A Short Guide to Writing Poetry

Simple Steps to Writing Poetry

Writing a poem includes the following three steps:

Step 1: Starting the poem

  • Do some writing exercises. It involves finding out inspirations for your poem by using the world around you. A poem might start as a line or two lines that seem to have no source, as a snippet of a certain verse or an image stuck in your head. You can mold or shape your thoughts into a poem using these inspirations from the world around you. It involves trying to freewrite by writing about your feelings or how your day was in your computer or a notebook. You can also write to a prompt by searching for prompts online or coming up with your ideas.
  • Get inspiration from those close to you and your environment. This can be what you see and what you cannot see. Think of a situation, moment or memory to be a possible topic to your poem. For example, you might go for a walk and observe people, nature and buildings then come up with something interesting to write. You may also write about someone you love or care about by recalling the special moments you shared together or even write about your emotions that is, what makes you happy or sad.
  • Select a specific idea or theme. Pick an idea or theme that is interesting and focus on in a poem to give your poem a clear objective or goal. For example, you may pick a theme about family and think about family moments and relationships then you might write about those moments as well as the relationships in families in the society. Also, make sure to be specific when choosing the theme or idea to make your poem clear.
  • Choose a poetic form. You may choose a form which is easy for you to use as the free verse or may decide to find a more challenging form like sonnet depending on your interest but make sure to use only one form in a single poem.
  • Read on other examples of poetry. Read poems written in the same form you are interested in or those poems which have similar themes and ideas as those you are writing. You may also read the poems that are well known and considered. Such poems are known as classics, and they have a better sense of genre. Examples of classics may include:

“Song of Myself by Walt Whitman”

“Kublai Khan by Samuel Taylor Coleridge”

“Sonnet 18 by William Shakespeare”

Step 2: Write the poem. The following are essential to help you write a poem:

  1. Usage of concrete imagery. Write accurate descriptions of places, things, and people and avoid using abstract imagery. Describe something using the five senses which are, taste, sight, touch, smell, and sound appropriately. The reader can make images come alive in your poem if you use concrete imagery.
  2. Use literary devices. Literary devices add depth to your poem, and they allow the reader of your poem to see a detailed picture. Use these devices throughout your poem. They include:
  1. Simile. These are words used to compare two things using “as” and “like.” These words create a different rhythm and flow in the poem.
  2. Metaphor. It is a way to add unique imagery in the poem and create an interesting tone. It compares one thing to another.
  3. Personification. It includes describing an object or an idea using human attributes or qualities. It clears up abstract images or ideas in the poem.
  4. Alliteration. It includes using words that begin with the same letter in quick succession. This changes the sound of your poem.
  1. Write for the ear. Read out loud the poem loud and write in a way that when one reads, it would sound well. Writing for the ear enables you to choose your words correctly and play well with the structure of the poem. You should place your words correctly and write every line in a way that it flows to the next appropriately.
  2. Avoid using clichés. Avoid use of familiar phrases but be creative in your descriptions and your images so that they surprise the reader making it interesting to read.

Step 3: Polish the poem. It involves the following:

  1. Read out your poem loudly. Read your draft loudly and notice the sound of your work by paying attention to the flow of your lines from one line to the next.
  2. Get feedback from the readers of your poem. Read your poem to others or share with others and ask for their feedback. It will help you improve your poetry by making the necessary corrections and getting new ideas from your readers.
  3. Revise the poem. Do this, using the feedback from your readers and friends. You may cut out the unclear and confusing lines and phrases.

How to write a free verse

It involves writing your poem (free verse) and understanding the structure you used in writing of the poem. They are also known as contemporary poems. Writing of the free verse poem involves the following steps:

  1. Choose a theme or a subject. It involves what to write about in a poem. Focus on a specific theme like love or sadness or a specific event like your first wedding anniversary.
  2. Think about the approach you may want on your subject or topic. Choose a point of view that you will use in your writing like first person, second or third person and if you will write about a certain general theme or a specific scene.
  3. Write down the images and keywords that you will use relating to your theme or subject. Feel free to write down as many descriptions and images as possible and exploring your topic since there are no rules to follow about the structure, rhyming or meter.
  4. Write down the first draft. Describe the theme or the scene using the keywords you have written down and use the literary devices such as personification, metaphor, alliteration, and simile to strengthen your poem.
  5. Edit and revise your previous draft. Read through your draft to identify sections and lines that have certain tones and rhythm and also the phrases that do not make sense. Identify the places to improve or expand your description and how the breaks between lines or words affect the meaning of the poem and make the necessary corrections.
  6. Give your draft to others to read to get their feedback to make sure you have all the essential elements in your poem.

In understanding the structure of your free verse poetry, consider the following:

  1. Express yourself freely since there are no rules in the rhyme scheme or meter but since it is still an artistic expression, create clear images and emotions
  2. Go through several examples of effective free verse poems such as “After the sea” by Walt Whitman and other free verse poems
  3. Analyze the above examples of free verse poems to consider if they are effective, if they have a certain meter or rhythm or if they create strong descriptions and images.

How to format a poem easily

Formatting a poem makes it ready for publication. It includes adding of the text to word processing document before sending in the poem and formatting that page for right margins and font types. Also, use notepad to strip the poetry of its word processing formatting if you are putting it in your email. In adding the text to the word processing document, consider the following:

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  • Read the guidelines of the publication for formatting information since most publications have preferred formatting for their work
  • At the top, write your name and your contact information. Type your full name, mailing address, phone number, e-mail address and website in that order in the upper left-hand corner of the page
  • In the upper right-hand corner, add the number of lines.
  • Put the title at the center of the page. Skip some lines between the contact information and the title then highlight and center the title on the page, and it should be in caps without italicizing the font or using quotation marks
  • Write a new heading for the second page if your poem is long
  • Indent and justify your text. Skip some lines between the title and the poem then indent 1.3 cm into the page

In formatting the lines and pages of your poem, consider the following:

  • Choose a font of 12 and 2.5-cm margins
  • Choose single spacing except in between stanzas
  • Write one poem per page
  • For long lines, use hanging indents

In formatting a poem for email, consider the following:

  • Copy your poem that is the texts to the word processing software
  • Copy and paste the poem into the notepad
  • Add spaces to the poem if needed
  • Copy and paste the poem into your email

How to write a sestina

A sestina is a poem consisting of thirty-nine lines. Sestina has the pattern of repeating six words in all the six stanzas it contains. This format of the sestina is used to write powerful poems which have exciting rhythms. In writing a sestina, brainstorm ideas and study the structures first then use imagery and sensory details and lastly polish your poem. In brainstorming of ideas, consider the following: Focus on the specific idea or theme, choose a particular moment or experience study the structure and read other examples of sestina such as “A Miracle for Breakfast”, by Elizabeth Bishop and “O Light Red Light”, by Cathy Park Hong.

In writing of sestina:

  • Identify the repeating six words in the poem
  • Write around the above words
  • You can use rhyme
  • Use similes and metaphors
  • Focus on imagery and sensory details
  • End on a high note by using the last three lines to wrap things up in a more dramatic way

Lastly, polish your sestina by reading it loud, showing others your poem to get feedback, revising it for flow, sound, and rhythm and finally giving your poem a title relating to the idea or theme you explored

Most popular types of poems

The different types and forms of poems include the following

  1. Sonnet. It is a poem that contains 14 lines, and it is a short rhyming poem. Dante and Francisco Petrarch who was an Italian philosopher invented the original sonnet in the 13/14th century. Other writers such as William Shakespeare developed sonnet in their time. It uses line-ending rhymes and iambic meter in each line.
  2. Limerick. It is a poem with a distinctive rhythm. It is a five-line witty poem. In this time of poetry, the first, second and fifth lines rhyme and are longer than the other lines in the poem.
  3. Haiku. It is a small size ancient form of poetry whereby it has precise syllables and punctuation on its three lines. It has three lines only in which each is a phrase. In these lines, the first has five syllables, the second has seven syllables, and the third line repeats another five syllables. It also has a seasonal reference and has an ancient Asian origin
  4. Epic. It is a poem which is in grand language and celebrates the accomplishments and adventures of a conventional or legendary hero. Epic is a lengthy type of poetry
  5. Narrative. It is a poem that explains about an event in the form of a poem, and it has characters, plot, and narration
  6. Couplet. It is a type of poetry which has two lines of lines that rhyme and the two lines form a unit as part of the poem or alone
  7. Free verse. It is a poem which follows no rules. The writer chooses their number of lines, number of stanzas, rhyming, syllable count, line formation and punctuation.

You are now set to write a good poem based on this guide without any difficulty.