Few assignments create the shudder of anxiety that seems to come with writing poetry. What should I write about? Does it have to rhyme? What, exactly, is iambic pentameter? How many different types of poetry are there, exactly? The good (and bad) news about poetry is that it can really be in any format and about any subject — the key is finding a way to express your feelings without coming off as cheesy, overly sentimental or sarcastic…unless, of course, that is what you are going for. If you need some help in this area, just follow these creative writing tips and learn how to write poetry that will impress even the harshest of critics (ahem, your professor).
Tip #1: Jot it down
If you are taking a creative writing class (or plan to take one in the future), at some point you will be required to create a poetic masterpiece. So, follow some advice from Melissa Donovan’s “36 Poetry Writing Tips,” posted to Writing Forward on July 28, 2011, and “designate a special notebook (or space in your notebook) for poetry writing.” And be sure to keep it with you wherever you go. Even if you don’t have time to write an entire poem while you wait for your Econ class to start, you can quickly jot down the idea you had on the way to the lecture hall.
Tip #2: Find your niche
As stated in the beginning of this article, poetry can have a number of different formats and subjects. The key is to write about something you feel passionate about. Do you enjoy football? Create a poem about your most memorable game. Love gardening? Think of ways to express your excitement when your seeds start to blossom. Have a passion for photography? Write about what you feel when you look through the lens. Once you decide on your topic, then you can focus on form.
Tip #3: Stick to the format
True, poems don’t need to rhyme or have a specific meter, but if you want to follow a specific poetic format, then you MUST do so entirely. You can’t create a sonnet that only rhymes for the first 4 lines, and you can’t write a Haiku in only two. To learn more about specific formats with sonnets, Haikus and ballads, check out dohn121’s “Tips For Writing Poetry and How to Construct a Poem,” posted to HubPages. Not only does the author break down what each type must have, he also provides some great examples of famous poems.
More interested in creating your own poetic form? No problem. Find out more about free verse in AubrieAnne’s blog from December 27, 2010, “Day Seven of Poetry Week: Free Verse Poems.” Not only does the author do a great job of explaining the idea behind free verse, she also offers up some of her own writing as examples.
Tip #4: Avoid the obvious
Okay, so you know your subject and you have figured out the format for your poetry assignment. Now it is time to begin writing. And this, of course, is the toughest part. To make it a little easier, think of a poem as a picture in words. Don’t just write: “the sun was hot.” Instead, create a picture with your words: “I opened the door only to be burned by a bright ball of fire that seemed to sear my skin on contact.”
And be sure to use common Poetic Devices, such as alliteration (used in the above example), assonance, simile and metaphor (also used in the above example). When doing so, just take advice from a July 21, 2011 blog post by Dennis G. Jerz, titled, “Poetry Writing Tips: How to Write a Poem,” and “avoid clichés.” Using common sayings or familiar patterns will only make your poem seem redundant and unoriginal. Which brings us to the final writing tip…
Tip #5: Reread, rewrite, REVISE!
If possible, try to complete your poem at least a week before it is due. Then, leave it alone for a few days. When you do go back to it, spend some time revising. When doing so, look for the following:
- Any confusing ideas or concepts
- Unnecessary words
- Places to add poetic devices
- A single theme, idea or message conveyed throughout the poem
- Grammar and spelling errors
- Correct format, if applicable
Once you have completed your revision, don’t be afraid to go back and edit your writing again. You can do so as often as you like because there is no such thing as a perfect poem.
To learn more about poetry, visit Questia’s Poetic Technique and Structure page.
Do you have a poem you are particularly fond of? If so, we’d love for you to share it in the Comments section below!