Poetry can be a maze to navigate and it can be difficult to know where to start if you want to write your own poems. The below article gives some tips when starting out, including the benefits of reading poetry.

How To Begin Writing Poetry

If you’re very committed to writing poetry or want to learn how to improve the poems you have written, then it’s important that you expand your knowledge of poetry as a subject. Just like any skill, research can really pay dividends when it comes to improving your craft.

As a result, try to take some time to read poems to see how other poets have crafted charming or captivating stories. You can read:

  • old and contemporary;
  • up-and-coming poets, such as Rupi Kaur; or
  • established poets, such as Kei Miller.

Essentially, no poem is a bad poem to read when you’re looking to improve your writing! Try to read poetry aloud as well, to understand how the poem flows when spoken. Regardless of whether you're reading a haiku, a free verse poem, or a poem with plenty of alliteration, metaphor or rhyme, reading poems out loud is a core skill that's worth developing.

It may also be worth taking some time to think about the style of poem you would like to write. For instance, if you’re relatively new to poetry writing, or haven’t written for a while, then you may like to start by writing a narrative poem, which is a common type of poetry seen today, although it was also a popular type of poem in the past as well.

Narrative poems tell a story. They can be long poems about epics that inspire the reader, such as the Odyssey, or they can be short. Most narrative poems have a beginning, middle, and end, and feature a strong narrative voice, as well as strong characters. As such, it’s crucial to develop a strong writing voice when creating a narrative poem to evoke as many feelings in the reader as possible.

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Crucially, modern narrative poems do not need to rhyme, so don’t feel any pressure to include rhyming words if you’re not comfortable doing so.

For your first few narrative poems, it may be a good idea to try and keep the length of the poem short, so as to focus on the quality, rather than quantity, of your work. Try to pick a topic that would be particularly engaging from a literary perspective, real or made-up, that you think would capture the attention of your audience.

It's crucial to know the difference between structure or form in poetry.
Knowing the difference between structure and form is key to improving your writing. (Image: CC0 1.0, 53084, Pixabay)

How To Start A Poem

You may have wanted to start writing poetry for some time, but for one reason or another, putting pen to paper or scribbling in your notebook has been difficult.

If you’ve found yourself in this position, then you’re not alone. Getting started can be one of the most difficult things about writing, whether you’re trying to write a four-line poem, a 40-line poem, or the next War and Peace.

Although there’s no fool-proof way to start writing a poem, there are a few ways you can approach those initial lines. For example, try thinking about what you’ve done over the past few days – is there anything you experienced during that time that you would like to write about?

Another way of getting the creative juices flowing is to think about a conversation that you overheard and try to capture that in verse or describe an object sitting on your desk. Alternatively, write about a recent dream that you had.

When you draw from personal experience, it’s usually easier to connect to your words and helps them flow that little bit more effortlessly. Other ideas include:

  • Write about a childhood memory, good or bad, that you’d like to capture;
  • Try and describe your favourite colour; or
  • Write a poem about the last poem or book you read, and how it made you feel.

The trick is to try out a range of different writing exercises, such as those above, to see which poetry techniques help encourage you most when it comes to writing. Even if you’d prefer to write about something completely fictional, try and write a few lines about that event, and see whether you’re inspired to continue writing.

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If you’d like any more tips on how to start writing, then you can also turn to an English tutor who specialises in poetry for advice. Such tutors can be found online, through sites such as Superprof.

You can complete poetry exercises anywhere.
Poetry exercises can be a great way to hone your craft. (Image: CC0 1.0, StockSnap, Pixabay)

How A Poem Is Written

The short answer is that there’s no clear-cut or set way to write a poem, whether you’re writing a:

  • Sonnet;
  • Limerick;
  • Ballad;
  • Narrative poem;
  • Nonsense poem; or
  • Any other piece of poetry

Ultimately, writing is a highly organic process that is unique to each individual. So you may find the writing approaches that work for one poet or writer may not work as well for you.

Consequently, the key thing is to experiment and find out how you best write poetry. It might be that you prefer to write the end of your poems first and work back from there, or you would prefer to write late at night with a coffee mug in tow rather than at the break of dawn.

As long as you commit the time to write and try out different approaches, you’ll end up finding, or stumbling, on a writing method that works for you.

The main thing you can do during the writing process that will help your poetry immensely is to make sure that you regularly set time aside to write. Even if it’s for short bursts, writing regularly is the best way to keep you motivated and productive. After all, if you’re not writing frequently, then you aren’t improving your skills as a poet.

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A stack of papers. There are lots of poetry exercises that you can find online.
Reading poems can be a great start when tackling poetry for beginners. (Image: CC0 1.0, OpenClipart-Vectors, Pixabay)

Tips On How To Write A Poem

There’s no hard and fast rule when it comes to writing poetry. Ultimately, the way to write a poem and start one is a very personal experience and only through practice and self-reflection will you learn the most effective poetry writing techniques for you.

However, there are a few common tips for improving the quality of your writing, which are outlined below.

Embrace warm-up exercises

You can draw on inspiration from a wide variety of sources, and one great way to get started writing as a warm-up exercise, or to help get the creative juices flowing, is to try and write in the style of one of your favourite poets. Having some structure in this way can help you to get started, and give your poem more structure than if you started from scratch.

Steer clear of clichés

The risk of using, or overusing clichés in your writing is that everyone has heard a cliché before. So while it may be a quick way to communicate a message to the reader, often a cliché may prevent a reader from becoming immersed in your work or may put them off from reading altogether.

As a general rule, readers appreciate originality and the truth of your own words, so try to use that to your advantage. Of course, this is only a suggestion – if you feel a cliché is best used at times during your poem, by all means, include it.

Don’t feel afraid to revise your work

This golden rule applies just as much to poets as it does to fiction or non-fiction writers. Rarely, if ever, is a first draft the best expression of what that text could be.

As we usually only get to see a writer’s final product, it can be easy to fall into the assumption that the poem or text just happened to be written that way with no revisions. Often, however, pre-published poetry and texts go through multiple rewrites and edits before they get to a point that’s ready for publication.

As such, learn to embrace the power that revision and editing can bring when writing poems, to make your work as good as it possibly can be. Don’t like a particular line or sentence? Then remove it! Feel that something could be said better? Try and rewrite the line a few times and see what works, or ask a trusted friend what they think of your work.

If you’d like any more tips to improve your poetry writing, or would like a second pair of eyes to take a look over set phrases or a recent draft of your work, then feel free to reach out to a third party, such as an English tutor, for some help and advice.

Superprof has a range of English tutors available, with experience in teaching poetry for a range of experience levels. Just enter your postcode to find local tutors, or online-only tutors, that are available to you.

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