Tips for Writing Poetry

Writing poetry can frustrate or reward beyond words.

Here are a few poetry-writing tips that may help you find the reward.

  • First, read examples of and learn about the poetic form you wish to write. There is no single poem writing rule. Many want to know how to write a love poem, lyric poetry, a poem about writing, a haiku poem, a narrative poem. Each has its own writing style. Some poetry is written in forms, each form having its own rules. Some poetry is free verse, which either creates its own set of unique rules for that poem or has no rules. Concrete poems draw pictures with the words as they are arranged on a page. So, read poems and learn from them what you'd like to write.
  • Use excited and exciting language. Pay attention to sound, rhythm, thought. Disrupt the obvious. Robert Duncan said something like this: Poetry language is so excited, it becomes multiple of meaning.
  • Focus on small, specific observations and avoid broad, general topics (such as "love," "war," or "religion"). Let the broad, general themes emerge from the specific and detailed observances of everyday life and events.
  • Use sensory details--sound, sight, smell, touch, taste--and be specific.
  • Explore new possibilities, and don't use clichés and other tired phrases. Ezra Pound said, "Make it new."
  • Keep a journal where you can jot down words, thoughts, images as they occur to you. Gather them later into a "found" poem of your own words.
  • Reading and writing poetry can be very fulfilling activities by themselves. The best poetry writing tip, though, is to read poetry in order to write a good poem. Read the type of poetry you want to write: love poem, narrative poem, Valentine poem, Haiku poem, lyric poem, or a concrete poem.
  • Use your journal to write about the reading you do. Don't just respond to the content, but notice how the poem is written, how it looks on the page, how it sounds read out loud. Respond by writing a similar poem to one you love or a better poem than one you hate. Use the journal for reading and writing.