Tips on Poetry Writing

I’m going to own up here and say that I’m terrible at writing poetry, so this is stuff that I’ve learnt through observation. Seeing as this weekend is Remembrance Day, and a lot of poetry has been written about war, I thought it would be helpful if you are wanting to write some.

  • Choose a theme and stick to it. It’s not a novel (unless it’s an epic poem); most poems aren’t longer than a side of A4. You can’t change your theme half way through and expect it to make sense. Of course, it can be part of more than one theme (eg a love poem about war).
  • Choose a style. Is it a limerick? Rhyming couplets? Sestets? Or just free verse? Look up some poetry styles and pick the one you like.
  • Write first. Edit later. This is true for any writing, but if you write a novel you might quickly edit a paragraph or two before moving onto the next section. Don’t do that with poetry; often, the words will flow. If you don’t like something, do an enter and rewrite it, but make sure you keep what’s already been written; you might want to use it later.
  • Write from the heart. There’s a reason you don’t get given poetry to write in exams; exams are structured, organised, well-thought out, planned. Poetry is more…now, I don’t want to say ‘wishy washy’ because that implies it’s… I don’t know what it implies, but I’m hoping you know what I mean. Perhaps ‘dreamlike’ is the better word. It’s written from the heart, sometimes fairly rapidly, even if it takes weeks after to get it to perfection.
  • Don’t be afraid to say something. People view poetry as different to prose – prose means that, whilst you can be daring, you can’t be too daring. Poetry is different: you can say a lot in a little, and it can’t be proved. If there’s something you disagree with, write it in poetry (likewise with just about anything else).
  • Say a lot in a little. Prose is thousands of words – poetry is pushing for 200. Use similes, metaphors, whatever, to make your readers know what you’re talking about (or, indeed, have their own view) in very little words.

Remember, poetry is something personal; you don’t have to show it to anyone if you don’t want to.

Have fun writing your poems; I’d love to read any!

Questions, comments, thoughts? Shoot! 😀 


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