Poetry has been one of my outlets ever since I was younger. It helps me vent some steam without bothering anyone, and it helps me release pent up emotion. Lately, some of my friends have asked me to write an article to help them write their own poetry. Well, I believe, writing poems cannot be forced upon a person. Poems are the extension of one’s emotions—it is the creative expression of how one feels. One can learn how to write a poem, but one cannot be forced to write a poem about a topic one does not feel anything about at all.
I’ve also been asked by some of my friends and readers how I write poems or what motivates me to write poems. My answer? Pain. Yes, emotional pain. My depression, my heartbreak, my heartache, and things like those. But it does not mean I experience them at the time of writing. Sometimes, I imagine a situation to evoke the emotion I want to write about; then, I get carried away, and that’s the part where I begin to write.
But despite my beliefs that writing a poem should be purely emotional, I succumbed to the request and came up with this little tip-list on writing poetry.
- Find an inspiration. My poems usually start with an idea. The rest of the poems are written around it to support the main idea or to give it highlight to bring that idea to climax. Where do I get the inspiration? Anywhere. Be it something I saw, heard, felt, read, etc. It could be a word, a phrase, a sentence or two about a certain emotion or topic. Sometimes it could be an image or a memory. I take note of that inspiration (I usually write it somewhere I can easily see in the future if I cannot write the poem right away). Try to find an inspiration for the poem you want to write.
- Decide what you want to achieve with your poem. From the idea or inspiration I have for the poem, I think of what I want to achieve. Do I want to let people know about it or disprove it? Do I want to express the pain I feel or simply ease it out? After determining what poem is going to achieve, I proceed to write the rest of the details.
- Decide what form of poetry will best suit your topic. Of course, there are several forms a poem can be presented. There’s the sonnet, haiku, tanka, and the likes. Another factor to consider is the meter and rhyme scheme: How many syllables should there be in a line? How many lines should there be in a stanza? Should each line rhyme with one another or each alternating line rhyme with one another? How many stanzas should there be in your poem? Or you can abandon all these elements and choose to write your poem in blank verse or free verse. I usually start with a free verse, then, later change it if I see that a better form of poetry manifests while writing the poem.
- Choose the right words. Whatever you want to achieve through your poem, it is best that you choose the right words. Remember not to use highfalutin words on your poems, just the necessary ones. If you decide to give your poem a rhyme scheme, then, using a thesaurus would be a good idea to find a synonym of a word to rhyme with your previous word(s). Also choose the words that will enhance the meaning of the poem; you don’t have to use difficult words to achieve you goal.
- Use vivid descriptions and concrete imagery. No matter what your poem is about, it is important to make your readers see the mental picture you are drawing using your poem.
- Love, hate, happiness: these are all abstract concepts. Many (perhaps all) poems are, deep down, about emotions and other abstractions. Nevertheless, it’s hard to build a strong poem using only abstractions—it’s just not interesting. The key, then, is to replace or enhance abstractions with concrete images, things that you can appreciate with your senses: a rose, a shark, or a crackling fire, for example. The concept of the objective correlative may be useful. An objective correlative is an object, several objects, or a series of events (all concrete things) that evoke the emotion or idea of the poem.
- Powerful poetry not only uses concrete images; it also describes them vividly. Show your readers (and listeners) what you’re talking about—help them to experience the imagery of the poem. Put in some “sensory” handles. These are words that describe the things that you hear, see, taste, touch, and smell, so that the reader can identify with their own experience.
- Give some examples rather than purely mental and intellectual descriptions. As a silly example, consider “He made a loud sound,” versus “He made a loud sound, like a lion roaring to announce its magnificence and superiority to the pride.”
- Make use of poetic devices. Basic poetic devices that have been named in this article are meter and rhyme; they both add beauty to your poem. Other poetic devices that you can use are what we commonly call figures of speech: metaphor, simile, synecdoche, oxymoron, and many more. You can also make use of alliteration, assonance, repetition, and other devices to make your poem sound even more beautiful.
- Save the best for last. The most powerful message of the poem should never be given at the very start, lest your readers will forget about it. Save it for the last part—and avoid explaining it. Give your readers something to think about, something that will motivate them to do something—be it write a response, conduct a research, write a poem of similar topic, or whatever.
- Read your poem and listen to it. Poems are meant to be read. So after you have drafted your poem, listen to it. Try and find where it sounds weird and fix it. See if you can make it better.
- Edit your work. Do not hesitate to edit your work if you find a way to make it better. Some people do not edit their poems, but I do, as long as I know this will make it better than my first draft.
A poem does not normally follow the rules of punctuation and grammar, as long as it contributes to the overall beauty of the poem. But if you are poor at grammar, ask a friend to check your work and see how they can improve it without ruining your persona in the poem and the thought you are trying to convey.
Share your work to your friends and ask fro feedback. This way, you will know which part of the poem needs improvement, or what aspect of poetry writing you should work on.
Read poems both my famous poets and amateurs. This will help you get an idea how to present you idea in a literary and poetic way. But never copy their works.
Avoid clichés and overused images like “your lips are as red as the rose” or “my love for you is eternal as the star.” Try to express the same idea in a more unique and personal way but, at the same time, within the grasp of your readers.
Just always remember that the beauty of writing poetry can never be forced. Without the right inspiration, a poem will only be a set of words without meaning, without emotion, without power. So take you time, let the words flow through you.