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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.
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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.
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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.
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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.
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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.
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For a more specific treatment on writing poetry, check out this great poetry writing guide.