By: Robert Lee Brewer
Okay, so there are probably about a million ways how to write a poem, but the five methods below help me when I’ve been stuck in a rut. If you have other ways to get those poems started, then feel encouraged to share in the comments below.
Here are 5 tips for how to write poetry:
- Capture a moment. One trap I can sometimes fall into is that I try to write the big poem or the poem filled with ideas (like love, hate, etc.). What always works better, for me anyway, is to focus on one moment that expresses an emotion or works as a metaphor for a bigger idea.
- Steal a conversation. My first chapbook includes a poem titled “Eavesdropping,” which is basically several conversations I overheard while in airport terminals. I took notes in the terminals and worked on the poem while doing my laundry at a laundromat. Listening to others can kickstart poems, because you’ll hear things you would never say or think yourself.
- Describe something or someone. Specificity strengthens a poem, and it’s hard to get more specific than throwing all your attention toward one thing or person. The only trap with these poems is that they can sometimes read like lists.
- Respond to something. Response poems have been around forever. In fact, an argument could be made that all poems are response poems. To what could your poem respond? For starters, you could respond to another poem, a piece of art, something someone said to you, a cool-looking car, etc. Nothing is off limits.
- Use someone else’s line. This is kind of like eavesdropping, I suppose, but there are poems that will take a line from another person’s poem and make that the first line. In this tradition, it is also good form to mention the poem is “after (poet’s name here).” How this can help is that you’ve already got a great line out of the way–and just need to write the rest of the poem.
How do you write poems?
As I said above, there are other ways how to write poems (and I encourage you to share those below), but these are some of my favorite techniques. If the five tips on how to make a poem mentioned above don’t work for you, that’s fine. One of the many rules of poetry is that there are no rules of poetry–more like guidelines.
I’ll hear a first line in my head. If I stop and write it down, the rest will come. If I try to think “I’ll remember that and write it later,” I’ve forgotten it and it’s gone. Therefore, I have been known to write on the steering wheel or scribble as I stir gravy. On long trips I like to write the images I see. Here in Kansas that’s not too dangerous to jot it on the steering wheel. (Not much traffic). Sally Jadlow
For ideas for poems for me. I take pictures or videos. I prefer to write about it after I have left it. This forced my mind to remember only what was most significant what senses most represent the thing. So I look at a picture and then in a few minutes or so, I write about it. Covering the fact. Without getting fancy.
For my recently print published imagist poem that got me selected as a distinguished writer, I wrote it along with the movement of the thing in memory in my mind, and almost every part is figurative in some way. It is a persona poem with several lines of personification shown in different ways. But I did not begin with this idea in mind. I am an imagist poet by nature. Victoria Hunter
I love lists, so I have a binder of “poetry words” with lists of specific nouns (musical terms, types of fabric, etc.), active verbs (especially those that speak to the five senses), striking adjectives, and on and on. When I can’t think of what to write, I pick one word at complete random. Next, I go through the lists and see which other words pop out at me in relation to the first word. Once I have a set of five or six, I look at what relationships each of the chosen words have to the random word. Sometimes it’s obvious. Other times, I have to dig deep to see where I possibly made the connection- and that’s usually a better start to a poem, anyway. Layla Coyle