects it onto the person. By using metaphor to describe the lead singer, the poet creates a much more vivid picture of him/her than if the poet had simply said “The lead singer’s voice is hard to pick out.”
A simile is a statement where you say one object is similar to another object. Similes use the words “like” or “as.” Example: “He was curious as a caterpillar” or “He was curious, like a caterpillar” This phrase takes one quality of a caterpillar and projects it onto a person. It is an easy way to attach concrete images to feelings and character traits that might usually be described with abstract words.

Note: A simile is not automatically any more or less “poetic” than a metaphor. You don’t suddenly produce better poems if you replace all your similes with metaphors, or vice versa. The point to remember is that comparison, inference, and suggestion are all important tools of poetry; similes and metaphors are tools that will help in those areas.

Tip #6 Use Concrete Words Instead of Abstract Words.

Concrete words describe things that people experience with their senses.

A person can see orange, feel warm, or hear a cat.

A poet’s concrete words help the reader get a “picture” of what the poem is talking about. When the reader has a “picture” of what the poem is talking about, he/she can better understand what the poet is talking about.

Abstract words refer to concepts or feelings.

“Liberty” is a concept, “happy” is a feeling, and no one can agree on whether “love” is a feeling, a concept or an action.

A person can’t see, touch, or taste any of these things. As a result, when used in poetry, these words might simply fly over the reader’s head, without triggering any sensory response. Further, “liberty,” “happy,” and “love” can mean different things to different people. Therefore, if the poet uses such a word, the reader may take a different meaning from it than the poet intended.

Change Abstract Words Into Concrete Words

To avoid problems caused by using abstract words, use concrete words.

Example: “She felt happy.”

This line uses the abstract word “happy.” To improve this line, change the abstract word to a concrete image. One way to achieve this is to think of an object or a scene that evokes feelings of happiness to represent the happy feeling.

Improvement: “Her smile spread like red tint on ripening tomatoes.”

This line uses two concrete images: a smile and a ripening tomato. Describing the smile shows the reader something about happiness, rather than simply coming right out and naming the emotion. Also, the symbolism of the tomato further reinforces the happy feelings. Red is frequently associated with love; ripening is a positive natrual process; food is further associated with being satisfied.

Tip #7 Communicate Theme.

Poetry always has a theme. Theme is not just a topic, but an idea with an opinion.

Theme = Idea + Opinion

Topic: “The Vietnam War”

This is not a theme. It is only a subject. It is just an event. There are no ideas, opinions, or statements about life or of wisdom contained in this sentence

Theme: “History shows that despite our claims to be peace-loving, unfortunately each person secretly dreams of gaining glory through conflict.”

This is a theme. It is not just an event, but a statement about an event. It shows what the poet  thinks about the event. The poet strives to show the reader his/her theme during the entire poem, making use of literary techniques.

Tip #8 Subvert the Ordinary.

Poets’ strength is the  ability to see what other people see everyday in a new way . You don’t have to be special or a literary genius to write good poems–all you have to do is take an ordinary object, place, person, or idea, and come up with a new perception of it.

Example: People ride the bus everyday.

Poets’ Interpretation: A poet looks at the people on the bus and imagines scenes from their lives. A poet sees a sixty-year old woman and imagines a grandmother who runs marathons. A poet sees a two-year old boy and imagines him painting with ruby nail polish on the toilet seat, and his mother struggling to not respond in anger.

Take the ordinary and turn it on its head. (The word “subvert” literally means “turn upside down”.)

Tip #9 Rhyme with Extreme Caution.

Rhyme and meter (the pattern of stressed and unstressed words) can be dangerous if used the wrong way. Remember sing-song nursery rhymes? If you choose a rhyme scheme that makes your poem sound sing-song, it will detract from the quality of your poem.

I recommend that  beginning poets stick to free verse . It is hard enough to compose a poem without dealing with the intricacies of rhyme and meter. (Note: see Jerz’s response to this point, in “ Poetry Is For the Ear .”)

If you feel ready to create a rhymed poem, refer to chapters 6-10 of Stephen Minot’s book Three Genres: The Writing of Poetry, Fiction, and Drama . 6 th ed., for more help.

Tip #10 Revise, Revise, Revise.

The first completed draft of your poem is only the beginning. Poets often go through several drafts of a poem before considering the work “done.”

  • Put your poem away for a few days, and then come back to it. When you re-read it, does anything seem confusing? Hard to follow? Do you see anything that needs improvement that you overlooked the first time? Often, when you are in the act of writing, you may leave out important details because you are so familiar with the topic. Re-reading a poem helps you to see it from the “outsider’s perspective” of a reader.
  • Show your poem to others and ask for criticism. Don’t be content with a response like, “That’s a nice poem.” You won’t learn anything from that kind of response. Instead, find people who will tell you specific things you need to improve in your poem.

26 May 2000 — originally submitted by Kara Ziehl, as an assignment for Prof. Jerz’s technical writing class 01 Aug 2000 — modified and posted by Jerz 30 Nov 2001 — minor edits by Jerz 21 July 2011 — minor refresh 22 May 2013 — added intro before the tips. 24 Dec 2017 — minor formatting tweaks 09 Apr 2019 — corrected a 1000-year error caused by a typo in the above line

Handouts >  Creative Writing >  Poetry Tips

Poetry is for the Ear (jerz.setonhill.edu)

Poetry is for the Ear  — Whatever poetry you write or read, learn to listen with the ears of your audience. Pay attention to the sounds the words make, even if you write in free verse.

writing poetry tips

Short Poems: Little Exquisite Vessels of Thought   –A few good lines of verse can pack as much emotional content as a whole paragraph of ordinary prose. Just because a poem is short does not mean writing it is easy.

writing poetry tips

Getting College Credit for your High School Poems  –Poems that perfectly record how you felt about events in your life probably won’t work as submissions for college writing classes. Most professors will expect you to revise in-progress poems.

305 thoughts on “ Poetry Writing Tips: 10 Helpful Hacks for How to Write a Poem ”

It’s an interesting one

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I jumped from the introduction to the cliché section and kept reading until the end of the rhyming advice. This is powerful to post for someone to use as a subtle guideline during the writing process. Going through one of my poems on my blog, I rewrote it several times, making sure it hits the spot. Now, I feel once I post all 30 of my blogs, I’m going to go through each one and continue making modifications until it is perfect and sounds correct.

I am much impressed by the site,,it has motivated me as a poetry beginner In 1 year time I believe I shall be a great poet,thank you.

Poetry is a genre of literature, a genre of art, and a genre of life. It is a form of literary artwork due to its matchless beauty and magnitude of emotion.

I love poems

the above mentioned tips are amazing. i have got an outline on how this work of writing poems is done. soon i’m going to come up with my writings..thanks

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Hey sir, I want you to offer me some suggestions regarding my writing, I’m just a newbie. I don’t know where am I heading. Here is my piece of work down below. Have a look, please. Thank you.

My love has bruised my naive heart. All of my senses went jerked a lot.

She ran off, after approaching, where did she go? Her gestures had driven me crazy from the start. All of my senses went jerked a lot.

I had started out pursuing her path carelessly. waiting for her, turned me into ashes under the pot. All of my senses went jerked a lot.

I wish you to pass by my needy door someday. My faded eyes are being waited for you on spot. All of my senses went jerked a lot.

If you please remove this veil, my remiss love? As I’m burning in your remembrance, Oh my mascot. All of my senses went jerked a lot.

I have rubbed ashes on my body, don’t you go far. Would you keep pride to my pleas or not. All of my senses went jerked a lot.

Your vows have kept me alive to this day. Thereby, I offer my chest to every coming arrow shot. All of my senses went jerked a lot.

Ehmad there is nothing to pick on except don’t repeat the last line every time

You have poem for school childrens

Very informative article on how to write poetry thanks For sharing.

The tips for writing poem are really amazing! I really love to write poems. All the best to poem lovers!

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This will be an additional knowledge to me when I create my 2nd poetry book. Great tips!

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I can’t simply go without leaving a comment. This post is a great read.

I hope you can take the time to read my post as well: A Guide to Writing Exceptional Poetry

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Please what type of image can I give to Covid 19 as a poet

My first attempt As I gazed at the sky,I saw the beauty of Earth which is to be compared with yours It seems am an ant scavenging for crumbs of bread to behold the sight of a sheen, I could feel the warm,calm breeze touching my skin,just as I see the sun scorching like your eyes Your aura is like the sweet aroma of a banana, Your smile spread like the wings of a dove gliding over the deep blue ocean The sound of your voice could be linked to that of a mermaid….

My first attempt Please I’d like criticism

I see an engaging list of sensory details. What I’m looking for is some evidence of a revelation, an insight that changes the way the speaker (the “I” in the poem) thinks about the “you” who is the subject of the poem. Not all poems need to have that kind of a twist or revelation, but I’m looking for some kind of resolution. What new insight does the speaker gain, after gazing at the sky and doing all the comparisons listed in the poem? “Her big brown eyes were like pools that I could fall into and swim away from all my troubles.” That’s kind of silly (I claim no special talent as a poet) but it’s an example that goes beyond listing how X is like Y.

I’m not really an expert on these poem thing. But this is really a nice try of yours! Sounds very magical to me. But i kinda don’t understand some part of what you are trying to tell..it’s okay maybe because of some typos. Love it btw!

i love your first line

Ive been writing poems for a while now. My fathers death brought out feelings I could best express through poems. I’m curious if they are pretty good or need work.

Here’s one of my poems.

Baby blue eyes

When I saw you last, I looked in your eyes. You couldn’t speak, or even cry. You looked so lost and full of fear. All I could do, was wipe my tears.

I knew it was over, you felt so alone. I did what I could for your journey home. I stayed by your side, all through the night. Never leaving you, holding you tight.

My memories of you, are close to my heart. You’ll always be with me, we’ll never part. I’ll never forget how much I cried, I’ll never forget those baby blue eyes.

Dan, I would say that poems people write in order to express their feelings and to honor and commemorate a specific event in their life fall into the category of doing whatever feels right to you.

If you are interested in technical hints on becoming a better poet, I suggest you start with a poem that you feel is not “finished” — something you are still working on.

I have noticed that students who brought their “finished” high school poems into a college writing workshop are often so emotionally attached to their work that it was hard for them to cut out lines or whole stanzas or change whole organizational principles that weren’t working. This handout is focused specifically on high school poetry, but the general idea addresses using very personal poems in a writing workshop.

https://jerz.setonhill.edu/writing/creative1/poetry-writing-are-your-finished-high-school-poems-okay-for-a-college-writing-workshop/

If what you’d like to do is polish this poem, then I’d say the line breaks in this submission are confusing (I’d expect line breaks after “eyes.” and “cry,” and “fear.”) Having said that, point 9 on this page cautions against rhyming for beginning poets, though I also wrote this handout that emphasizes the power of sounds in poems: https://jerz.setonhill.edu/writing/creative1/poetry-is-for-the-ear/

The lines “You looked so lost and full of fear” and “I’ll never forget how much I cried” TELL me what you felt, but poetry works best when, instead of listing the emotions the poet felt, the poem instead generates feelings in the reader.

I didn’t know your father, so when I read about you looking into his eyes, I don’t have the memory of decades of looking at your father’s smirk when he gets in a zinger during a dinnertime debate about politics, or seeing the scar on his right brow from the car accident you caused when he was teaching you to drive, etc. (Of course I made up those details, and so they don’t accurately reflect who your father is. What details WOULD accurately convey your father’s personality?)

Rather than TELLING me that your memories are close to your heart, can you instead spend time bringing me along with you as you relive just one really significant event? Think of how a movie really comes to life when the camera zooms in on a person talking about a memory, and then suddenly we see a younger version of that character living through the events they remembered. Sometimes movies might have the older version of the character right there in the scene, commenting, like Scrooge does during the flashbacks the Ghost of Christmas Past shows him. That’s what movies do — they dramatize for the camera. Poems do something different — they use very specific sensory details in order to conjure up emotions in the reader. But listing the emotions you felt is not the same thing as giving your reader a reason to feel something.

This handout on Showing vs. Telling focuses on short stories, but it’s the same principle. TELLING me what you feel is different from SHOWING me something and generating a feeling in me.

https://jerz.setonhill.edu/writing/creative1/showing/

The professional writing advice “murder your darlings” emphasizes that even though we might be excited by and attached to what we wrote in a burst of inspired creative emotions, the process of editing and revision only works if we are objective and willing to trade off the emotional integrity of the experience we had WRITING a draft, with the technical requirements of what experienced readers will expect when READING a poem, and what they will find that’s original and effective, and what will seem predictable and overdone. https://medium.com/mindset-matters/who-said-murder-your-darlings-6a769e3f205e

This site has a collection of poems about grief.

https://www.poetryfoundation.org/collections/137079/poems-of-sorrow-and-grieving

If you were a student in my class, and you said you wanted to write a poem about grief, I’d ask you to read a dozen or so classic and modern poems about loss, and I’d ask you to explore how those poets use sensory experiences, memory, juxtaposition, contrast and other literary techniques in order to accomplish something that moved you; and then I’d ask you to try using some of those same strategies in your own work.

How many modern works use rhyming couplets? Was your baby-blue-eyed father a 300-pound professional wrestler? Were his eyes important to his profession, or to do something he loved to do, or something he did selflessly and reliably for the family?

When I was a kid, I found where my dad kept his “to do” list, and I decided I’d spend about 30 minutes a week doing something on that list, without being asked, and without telling him. Vacuuming the stairs, watering the lawn, that sort of thing. Sometimes when he saw me doing the task, or when he went to do it and found it had been done, he would be in such a good mood that he’d invite me out for ice cream.

If I wanted to put that detail into a poem, I wouldn’t say “here’s a thing that used to happen all the time. I would do a thing on my father’s to-do list, and he’d be so happy he’d invite me out for ice cream.”

Instead, I’d introduce my father as a barrel-chested former weight-lifter, who was not a hugger, who commuted for decades to an office job that he hated, and but hummed happily when he was sanding boards and chopping wood. On one day he was grumpy after doing his taxes, and I saw him making a cup of coffee and putting on his work clothes, so I turned off my video game and dashed out the back door, so that he’d see me uncoiling the garden hose and setting up the lawn sprinkler. Instead of just TELLING you that I noticed the tension leave his body; I’d SHOW that as he took in what he saw, his hands slowly unclenched, and he went back inside. When I came in a little later, he was humming to himself while flipping through the sports page, and he asked if I wanted to go out for ice cream.

I wouldn’t add a line about how “I’ll never forget how it felt when he reached across the back of the car seat to give my neck an affectionate squeeze”. Instead, I’d come up with a simile to describe the weight of his hand on my neck, and then I’d flash back to my very first memory, which is of my father holding me above his head, telling me to straighten out like a board and pressing my nose against the ceiling; and then I’d flash forward to a few months ago when I visited him, now well into his 80s; he had some trouble getting out of a chair, and without interrupting his story about a play the Bears made, he just casually reached out his hand so I could help him stand.

My poem would be full of references to hands and touching, but I probably wouldn’t title it “The Touch of My Father’s Hand” and I wouldn’t insult the reader by announcing the poem’s theme. I would just pick these specific memories of physical contact with my father, and I would try to make each one of them meaningful sensory experiences to the reader. I wouldn’t insert commentary listing my own feelings, and I wouldn’t try to tell the reader how they were supposed to react.

What are some other ways that your father’s eyes have been meaningful to you? Let your reader get to know your father’s eyes in happier times, so that we can feel the contrast for ourselves.

Thank you for your input Dennis. This is why I put it out there. I wanted to know how and what I can improve on. I’ll look at all you examples and hopefully learn from them. Again, thank you!

Sir may I ask permission if I can cite your tips in the module that I am writing for the Senior High School? I just found your tips practical for the high school students.

Yes, you may cite these tips.

your comment is longer then the article

What an eloquently phrased and well-supported response. So persuasive, too!

That is good but I think you should work on organizing it to specific lines

I really like this poem. My own father passed recently and I totally could relate. Thank you for sharing it. I just came across it today. Sorry for your loss.

you are freaking amazing.

I am learning

I happened to write few poems without knowing how to write.. Thank you for all d informations .. I shall follow the instructions and see how my poetry writing skill changes over the months🙏Ranbir laishram

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One may secure 9/9 band in IELTS but writing poetry in English is it self a new subject. It is very well written article and if followed the correct steps as described above. It can help improve the poetry writing skills a lot. One should pay attention to the following questions.

“What should I write poems about?” “How should I decide the right form for my poem?” “What are common mistakes that new poets make, and how can I avoid them?” “How do I write free verse/blank verse/sonnets/haikus etc.?”

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I think a good poet is very good at observing their surroundings. They are able to push these elements of life into creative writing, which can be in the form of poetry. I liked the poem by Sean Francisco in the comments. Poem Spark – Beautiful title.

Wow,wonderful explanations and recommendations of poetry.I am a poet too.You can find my poetry blog here https://shreyaspoetry.blogspot.com It is a must visit for poetry lovers.

I really enjoyed your explanation, thanks a million and God bless you with more wisdom.

In the 3rd book in my Butterflies series, I am writing a 3rd section on poem structure. Now I have my own idea about how a poem is written and I just had to run a Google search for comparison.

I just wrote this poem in maybe 30 minutes, good or bad, you all call it. I like it pretty good, I think. I’m definitely adding it to my next book.

No offense, This is my Poem Spark.

An ancient Jeraboam, would want you to know, there is but one poem, it’s of our soul.

Its wine warmed in the heart, God given to man. There is just one start, with all the world at your hand.

Don’t be afraid! Yes, sing us your song. It’s your history made. You can do no wrong.

After your gold, gleams light on the dark please always be so bold, you make a Poem Spark.

Sean Francisco

thanks for the great job Dan

THANKS FOR THIS ADVICE I REALKY DASIRE THEM

My father wrote this poem; I don’t know if you can consider this as a poem coz i don’t know what figure of speech or style he employed here. Would appreciate your expertise here c: Thank you in advance!

A PEOPLE BETRAYED

My People My poor people My suffering people My forsaken people Fooled and deceived Dazzled and misled Silenced and blinded Lulled and deluded Swindled and cheated Plundered and looted Burdened and tormented Trapped and exploited Captured and manipulated Trampled and invaded Swamped and dominated Starved and enslaved Denied and deserted Blamed and derided Ignored and dismayed Shamed and prostituted Mortgaged and conveyed Condemned and uprooted Terrorized and bullied Paralyzed and BETRAYED

By ruthless self-proclaimed leaders And by scheming alien invaders Who in reality are deceivers Who in truth are exploiters Who in fact are slavers Who in short are BETRAYERS Of my poor and endangered people A PEOPLE BETRAYED

A people full of sorrows A people full of sufferings A people full of burden A people full of pain A people full of despair A people full of confusion A people full of shame A people full of difficulties A people full of tragedies A people full of nightmares

Fooled and deceived Dazzled and misled Silenced and blinded Lulled and deluded Swindled and cheated Plundered and looted Burdened and tormented Trapped and exploited Captured and manipulated Trampled and invaded Swamped and dominated Starved and enslaved Denied and deserted Blamed and derided Ignored and dismayed Shamed and prostituted Mortgaged and conveyed Condemned and uprooted Terrorized and bullied Paralyzed and BETRAYED

A nation full of fools A nation full of slaves A nation full of beggars A nation full of captives

A nation full of cowards A nation full of idiots A nation full of sycophants A nation full of robots

A nation full of liars A nation full of hypocrites A nation full of clowns A nation full of puppets

A nation full of rascals A nation full of maniacs A nation full of crooks A nation full of monkeys

A nation full of deserters A nation full of bystanders A nation full of profiteers A nation full of racketeers

A nation full of pretenders A nation full of blusterers A nation full of squanderers A nation full of blunderers

A nation full of deceivers A nation full of invaders A nation full of conspirators A nation full of saboteurs

A nation full of slanderers A nation full of distorters A nation full of captors A nation full of tormentors

A nation full of exploiters A nation full of plunderers A nation full of oppressors A nation full of traitors

My people My poor people My suffering people My forsaken people My starving people My condemned people A people deceived A people misled A people exploited A people dominated A people enslaved A PEOPLE BETRAYED!

that’s not a poem, just a list of words. it literally does the opposite of all the tips given above, i.e. not a single concrete image to help the reader see in their own head. “my poor people” gives the reader zero visually, emotionally. who are the people? if concrete details were described — their unique clothes, or land, or actions — the reader would see them. right now, they are invisible.

a tip not given above: Compress! make the poem as short as possible to convey the idea. who wants to read or hear the phrase “a nation” 36 times, or “people” 30 times?.

I can certainly imagine an in-person recitation of this composition being very personal, very passionate, and very meaningful. Spoken-word performances are very different creatures from the kind of literary poetry that this page covers. This text states that a certain list of adjectives apply “in reality,” “in truth” and “in fact” to a certain group, but as “J z” mentioned a list of words doesn’t work on the reader’s emotions in the way that literary poetry does. We’d need to depend up seeing your father’s face, hearing his voice, and knowing about your relationship to your father, in order for these words to have the kind of effect on us that they may have on you.

What do these words mean to your father? What does he mean to you? How can you make us, the reader, feel those relationships?

No the above tips are useful only bro 😉😉😉

Just a list of words, where the author tries too hard to make it relevant that they know an average amount of vocabulary. There is no story, no continuity, no rhythm.

Do you have any constructive criticism to offer? It’s okay if this poem doesn’t use the techniques you prefer.

I don’t know exactly it is a poem or not. I can feel it because now in my country, Myanmar (formerly Burma), our People are suffering the same the author writes about.

YES! This is a poem.. Superb

My first attempt:

Her red lipstick covered lips raised like the oceans blue waves.

Her happiness is like the silver stared night sky.

The night sky is like a calm breeze brushing against her skin on a warm summer night.

The breeze is like her inner breath. Breathing comes to her like a diligent and vibrant brush stroke.

Her happiness is like the sweet aroma of the calming ocean saltwater.

Her happiness relies on others like stain colored glass relies on the very sand beneath her fingertips.

What do you guys think!! I need constructive criticism!

Very well, thought out

This is totally the best I’ve seen. It’s also an inspiration.

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Writing Tips Oasis - A website dedicated to helping writers to write and publish books.

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 tips

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 tips

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 tips

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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