Great poetry brings about great emotion. So does bad poetry. After reading the 845th poem on friendship betrayed, I cried. I knew I needed to give my students tips on writing poetry. After reading the 927th poem that included the rhyme "breeze" and "trees," I cried. I knew I needed to give tips on writing poetry. After reading the 2,142nd poem full of trite expressions, I cried. I knew I needed to teach poetry writing. After my students made fun of my poem about roofing shingles, I knew I needed to practice poetry writing.
I began my poetry writing self instruction by using the writing process.
I made it into a lesson plan while sitting by a whirring fan. This lesson plan is here on loan. If you don’t like it, come up with your own.
The Basics of Writing a Poem
A successful poem should
- focus on a single idea, feeling, or experience.
- use concrete images.
- use precise, sensory words in a fresh way.
- include figurative language (similes, metaphors, personification).
- use sound devices (alliteration, assonance, rhyme) to support the meaning and effect of the poem.
Any topic is suitable for a poem.
- Sit quietly.
- Let words and memories run through your mind,
- Jot down interesting thoughts and phrases, especially ones that describe sights, sounds, tastes, smells, and feelings.
Tips on Writing Poetry: Prewriting
Poems don’t magically appear on paper. Each detail must be chosen carefully. Neophyte poets don’t want to be constrained by a plan. Careful planning, however, allows for creativity while drafting:
- Freewrite about your topic. Circle any interesting image, word, or detail. Decide which ones you want to use in your poem.
- Identify the mood you want to convey. How does the topic make you feel. Create images that emphasize the feeling you desire to create.
- Begin. Determine which word, line, or image captures your attention most and leads to other details and images. Determine which line will be the focus of your writing.
Writing the First Draft
The secret to writing a poem is writing a poem. Millions think about writing a poem. Millions intend to write a poem. Millions have great ideas for writing a poem. Very few actually write a poem.
- Using your prewriting as a guide, let the words flow freely. Don’t feel limited by a predetermined format--sonnets, for example. You can always revise
- Explore sound devices. Allow for serendipity.
- Use figurative language. Allow for inspiration.
- Choose words to reflect the mood of your poem. Keep in mind word connotation.
- Experiment with different structures.
- Read your draft aloud.
- Consider possible changes.
- Read your draft aloud again and again and again.
- Consider possible changes.
Revising, Editing, and Proofreading
The following suggestions will transform your rough verse into a polished poem.
- Add Details. The success of your poem ultimately depends on the clarity of images. Look for opportunities to appeal to the five senses. Good poetry is experienced.
- Use Punctuation Correctly. Punctuate your sentences based on how they’re supposed to be read, not by where the line ends.
- Before you publish the final draft, read it aloud one more time.
For a more specific treatment on writing poetry, check out this great poetry writing guide.