How to Write a Poem
Knowing how to write a poem, in its truest sense, is about developing a keen appreciation of the world around you and communicating your musings in verse. The topics of your poems can be as wide and as varied as the style that you adopt in order to communicate them. Poetry doesn’t have to be for anyone but yourself, and for any other reason than that of enjoyment.
1- Read other poems to get a feel of other people’s work. In no way do I suggest that you leech off of other people’s ideals or manner of communication, however much is to be learned from the many different ways that poetry is written.
2- Develop your appreciation of language by learning new words or different ways of saying the same thing. The English language is one of the richest in the world. Every word, no matter how similar to another, evokes a distinct response from the reader. In order to properly utilise this tool, develop as full an appreciation of it as possible. Learn five new words a day. When writing a poem, use as simple language as possible, however do not scrimp on accuracy for means of fluidity or rhyme.
3- Write about something that inspires you. It is much easier to write about something that you have experience of, or something that you have a vested or emotional interest in. Start with a base concept and surmise what you want to communicate in unrelated, concise lines or phrases. These can be pieced together at a later date. Indulge in the topic and the feelings that are associated with it.
4- Write towards an end goal. Are you trying to write something that has mass appeal? Are you trying to win over the affections of a prospective lover? Are you mourning the passing of an old friend? The atmosphere needs to reflect the purpose, however take care in not over cliché-ing the language and style. Poems of true character adopt a recognisable atmosphere yet sit ever so slightly to the side of mainstream.
5- Appreciate who your audience is. Other poets will be more appreciative of free verse, whilst those less familiar with poetry would prefer poems with rhythm and structure, that adopt a typical or simple rhyming pattern (AABB: The Cat, sat on the matt, and smiled, at the child. Or ABCB: It is known, that once said, the words “good night”, send a child to bed).
6- If you’re having difficulty communicating an idea within the confines of verse, try to think outside of the box: Can you communicate the same message through imagery or metaphor? Plain text will communicate your message more clearly, however imagery or metaphor will encourage engagement in the reader through contemplation of meaning.
7- Establish rhyme, rhythm and alliteration. All of the above effect the pace and tone in which a poem is read. Never over use the above tools (unless for quirky or ironic pieces), as otherwise they lose their power.
8- Add a punch line. The last line of your poem should solidify or highlight your message, or leave the answer of your message open for thought by the reader.
9- Review your poem; read it over and over again. Read aloud, as hearing often gives the poem a slightly different feel. Have an impartial and honest friend critique your poem. Do they understand what you are trying to say or have you been too convoluted?
10- Sit on your poem for a few days and then revisit it with a fresh perspective. There will undoubtedly be things about it that you will want to change.
A poem doesn’t have to be written in one sitting. Keep a note pad with you, as creative inspiration often comes to you when your mind is elsewhere and less engaged.
Writing is a mind-set that takes time to adapt to. Your first poem may take you days to write, but as you write more, the process will come easier to you.
Inverted syntax (backwards sentences (think how Yoda speaks)), is cheap and nasty. If you can’t make what you want to say fit, think outside of the box in order to communicate the same message.