While there aren’t any hard and fast rules for expressing your emotions through writing, there are certain structures to follow when seeking to communicate these emotions and experiences with your readers through poetry. The idea of writing poetry can be intimidating to some. Perhaps you consider yourself more of a reader of poetry than a writer of it. But penning poems can significantly strengthen your writing skills that will, in turn, translate to the other genres you write.
Poetry is a very image-based form of writing, using strong and concise language in very few words. Playing at these concepts will help you write stronger imagery and impactful prose across all your work. Poetry also helps you find the center of emotion. Some poems are just all emotions, leaving plot and narrative arc behind to showcase the rawness of a person’s experience.
Being able to express yourself this way can allow you to connect to others more intimately and also connect with yourself on a new level. In a nutshell, no matter what type of writer you identify as, poetry can evaluate your writing.
Now that we have uncovered the why of writing poetry, here are some tips on how to write a poem for those who want to take their first step into the world of poetry.
Reading is one of the most important ways to strengthen your skills as a writer. Read the classics, the great writers of poetry like Emily Dickenson, William Shakspeare, Edgar Allen Poe, or Sylvia Plath.
Read modern poetry, poetry on Instagram, collections at your local bookstore. Figure out what kind/style you like, and read a lot of it.
The form of your poem is the physical structure. It can have requirements for rhyme, line length, number of lines/stanzas, etc. Here are different types of poetry forms:
- Sonnet – A short, rhyming poem of 14 lines
- Haiku – A poem of 3 lines where the first is 5 syllables, the middle is 7 syllables, and the last is 5.
- Acrostic – A poem where the first letter of each line spells a word that fits with the theme of the poem or exposes a deeper meaning.
- Limerick – This is a 5-live witty poem with the first, second, and fifth lines rhyme as do the other two with each other.
- Epic – This type of poetry is a lengthy narrative poem celebrating adventures or accomplishments of heroes.
- Couplet – This can be a part of a poem or stand alone as a poem of two lines that rhyme.
- Free verse – This type of poem doesn’t follow any rules and is free written poetry by the author.
Rhythm and Rhyme:
Free verse without rhyme or a regular meter, can be very powerful and fun to experiment with. But as a beginner, it’s a good idea to learn about the various forms of poetry to get a strong foundation in the “rules” before you start to break them. While rhyme isn’t always necessary, rhythm is. Poetry has to have a kind of musicality to it. Try writing in basic forms such as iambic or trochaic. Read your work out loud and listen for the music.
If your poem does rhyme, remember that meaning prevails over the use of rhyme. You can spot an amateur poem by its word choices that were obviously chosen solely to complete the rhyme. If you’re writing a rhyming poem, and you can’t find a rhyme that works, go for a near rhyme, or rewrite the line you’re trying to rhyme to.
As the tangible description that appeals to one of the five senses, this literary device is your way to connect with readers. The more imagery in a poem, the better. Try focusing on details and avoiding cliches. Because clichéd writing sounds so familiar, people can completely finish whole lines without even reading them. They dull the meaning.
Instead, remember that poetry should stimulate six senses: sight, smell, hearing, touch, taste, and kinesiology (motion). Concrete images, metaphors, and smilies are ways to activate your creativity, paint your readers a picture and sharpen your use of imagery. Ask yourself, what details or images are most real and impactful? Focus your attention there.
Read more: 5 Steps to Writing a Hard-Hitting Poem
As poet Brooke Washington said, “Poetry is a form of storytelling. The key to writing is making the audience feel. Give them something to remember and hold onto.” Structure, imagery, and rhythm work together to make up the technicalities of a poem, but if your words are empty of deeper meaning, the emotions you wish to express or the story you want to tell won’t come across to your readers.
Have a goal when writing or revising your poem. What you want your readers to feel? How do you want them to react? What is buried inside you that you want to explore or express on the page? Think of the things that make you human. You will find meaning there.
Remember your first draft is only the beginning. Like all great works of writing, you need to revise, revise, revise and revise some more. Ask for other poets to read your work and give you constructive criticism. Maybe take a break from your poem and try again in a few days. Print it out and read your work out loud. Whatever you do, keep writing. The more you write, the better your poems will be.
Find more poetry writing tips here.