15 Tips for Writing Poetry

Letters

 

by Jacqui Murray

Poetry is not something I’m good at writing, so I enjoy it vicariously through online friends like Audrey Dawn of Oldest Daughter and Red-headed Sister. I’ve been following her for several years and always find her poetry startlingly personal, quick peeks into a world ruled by emotion and heart. I’m way too structured for that, so I only enjoy it through someone else’s eyes.

To honor April’s National Poetry Month, here are fifteen tips from those who have no trouble delivering this concise-but-pithy form of writing:

  • Avoid clichés: Too often, they are unoriginal thoughts on a subject. Instead of using these pre-packaged descriptions, create your own. For example: instead of “Hard as nails,” use “Hard as _______.”
  • Rhyme with caution: It can become singsong. Beginners are (surprisingly) more likely to find success with free verse.
  • Describe something or someone: No plot necessary. Unless you’re writing Narrative Poetry or an epic poem like Beowulf, poems are more about characters, setting, or theme.
  • Make your poem a response to a line in someone else’s poem: This is a great way to get started (remember to credit the original poet).
  • Tap into your own feelings: Research, so often critical in novels, will not rescue a poem. Focus more on your personal take, your unique voice.
  • Use excited and exciting language: Words that draw the reader in and keep them trapped in the world you’ve created.
  • Use sensory details.
  • Focus on the small: As in observations, events, activities, or consequences. Leave the big stuff (like War and Peace) for long novels
  • Read lots (and lots) of poetry: Especially the type you want to write.
  • Expand your vocabulary: Poetry is about using precise words that say a lot. In a novel, you get an entire scene to communicate an idea. Not true in a poem.
  • Don’t be afraid to write a bad poem: You’ll write a better one later.
  • Eliminate unnecessary words, phrases, and lines: Make every word count.
  • Titles are important: Make yours substantive, maybe even the poem’s first line.
  • Use your imagination: It’s your unique take on the world, why readers will fall in love with your poems.
  • Let readers interpret your work as they wish: There’s no right or wrong, just how it resonates with them.

 

 

Guest post contributed by Jacqui Murray. Jacqui is the author of the popular Building a Midshipman  and is the author/editor of dozens of books on integrating tech into education, an Amazon Vine Voice book reviewer, a columnist for Examiner.com and TeachHUB, and Editorial Review Board member for Journal for Computing Teachers. You can find her book on her publisher’s website, Structured Learning.  

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11 thoughts on “15 Tips for Writing Poetry”

  1. Great advice! I’m a poetry editor, and one of the main issues I find with some submissions I receive is that they’re too ‘big picture’ and there’s not enough depth/detail.

    So your advice to ‘focus on the small’ and ‘use sensory detail’ is spot on! Poems that do are the ones that are most ‘alive’ and evoke a real reaction in the reader 🙂

    Like

  2. Wonderful! There is very little practical advice about how to write a poem. Thanks, Jacqui! My favorite tips: “Focus on the small” and “Describe something or someone.” Keeping these in mind will anchor a poem and make it go deeper than expressing emotions alone can do. 🙂

    Like

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