15 Tips for Writing Poetry



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.  

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 🙂


  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. 🙂


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