How to Begin to Write Poetry


by Diana Raab, PhD

Poetry is the voice of the soul and is often considered a free-flowing form of expression. Poets help us see a slice of the world in a way in which we might not have observed it before. They highlight details to cast a light on a feeling, an image, or an event. Poetry also helps offer insight into both the human psyche and human behavior, and it is a place where the imagination can roam free.

Letting go and writing poetry is about just allowing life and experiences to unfold as they are meant to unfold. When writing poetry, try to release or let go of your rational mind and let your sensations and emotions take over. Letting go is also about slowing down and pausing while being mindful of what is stirring inside you.

For some people, beginning a poem is the most difficult, but with practice it will become easier. When writing a poem, think of it in fragments. Each line is a fragment. Put the line breaks as a natural pause to your thoughts. Keep the focus of each line to one single image. For me, beginning a poem is the easiest part, because I fill my journal pages with first lines and then take it from there.

As you string words together, feel the poem erupt from deep inside you. Begin by writing about something about which you feel strongly. Writing in this way will help reveal you to yourself. It will transform you and direct you down a path of bliss. Over time, you will learn what inspires you to write poetry. Everyone is different.

Life provides all of us much material to write about. In addition to our memories, reflections and fantasies mentioned earlier, this wealth of material can also include the books or articles you read and the movies you’ve watched. Poet Robert Frost deftly says, “A poem begins with a lump in the throat: a homesickness or a love sickness. It is a reaching out toward expression: an effort to find fulfillment.

Poems come to me when I least expect it, but most often when I am in the midst of doing something else. Sometimes an image or a title drifts into my mind, and that’s where I begin.

To become a good poet, it is important that you read a lot of poetry for inspiration and ideas about form. You can also listen to CD’s of poetry being read aloud. After you finish your poem, it is always a good idea to read it aloud. This is a good way to edit what you’ve written, because poetry was meant to be a spoken form.

Reading the works of other poets is also a wonderful way to invite in the muse because it fills you with random thoughts and invites rhythm into your own poetry. It might also inspire you to go to poetry readings or to listen to poems being read audibly. My book, Lust, for example, is read by actress Kate Udall, and she does a terrific job of bringing the poems alive.


Here are some good prompts to get you started writing poetry:

  • Title your poem “I remember.” Recall an event in your life and share all the details of it in your poem. The reader should feel as if they are remembering alongside you.
  • Write an ode to someone you love. Provide details about why you love them.
  • In poetic form, write a letter of apology to someone you disappointed or you think you disappointed.
  • Write a poem about your first boyfriend/girlfriend and what you remember about them and your relationship.
  • Write a poem about someone who has passed away and frame it in a present day event that triggers your memory of them.
  • Write a poem about a secret you never told anyone.
  • Describe your day in a snapshot
  • Write a poem about all the things you love.




Guest post contributed by Diana Raab, PhD. Diana is an award-winning memoirist, poet, blogger, and speaker who advocates the healing and transformative powers of writing. She’s the author of nine books and her essays and poetry have been widely published. She’s a regular blogger for Psychology Today, PsychAlive, Boomer Cafe, and Elephant Journal. Her book, Writing for Bliss: A Seven-Step Plan for Telling Your Story and Transforming Your Life is due to be published in September 2017.

24 thoughts on “How to Begin to Write Poetry

  1. Hmm… “try to release or let go of your rational mind”. A great number of poets would disagree with that. If all you want to do is dump your raw material out there and call it poetry, fine. But real, rich, meaningful great poetry requires shaping by rationality.

    Liked by 2 people

  2. Reblogged this on newauthoronline and commented:
    This is a good post. I agree with many of the points made here. I do not, however adhere to the author’s view that one should confine oneself to a single image per line. In poetry based largely upon the utilisation of rhyme this is not always possible. Also, if a poet is writing about inner turmoil or about random thoughts (a stream of consciousness composition), the one image per line rule is not, in my view applicable.


  3. Writing poetry can not be taught in a simple step-by-step method. There is no recipe for creating a meaningful piece of written art. Poetry is written by sitting down and writing, making mistakes, finding the form that the writer likes best. Poetry is not a cookie-cutter art. Poetry is as unique as each individual that writes it. A poem has its own life and history. A poem is more than a collection of A-B-C-B stanzas. It is a piece of the writers heart poured out through the ink of their pen. It is the recreation of a moment, a feeling, a breath in time where inspiration was revealed as emotions overflowed. There is no absolute way to write poetry, and a writer doesn’t need to purchase books to learn how to do it. I’ve been writing poetry for 26 years with nary a step-by-step tutorial. If you want to write poetry, then study examples, and then find your own voice. Don’t be afraid of rewrites. Don’t be afraid to hate your own poem. Don’t be afraid to write the words that are living and breathing inside of you right now. That is the only lesson needed for a person who wants to write beautiful, original, from-the-heart poetry. The only wrong way to write poetry is to write the poetry that someone else tells you to write.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. I LOVE THIS! As a student pursuing an HBA in English, I am so tired of hearing about all of the modern conventions of poetry and people using classics like Eliot and Pound as the springboard for what poetry *should* be. this explanation is concise and focuses on the most important aspect of poetry, emotion. Because in the words of Wordsworth; “Poetry is the spontaneous overflow of powerful feelings: it takes its origin from emotion recollected in tranquility.”


  5. Some of the greatest poets lived in the days of the Greek Gods they revealed secrets that the curtain of time has fallen over today both William Shakespeare and Bob Dillon have use them for inspiration. When you read the Bible have you considered some of his acts they are not all good.


  6. I love your Robert Frost quote…and his words are so true…that a poem begins as a lump in the throat…I have found that whenever I have written poems, it is because I am suddenly overtaken with that need to give voice to something…like a lump in the throat…or tears that start to well up an need to be released…a poem simply needs to pour out of you and the heart can give it form while words can bring it to life. It was nice reading your article. Thank you for the prompts!


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