Purdue Online Writing Lab College of Liberal Arts
Writing About Poetry
Welcome to the Purdue OWL
This page is brought to you by the OWL at Purdue University. When printing this page, you must include the entire legal notice.
Copyright ©1995-2018 by The Writing Lab & The OWL at Purdue and Purdue University. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, reproduced, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed without permission. Use of this site constitutes acceptance of our terms and conditions of fair use.
This section covers the basics of how to write about poetry, including why it is done, what you should know, and what you can write about.
Writing about poetry can be one of the most demanding tasks that many students face in a literature class. Poetry, by its very nature, makes demands on a writer who attempts to analyze it that other forms of literature do not. So how can you write a clear, confident, well-supported essay about poetry? This handout offers answers to some common questions about writing about poetry.
What's the Point?
In order to write effectively about poetry, one needs a clear idea of what the point of writing about poetry is. When you are assigned an analytical essay about a poem in an English class, the goal of the assignment is usually to argue a specific thesis about the poem, using your analysis of specific elements in the poem and how those elements relate to each other to support your thesis.
So why would your teacher give you such an assignment? What are the benefits of learning to write analytic essays about poetry? Several important reasons suggest themselves:
- To help you learn to make a text-based argument. That is, to help you to defend ideas based on a text that is available to you and other readers. This sharpens your reasoning skills by forcing you to formulate an interpretation of something someone else has written and to support that interpretation by providing logically valid reasons why someone else who has read the poem should agree with your argument. This isn't a skill that is just important in academics, by the way. Lawyers, politicians, and journalists often find that they need to make use of similar skills.
- To help you to understand what you are reading more fully. Nothing causes a person to make an extra effort to understand difficult material like the task of writing about it. Also, writing has a way of helping you to see things that you may have otherwise missed simply by causing you to think about how to frame your own analysis.
- To help you enjoy poetry more! This may sound unlikely, but one of the real pleasures of poetry is the opportunity to wrestle with the text and co-create meaning with the author. When you put together a well-constructed analysis of the poem, you are not only showing that you understand what is there, you are also contributing to an ongoing conversation about the poem. If your reading is convincing enough, everyone who has read your essay will get a little more out of the poem because of your analysis.
What Should I Know about Writing about Poetry?
Most importantly, you should realize that a paper that you write about a poem or poems is an argument. Make sure that you have something specific that you want to say about the poem that you are discussing. This specific argument that you want to make about the poem will be your thesis. You will support this thesis by drawing examples and evidence from the poem itself. In order to make a credible argument about the poem, you will want to analyze how the poem works—what genre the poem fits into, what its themes are, and what poetic techniques and figures of speech are used.
What Can I Write About?
Theme: One place to start when writing about poetry is to look at any significant themes that emerge in the poetry. Does the poetry deal with themes related to love, death, war, or peace? What other themes show up in the poem? Are there particular historical events that are mentioned in the poem? What are the most important concepts that are addressed in the poem?
Genre: What kind of poem are you looking at? Is it an epic (a long poem on a heroic subject)? Is it a sonnet (a brief poem, usually consisting of fourteen lines)? Is it an ode? A satire? An elegy? A lyric? Does it fit into a specific literary movement such as Modernism, Romanticism, Neoclassicism, or Renaissance poetry? This is another place where you may need to do some research in an introductory poetry text or encyclopedia to find out what distinguishes specific genres and movements.
Versification: Look closely at the poem's rhyme and meter. Is there an identifiable rhyme scheme? Is there a set number of syllables in each line? The most common meter for poetry in English is iambic pentameter, which has five feet of two syllables each (thus the name "pentameter") in each of which the strongly stressed syllable follows the unstressed syllable. You can learn more about rhyme and meter by consulting our handout on sound and meter in poetry or the introduction to a standard textbook for poetry such as the Norton Anthology of Poetry . Also relevant to this category of concerns are techniques such as caesura (a pause in the middle of a line) and enjambment (continuing a grammatical sentence or clause from one line to the next). Is there anything that you can tell about the poem from the choices that the author has made in this area? For more information about important literary terms, see our handout on the subject.
Figures of speech: Are there literary devices being used that affect how you read the poem? Here are some examples of commonly discussed figures of speech:
- metaphor: comparison between two unlike things
- simile: comparison between two unlike things using "like" or "as"
- metonymy: one thing stands for something else that is closely related to it (For example, using the phrase "the crown" to refer to the king would be an example of metonymy.)
- synecdoche: a part stands in for a whole (For example, in the phrase "all hands on deck," "hands" stands in for the people in the ship's crew.)
- personification: a non-human thing is endowed with human characteristics
- litotes: a double negative is used for poetic effect (example: not unlike, not displeased)
- irony: a difference between the surface meaning of the words and the implications that may be drawn from them
Cultural Context: How does the poem you are looking at relate to the historical context in which it was written? For example, what's the cultural significance of Walt Whitman's famous elegy for Lincoln "When Lilacs Last in the Dooryard Bloomed" in light of post-Civil War cultural trends in the U.S.A? How does John Donne's devotional poetry relate to the contentious religious climate in seventeenth-century England? These questions may take you out of the literature section of your library altogether and involve finding out about philosophy, history, religion, economics, music, or the visual arts.
What Style Should I Use?
It is useful to follow some standard conventions when writing about poetry. First, when you analyze a poem, it is best to use present tense rather than past tense for your verbs. Second, you will want to make use of numerous quotations from the poem and explain their meaning and their significance to your argument. After all, if you do not quote the poem itself when you are making an argument about it, you damage your credibility. If your teacher asks for outside criticism of the poem as well, you should also cite points made by other critics that are relevant to your argument. A third point to remember is that there are various citation formats for citing both the material you get from the poems themselves and the information you get from other critical sources. The most common citation format for writing about poetry is the Modern Language Association (MLA) format .
How to Write a Poem: A Step-by-Step Guide
Poetry is . . . song lyrics without the music? Writing that rhymes? A bunch of comparisons and abstract imagery that feels like a code for the reader to decipher?
The answer to all of the above is yes, but poetry encompasses much more. Poetry is a broad literary category that covers everything from bawdy limericks to unforgettable song lyrics to the sentimental couplets inside greeting cards. Poetry’s lack of rules can make it feel hard to define but is also what makes poetry enjoyable for so many to write.
If you’ve ever wondered how to write a poem, read on. Writing poetry doesn’t have to be daunting—we’re going to demystify the process and walk you through it, one step at a time.
Write confidently Grammarly helps you choose the perfect words Write with Grammarly
What is a poem?
A poem is a singular piece of poetry.
Poems don’t have to rhyme; they don’t have to fit any specific format; and they don’t have to use any specific vocabulary or be about any specific topic. But here’s what they do have to do: use words artistically by employing figurative language . With a poem, the form is as important as the function—perhaps even more so.
In contrast, prose is writing that follows the standard sentence and paragraph structure. Prose, while it takes many different forms and tones, largely mimics human speech patterns.
The purpose of a poem
Poetry expresses emotions and conveys ideas, but that’s not all it can do. Poets tell stories, teach lessons, and even communicate hidden messages through poetry. When you listen to music with lyrics, you’re listening to poetry.
When you’re writing poetry, keep your goal in mind. Are you writing to evoke emotion? To perform your poem at an open mic night? To get a good grade on your assignment? Although there aren’t any hard and fast rules for writing poetry, there are some fundamental guidelines to keep in mind:
- Show, don’t tell. The goal is to provoke an emotion in the reader.
- Less can be more. While it’s perfectly acceptable to write long, flowery verse, using simple, concise language is also powerful. Word choice and poem length are up to you.
- It’s OK to break grammatical rules when doing so helps you express yourself.
Elements of poetry
The key elements that distinguish poetry from other kinds of literature include sound, rhythm, rhyme, and format. The first three of these are apparent when you hear poetry read aloud. The last is most obvious when you read poetry.
One thing poetry has in common with other kinds of literature is its use of literary devices. Poems, like other kinds of creative writing , often make use of allegories and other kinds of figurative language to communicate themes.
In many cases, poetry is most impactful when it’s listened to rather than read. With this in mind, poets often create sound, whether to be pleasing, jarring, or simply highlight key phrases or images through words. Read this short poem “The Cold Wind Blows” by Kelly Roper aloud and listen to the sounds the letters and words make:
Who knows why the cold wind blows
Or where it goes, or what it knows.
It only flows in passionate throes
Until it finally slows and settles in repose.
Do you hear the repeated “ose” sound and how it mimics the sound of wind gusts? Poets create sound in a variety of ways, like alliteration , assonance, and consonance.
Poetry has rhythm. That’s what often makes it so attractive to set to music.
A poem’s rhythmic structure is known as its meter . Meter refers to:
- The number of syllables in each line
- The stressed and unstressed syllables in each line
These syllables are grouped together to form feet , units that make up a line of poetry. A foot is generally two or three syllables, and each combination of two or three stressed and unstressed syllables has a unique name.
You probably recognize the term iambic pentameter from English class. It comes up a lot in high school English classes because Shakespeare wrote in it frequently, and Shakespeare is frequently read in high school English classes. An iamb is a two-syllable foot where the second syllable is stressed: duh-DUH. Pentameter means that each line in the poem has five feet or ten total syllables.
Iambic pentameter is just one of the many kinds of rhythm a poem can have . Other types of feet include the trochee , two syllables where the first syllable is stressed (DUH-duh), and dactyl , three syllables where only the first is stressed (DUH-duh-duh). When a poem only has one foot per line, it’s in monometer; when there are two feet per line, it’s in dimeter; and so on.
Stressed and unstressed syllables aren’t the only way you can create rhythm in your poetry. Another technique poets frequently embrace is repetition. Repetition underscores the words being repeated, which could be a phrase or a single word. In her poem “Still I Rise”, Maya Angelou repeats the phrase “I rise” with increasing frequency as the poem progresses, changing it from “I’ll rise” in the first stanzas to a repeated “I rise” toward the ending, to emphasize her unbreakable spirit:
Leaving behind nights of terror and fear
Into a daybreak that’s wondrously clear
Bringing the gifts that my ancestors gave,
I am the dream and the hope of the slave.
With poetry, rhythm and rhyme go hand in hand. Both create musicality in the poem, making it pleasurable to recite and listen to.
Rhymes can appear anywhere in a poem, not just at the ends of alternating lines. Take a look at all the places Lewis Carrol uses rhymes in this excerpt from “Jabberwocky”:
One, two! One, two! And through and through
The vorpal blade went snicker-snack!
He left it dead, and with its head
He went galumphing back.
When you’re reading poetry, one of the first things you’ll likely notice is its formatting. Simply put, poems just aren’t formatted the same way as prose. Sentences end in weird places, there are blank lines between the different sections, one word might have a line all to itself, or the words might be arranged in a shape that makes a picture on the page.
One of poetry’s defining characteristics is that it doesn’t adhere to the same formatting that prose does. You (most likely) won’t find sentences and paragraphs in poetry. Instead, you’ll find stanzas, lines, and line breaks.
A stanza is the poetic equivalent of a paragraph. It’s a group of lines that (usually) adheres to a specific rhyme or rhythm pattern. For example, a quatrain is a four-line stanza in which the second and fourth lines rhyme. An isometric stanza is a stanza of any length where each line has the same meter.
Literary devices aren’t limited to prose—many, perhaps even most, poems incorporate one or more literary devices. Literary devices commonly found in poetry include:
- Figurative language
Often, poets use literary devices in conjunction with other poetic elements. One famous example of a poem that layers multiple literary devices is Margaret Atwood’s “[you fit into me]”:
you fit into me
like a hook into an eye
a fish hook
an open eye
In the first stanza, Atwood uses a simile, a type of figurative language , to create an initially pleasant image: a hook and eye closure, a small metal hook that neatly fits into an appropriately sized metal loop to fasten clothing. Then the second stanza juxtaposes this with a jarring image: a fish hook plunged into an eyeball. These images together, formatted as two stark sections separated by a break, express the poem’s uncomfortable, visceral theme.
Types of poetic forms
There are many different types of poems. Some have very strict style rules, while others are classified according to the topics they cover rather than their structure. When you’re writing poetry, keep the form you’re writing in mind as you brainstorm—with forms that involve rhyming or require a specific number of syllables, you’ll probably want to jot down a list of go-to words that fit into your chosen format before you start writing.
A haiku is a three-line poem that always fits this format: The first and third lines contain five syllables and the second line contains seven syllables.
A limerick is a five-line poem that follows a strict AABBA rhyme scheme. Though they often discuss humorous subjects, this isn’t a requirement—the only requirement is that it fits this precise rhyme pattern.
A sonnet is a fourteen-line poem that was often used by Shakespeare and Petrarch. Although a sonnet’s exact rhyme scheme varies from poem to poem, each sonnet has some kind of consistent rhyme pattern.
Here’s a tip: Grammarly’s Citation Generator ensures your essays have flawless citations and no plagiarism. Try it for citing sonnets in Chicago , MLA , and APA styles.
Blank verse poetry is written in a specific meter that, as a rule, does not rhyme. Although this specific meter is often iambic pentameter, that isn’t a requirement for blank verse poetry—the only requirements are that it does not stray from its meter (whichever meter the poet chose) and that it doesn’t rhyme.
With free verse, anything goes. When you read a poem that doesn’t appear to fit any specific format, you’re reading free verse poetry.
An ode is a poem that celebrates a person, an event, or even an object. An ode uses vivid language to describe its subject.
Elegies are poems that, like odes, pay tribute to specific subjects. However, rather than being purely celebratory, an elegy is generally a reflection on its subject’s death and includes themes of mourning and loss.
How to write a poem
Writing a poem isn’t the same as writing a short story , an essay, an email, or any other type of writing. While each of these other kinds of writing requires a unique approach, they all have one thing in common: they’re prose.
Poetry isn’t prose, as we explained above. And that’s what makes it feel like the wildcard of creative writing.
With poetry, going through the standard writing process can feel like a creativity killer. That doesn’t mean you should just sit down, scrawl out a poem, and call it a day. On the contrary, when you’re writing poetry, you might find that skipping one or more stages in the traditional writing process will help you be more creative.
Of course, you might also find that following the writing process helps you explore and organize your thoughts before you start to write. The usefulness of starting with brainstorming, then moving onto outlining, then starting to write only once you’ve got an outline varies from poet to poet and even poem to poem. Sometimes, inspiration strikes and the words just start flowing out of your mind and onto the page.
Here are a few tips to help you get started and write your next poem:
1 Decide what you want to write about
Unless you’ve been assigned to write a poem about a specific topic, the first step in writing a poem is determining a topic to write about. Look for inspiration around you, perhaps in nature, your community, current events, or the people in your life. Take notes on how different things make you feel and what they drive you to think about.
Freewriting can be a helpful exercise when you’re searching for the perfect topic to write a poem about. You can use a writing prompt as a jumping-off point for your freewriting or just jot down a word (or a few) and see where your mind guides your pen, stream-of-consciousness style.
Once you have a topic and a theme in mind, the next step is to determine which kind of poem is the best way to express it.
2 Determine the best format for your topic
Your poem doesn’t have to adhere to any specific format, but choosing a format and sticking to it might be the way to go. By opting to write in a particular format, like a sonnet or a limerick, for example, you constrain your writing and force yourself to find a way to creatively express your theme while fitting that format’s constraints.
3 Explore words, rhymes, and rhythm
If you’ve decided to write your poem in a specific format, read other poems in that format to give yourself a template to follow. A specific rhythm or rhyme scheme can highlight themes and clever wordplay in your poem. For example, you might determine that a limerick is the most effective way to make your readers laugh at your satirical poem because the format feels like it has a built-in punchline.
4 Write the poem
Now it’s time to write! Whether you opt for using a pen and paper, typing on a laptop, or tapping on your phone, give yourself some uninterrupted time to focus on writing the poem.
Don’t expect to write something perfect on the first try. Instead, focus on getting your words out. Even if your lines don’t rhyme perfectly or you’ve got too many or too few syllables to fit the format you chose, write what’s on your mind. The theme your words are expressing is more important than the specific words themselves, and you can always revise your poem later.
5 Edit what you’ve written
Once you have a draft, the next step is to edit your poem. You don’t have to jump right from writing to editing—in fact, it’s better if you don’t. Give yourself a break. Then in a day or two, come back to your poem with a critical eye. By that, we mean read it again, taking note of any spots where you can replace a word with a stronger one, tighten your rhythm, make your imagery more vivid, or even remove words or stanzas that aren’t adding anything to the poem. When you do this, you might realize that the poem would work better in another form or that your poem would be stronger if it rhymed . . . or if it didn’t.
Reading your poem aloud can help you edit it more effectively because when you listen to it, you’ll hear the poem’s rhythm and quickly notice any spots where the rhythm doesn’t quite work. This can help you move words around or even completely restructure the poem.
If you’re comfortable sharing your poetry with others, have somebody else read your poem and give you feedback on ways you can improve it. You might even want to join a writing group, online or off, where you can workshop your poetry with other writers. Often, other people can spot strengths and weaknesses in your work that you might not have noticed because your perspective is too close to the poem. A more distanced perspective, as well as perspectives from readers and writers of different backgrounds, can offer up ways to make your writing stronger that you hadn’t considered before.
Give your writing extra spark
When you’re writing poetry, you’re allowed to break the rules. In fact, you’re encouraged to break the rules. Breaking the rules artistically is one of the key differences between writing poetry and writing prose.
But making mistakes isn’t the same as breaking the rules. Mistakes in your poetry, like misspelled words and incorrect punctuation, can distract readers from what you’re communicating through your words. That’s where Grammarly comes in. Grammarly catches any mistakes or tone inconsistencies in your work and suggests ways you can make your writing stronger. The outcome: writing with confidence and getting better at breaking the rules on purpose.
Live Customer Service | M-F 10am-6pm Eastern: 864-729-3997
COACHING + PUBLISHING
FORMATTING + DESIGN
How to Write a Poem: 8 Fundamentals for Writing Meaningful Poetry
Posted on Mar 16, 2023
by Hannah Lee Kidder
Learning how to write a poem is debatably one of the hardest forms of creative writing to master—there are so many “rules”, but at the same time, no rules at all. It is the ultimate form of individual expression, yet there are creative writing prompts that fit into genres.
Despite the challenge, writing poetry is a very fulfilling creative venue, and we have exactly what you’re looking for to learn how to nail this art form.
Because poetry is so specific to the artist, knowing how to write a poem in your own way can be tricky.
Self-Publish Your Collection of Poems
FREE Creative Writer Class: How to Write & Publish Your Poetry or Fiction Book
Taught by a Bestselling Author with YEARS of experience doing JUST THIS! Learn the most recent marketing tactics for book authors, Amazon algorithm deep-dive, with case studies, & more.
Here’s how to write a poem using our fundamentals of poetry:
- Understand the benefits of writing poetry
- Decide which type of poetry to write
- Have proper poem structure
- Include sharp imagery
- Focus on sound in poetry
- Define the poem’s meaning
- Have a goal
- Avoid clichés in your poems
- Opt for minimalistic poems
- Refine your poem to perfection
If you’re ready to learn what it takes to write (and then potentially publish a book of) good poetry, we’ve got the help you need.
Benefits of Learning How to Write a Poem
Even if you aren’t looking to become a full-time poet, or even attempt to publish a single poem, writing poetry can be beneficial in several ways.
- It strengthens your skills in writing solid imagery. Poetry is a very image-based form of writing, so practicing poetry will improve your imagery in other forms as well.
- Poetry is concise and impactful — it uses strong language , and no more words than are necessary. If you have an understanding of how to write a poem, your prose when writing a novel will become crisper and stronger.
- Poetry helps you to connect with emotions in a tangible way . Other forms of writing have the plot to hide behind—with poetry, all you’ve got are emotions. (Unless it’s a narrative poem, of course.)
- You can become a professional poet and earn a living writing. Even if you just want to enjoy poetry for the above reasons, you can also make a full-time income this way. A great way to get started is to apply for a poetry scholarship in addition to the rest of the tips here.
Types of Poetry
Not all types of poetry are the same, and that means learning how to write a poem involves being familiar with the different types.
Here are the different types of poetry:
- Narrative – this kind of poem relies on a story. It tells an event and there are often a few extra elements, such as characters, a plot, and a strong narration.
- Lyrical – a lyric poem is similar to a song, and it tends to describe a specific feeling, scene, or state of mind.
You may be familiar with these different types of poetry. For example, a lyrical poem is actually a song. Listening to your favorite radio station is just like hearing a collection of your favorite poems being read to you with some background music.
A narrative poem is, as mentioned above, more like a story told in poetic prose.
Here’s a small example of a part of Edgar Allen Poe’s famous poem, The Raven:
8 Fundamentals for How to Write a Poem
Poetry can often be subjective. Not every poem will speak to every person.
That being said, there are different attributes that you should learn if you want to know how to write poetry well regardless.
#1 – Structure of writing a poem
The structure of a poem can refer to many different things, but we’re going to discuss some different forms of poetry, how to use punctuation, and last words.
Form of a Poem
The form of your poem is the physical structure. It can have requirements for rhyme, line length, number of lines/stanzas, etc.
Here are different types of poetry forms:
- Sonnet – A short, rhyming poem of 14 lines
- Haiku – A poem of 3 lines where the first is 5 syllables, the middle is 7 syllables, and the last is 5.
- Acrostic – A poem where the first letter of each line spells a word that fits with the theme of the poem or exposes a deeper meaning.
- Limerick – This is a 5-live witty poem with the first, second, and fifth lines rhyme as do the other two with each other.
- Epic – This type of poetry is a lengthy narrative poem celebrating adventures or accomplishments of heroes.
- Couplet – This can be a part of a poem or stand alone as a poem of two lines that rhyme.
- Free verse – This type of poem doesn’t follow any rules and is free written poetry by the author.
The majority of poets, specifically less experienced ones, write what’s called free verse , which is a poem without a form, or with a form the poet has made up for that specific piece.
A poet may decide to have a certain rhyme scheme or might make their poems syllabic.
With a free verse poem, you can set up any theme or pattern you wish, or have none at all.
The great thing about poetry is that you can even start with a specific poem form, and then choose to alter it in order to make it unique and your own.
Writing a poem is difficult because you never know what the appropriate punctuation is, because it can be different from punctuation when writing a book.
There are essentially three ways to punctuate your poetry:
- Grammatically – this means you use punctuation properly for every grammar rule; if you removed the lines and stanzas, it would work as a grammatically correct paragraph, and this even includes writing dialogue in your poem.
- Stylistically – this means you use punctuation to serve the way you would like the poem to be read. A comma indicates a short pause, a period indicates a longer pause, a dash indicates a pause with a connection of thoughts. Using no punctuation at all would lend to a rushed feeling, which you may want. Your punctuation choices will depend on your goals when writing a poem.
- A combination. Maybe you want to mostly follow punctuation rules, but you have a certain line you want read a certain way. It’s totally fine to deviate from standard rules if it serves a purpose—you just need to do whatever you’re doing intentionally. Know the rules before you can break them.
“In poetry, punctuation serves as the conductor. It sets the beat of a line or a stanza, telling you where to pause for breath. Conversely, enjambment —running lines of poetry together by not ending them with punctuation—can be extremely powerful, when used correctly. It keeps the line flowing without a pause or a full stop.” – Krystal Blaze Dean
Last words of a poem
The last word of a line, the last word of your poem, and the last line of your poem are very important—these are the bits that echo in your reader’s head and have the most emphasis.
Ending with punctuation (dash, period, comma) versus ending without punctuation will give you a dramatically different read, so consider the effect you’d like to have.
Tip for last words : read the poem out loud a few times to see where you’d like the inflection and emphasis to fall.
#2 – Imagery
Imagery is a literary device that’s a tangible description that appeals to one of the five senses.
The more imagery in a poem, the more the reader can connect with it.
Tip for imagery : focus on details. Instead of going for the obvious description, really put yourself in that moment or feeling—what details are the most impactful and real?
Here are some examples of imagery:
- Pungent fumes lifted from the floor beneath her.
- Burning light painted the insides of his eyelids red.
- Hair from her ponytail bit at her face, swept into a frenzy by the furious winds.
- Crackling popped in rhythm to the dancing flames.
#3 – Sound
While imagery is for the mind, sound is for the ear. How do your words and lines sound when read out loud?
The most basic sound style is a rhyme, however, you should never force a rhyme!
If you try for exact rhymes on every line, it becomes “sing songy,” and this is a big, red mark of an amateur. Sticking to a strict rhyme scheme can severely limit your word choice and creativity.
Instead of going for exact end rhymes, here are some options to achieve that appealing auditory effect of rhyming when writing poems:
- Assonance – the repetition of a vowel sound in non-rhyming, stressed syllables. Assonance gives you the fun sound effect of a rhyme without sounding campy. An example of assonance is: “Hear the m e llow w e dding b e lls” by Edgar Allen Poe .
- Alliteration – the repetition of a consonant at the beginning of words. Specifically hard consonant sounds like T , ST , and CH have a hard, staccato effect that a lot of poets like to use for alliteration .
- Internal rhymes – words inside of lines rhyme, rather than the end words. Like assonance, you get the effect of a rhyme without sound like a Dr. Seuss ripoff.
Tip for sound in poetry : Focus on beautiful, crisp imagery to carry your poem, rather than strictly relying on the sound and structure of it.
#4 – Meaning
Structure, imagery, and sound work together to make up the technical excellence of a poem. But if your words are empty of a deeper meaning , what’s the point in writing a poem at all?
“Poetry is a form of storytelling. The key to writing is making the audience feel . Give them something to remember and hold onto.” – Brookes Washington
Many new writers latch onto clichés and tired topics (peep that alliteration ) for their poems, because they think that’s what they’re supposed to do.
But emulating something someone else has done, or some idea of what you should think a poem should be about, isn’t going to give you a genuine, emotional piece that other people can connect to.
So write the poem that only you can write.
Tips for how to write a poem with meaning:
- Brainstorm poetry topics by looking at your own experiences. What do you know? When is a time you felt very deeply about something? Can you put that feeling into words? Can you make that feeling an image other people can see through your words? That is the poem you write.
- You don’t need some grand, dramatic emotion to write about—think about the ordinary things that make us all human.
“Nothing ever ends poetically. It ends and we turn it into poetry. All that blood was never once beautiful. It was just red.” – Kait Rokowski
#5 – Have a goal
Have a goal with writing a poem—what do you want your audience to feel?
Are you just writing for fun or for yourself? Poetry is often a very personal form of writing, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t think about your audience at the same time.
If you want to publish your poetry eventually, there are a few things to think about in terms of your goals.
What emotion or moral do you want to convey? What are you trying to express?
These are important questions to answer in order to write an impactful and memorable poem.
#6 – Avoid cliche phrases when writing poetry
There are many clichés you want to avoid when writing poetry.
Nothing really marks an amateur poet like clichés (and forced rhymes, like we mentioned before).
Despite the temptation, avoid cliché phrases . Go line by line and make your language as crisp and original as you can.
If there are pieces in your poem that seem like you’ve read or heard them before, try to reword it in order to make it more original.
#7 – Opt for minimalism
Err on the side of minimalism . Once you have a draft, cut it back to the bare, raw necessaries.
Every word should be heavy with emotion and meaning, and every word should be absolutely essential.
If your poem seems long-winded to you , imagine what that would be like for your reader. Be ready to edit your poem to get it down to its best form.
“Poetry is just word math. Every piece has mean something , and there can’t be any extraneous bits otherwise it gets confusing. It just becomes a puzzle made out of all the words that make you feel something.” – Abigail Giroir
#8 – Refine your poem
The real magic of poetry happens in the revising and refining.
Revise the ever-living heck out of it. To paraphrase an old professor of mine: Don’t be afraid to sit with it. For weeks, months, years — as long as the poem needs.
It’s great to have writing goals and timelines, but don’t rush a poem before you know it’s ready.
Avoid abstractions. An abstraction is a word that can only refer to a concept or feeling—it’s not a concrete, tangible thing. Some examples of this are liberty , love , bondage , aggression .
Abstractions make every person picture something different, so they are weak words, and they will weaken your poem.
Instead of using an abstraction, think of what imagery you can use to convey that emotion or concept. Liberty can become chains breaking or birds flying. Love can be bringing your spouse coffee in bed, petting a dog, cleaning a gravestone.
Think of the best images to convey your idea of that abstraction, so every reader can be on the same page with you.
Don’t pigeonhole yourself into a form that will stifle your creativity, utilize imagery and sound, have a meaning and a purpose for every poem, and revise until your fingers bleed.
Ready to Publish YOUR Book of Poems?
Grab your copy of Published. today and publish your first (or eighth) collection of poems!
Hannah Lee Kidder
Most popular blog posts, what is self-publishing school.
We help you save time, money, and headaches through the book, writing, marketing, and publishing process by giving you the proven, step-by-step process and accountability to publish successfully. All while allowing you to maintain control of your book–and its royalties. Learn to publish a book to grow your impact, income, or business!
Speculative Fiction Author
Poetry is a daunting art form to break into.
There are technically no rules for how to write a poem, but despite that—or perhaps because of it—learning how to write a successful poem might feel more difficult than learning how to write a successful essay or story.
There are many reasons to try your hand at poetry, even if you’re primarily a prose writer. Here are just a few:
- Practice writing stronger descriptions and imagery
- Unlock a new side of your creative writing practice
- Learn how to wield language in a more nuanced way
Learning how to write poetry may seem intimidating, but it doesn’t have to be.
In this article, we’ll cover five of our favorite tips to get started writing poetry.
How Do You Start Writing Poetry?
How do you write a poem from a new perspective, how do you write a meaningful poem, how do you write a poem about a theme, what are some different types of poetry, tip 1: focus on concrete imagery.
One of the best ways to start writing poetry is to use concrete images that appeal to the five senses.
The idea of starting with the specific might feel counterintuitive, because many people think of poetry as a way to describe abstract ideas, such as death, joy, or sorrow.
It certainly can be. But each of these concepts has been written about extensively before. Try sitting down and writing an original poem about joy—it’s hard to find something new to say about it.
If you write about a specific experience you’ve had that made you feel joy, that will almost certainly be unique, because nobody has lived the same experiences you have.
That’s what makes concrete imagery so powerful in poetry.
A concrete image is a detail that has a basis in something real or tangible. It could be the texture of your daughter’s hair as you braid it in the morning, or the smell of a food that reminds you of home.
The more specific the image is, the more vivid and effective the poem will become.
Concrete imagery: Example
Harlem by Langston Hughes
What happens to a dream deferred?
Does it dry up like a raisin in the sun? Or fester like a sore— And then run? Does it stink like rotten meat? Or crust and sugar over— like a syrupy sweet?
Maybe it just sags like a heavy load.
Or does it explode?
Notice how Langston Hughes doesn’t directly write about dreams, except for the very first line. After the first line, he uses concrete images that are very specific and appeal to the five senses: “dry up like a raisin in the sun,” “stink like rotten meat,” “sags like a heavy load.”
He conveys a deeper message about an abstract concept—dreams—using these specific, tangible images.
Concrete Imagery: Exercise
Examine your surroundings. Describe what you see, hear, feel, taste, and smell.
Through these concrete images, try to evoke a specific feeling (e.g., nostalgia, boredom, happiness) without ever naming that feeling in the poem.
Once you've finished writing, you can use ProWritingAid’s Sensory Check to see which of the five senses you've used the most in your imagery. Most writers favor one or two senses, like in the example below, which can resonate with some readers but alienate others.
Sign up for a free ProWritingAid account to try the Sensory Check.
Bonus Tip: Start with a free verse poem, which is a poem with no set format or rhyme scheme. You can punctuate it the same way you would punctuate normal prose. Free verse is a great option for beginners, because it lets you write freely without limitations.
Tip 2: Play with Perspective
A persona poem is a poem told in the first-person POV (point of view) from the perspective of anything or anyone. This could include a famous person, a figure from mythology, or even an inanimate object.
The word persona comes from the Latin word for mask . When you write a persona poem, it’s like you’re putting on a mask to see the world through a new lens.
If you’re a new poet and you haven’t found your own voice yet, a persona poem is a great way to experiment with a unique style.
Some persona poems are narrative poems, which tell a story from a specific point of view. Others are lyric poems, which focus more on the style and sound of the poem instead of telling a story.
You can write from the perspective of a pop star, a politician, or a figure from fable or myth. You can try to imagine what it feels like to be a pair of jeans or a lawn mower or a fountain pen. There are no limits except your own creativity.
Play with Perspective: Example
Anne Hathaway by Carol Ann Duffy
Item I gyve unto my wief my second best bed … (from Shakespeare’s will)
The bed we loved in was a spinning world of forests, castles, torchlight, cliff-tops, seas where he would dive for pearls. My lover’s words were shooting stars which fell to earth as kisses on these lips; my body now a softer rhyme to his, now echo, assonance; his touch a verb dancing in the centre of a noun. Some nights I dreamed he’d written me, the bed a page beneath his writer’s hands. Romance and drama played by touch, by scent, by taste. In the other bed, the best, our guests dozed on, dribbling their prose. My living laughing love— I hold him in the casket of my widow’s head as he held me upon that next best bed.
In this poem, Carol Ann Duffy writes from the perspective of Anne Hathaway, the wife of William Shakespeare.
She imagines what the wife of this famous literary figure might think and feel, with lines like “Some nights I dreamed he’d written me.”
The poem isn’t written in Shakespearean English, but it uses diction and vocabulary that’s more old-fashioned than the English we speak today, to evoke the feeling of Shakespeare’s time period.
Play with Perspective: Exercise
Write a persona poem from the perspective of a fictional character out of a book or movie. You can tell an important story from their life, or simply try to capture the feeling of being in their head for a moment.
If this character lives in a different time period or speaks in a specific dialect, try to capture that in the poem’s voice.
Tip 3: Write from Life
The best poems are the ones that feel authentic and come from a place of truth.
Brainstorm your own personal experiences. Are there any stories from your life that evoke strong feelings for you? How can you tell that story through a poem?
Try to avoid clichés here. If you want to write about a universal experience or feeling, try to find an entry point into that feeling that’s unique to your life.
Maybe your first hobby was associated with a specific pair of shoes. Maybe your first encounter with shame came from breaking a specific promise to your grandfather. Any of these details could be the launching point for a poem.
A grammar guru, style editor, and writing mentor in one package.
Write from Life: Example
Discord in Childhood By D.H. Lawrence
Outside the house an ash-tree hung its terrible whips, And at night when the wind arose, the lash of the tree Shrieked and slashed the wind, as a ship’s Weird rigging in a storm shrieks hideously.
Within the house two voices arose in anger, a slender lash Whistling delirious rage, and the dreadful sound Of a thick lash booming and bruising, until it drowned The other voice in a silence of blood, ’neath the noise of the ash.
Here, D.H. Lawrence writes about the suffering he endured as a child listening to his parents arguing. He channels his own memories and experiences to create a profoundly relatable piece.
Write from Life: Exercise
Go to your phone’s camera roll, or a physical photo album, and find a photo from your life that speaks to you. Write a poem inspired by that photo.
What does that part of your life mean to you? What were your thoughts and feelings at that point in your life?
Tip 4: Save the Theme for the End
In a poem, the last line is often the most important. These are the words that echo in your reader’s head after they’re done reading.
Many poems will tell a story or depict a series of images, allowing you to draw your own conclusions about what it’s trying to say, and then conclude with the takeaway at the very end. Think of it like a fable you might tell a child—often, the moral of the story comes at the end.
In sonnets it’s a common trend for the final couplet to summarize the theme of the whole poem.
Save the Theme: Example
Resumé by Dorothy Parker
Razors pain you; Rivers are damp; Acids stain you; And drugs cause cramp. Guns aren’t lawful; Nooses give; Gas smells awful; You might as well live.
Here, Dorothy Parker doesn’t make the poem’s meaning clear until the very last line: “You might as well live.” The poem feels fun, almost like a song, and its true meaning doesn’t become obvious until after you’ve finished reading the poem.
Save the Theme: Exercise
Pick your favorite proverb or adage, such as “Actions speak louder than words.” Write a poem that uses that proverb or adage as the closing line.
Until the closing line, don’t comment on the deeper meaning in the rest of the poem—instead, tell a story that builds up to that theme.
Tip 5: Try a Poetic Form
Up until now, we’ve been writing in blank verse because it’s the most freeing. Sometimes, though, adding limitations can spark creativity too.
You can use a traditional poetic form to create the structure and shape of your poem.
If you have a limited number of lines to use, you’ll concentrate more on being concise and focused. Great poetry is minimalistic—no word is unnecessary. Using a form is a way to practice paring back to the words you absolutely need, and to start thinking about sound and rhyme.
The rules of a poetic form are never set in stone. It’s okay to experiment, and to pick and choose which rules you want to follow. If you want to use a form’s rhyme scheme but ignore its syllable count, for example, that’s perfectly fine.
Let’s look at some examples of poetic forms you can try, and the benefits of each one.
The haiku is a form of Japanese poetry made of three short, unrhymed lines. Traditionally, the first line contains 5 syllables, the second line contains 7 syllables, and the last contains 5 syllables.
Because each haiku must be incredibly concise, this form is a great way to practice economy of language and to learn how to convey a lot with a little. Even more so than with most other poetic forms, you have to think about each word and whether or not it pulls its weight in the poem as a whole.
The Old Pond by Matsuo Bashō
An old silent pond A frog jumps into the pond— Splash! Silence again.
The limerick is a 5-line poem with a sing-songy rhyme scheme and syllable count.
Limericks tend to be humorous and witty, so if you’re usually a comedic writer, they can be a great form for learning how to write poetry. You can treat the poem as a joke that builds up to a punchline.
Untitled Limerick by Edward Lear
There was an Old Man with a beard Who said, "It is just as I feared! Two Owls and a Hen, Four Larks and a Wren, Have all built their nests in my beard!"
The sonnet is a 14-line poetic form, invented in Italy in the 13th century.
There are multiple types of sonnet. One of the most well-known forms is the Shakespearean sonnet, which is divided into three quatrains (4-line stanzas) and one couplet (2-line stanza).
Almost every professional poet has tried a sonnet at some point, from classical poets such as William Shakespeare , John Milton , and John Donne , as well as contemporary poets such as Kim Addonizio , R.S. Gwynn , and Cathy Park Hong .
Sonnets are great for practicing more advanced poetry. Their form forces you to think about rhyme and meter.
Sonnet 116 by William Shakespeare
Let me not to the marriage of true minds Admit impediments. Love is not love Which alters when it alteration finds, Or bends with the remover to remove. O no, it is an ever fixed mark That looks on tempests and is never shaken; It is the star to every wand’ring barque, Whose worth’s unknown although his height be taken. Love’s not time’s fool, though rosy lips and cheeks Within his bending sickle’s compass come; Love alters not with his brief hours and weeks, But bears it out even to the edge of doom. If this be error and upon me proved, I never writ, nor no man ever loved.
The villanelle is a 19-line poem with two lines that recur over and over throughout the poem.
The word “villanelle” comes from the Italian villanella , meaning rustic song or dance, because the two lines that are repeated resemble the chorus of a folk song. Using this form helps you to think about the sound and musicality of your writing.
Mad Girl’s Love Song by Sylvia Plath
I shut my eyes and all the world drops dead; I lift my lids and all is born again. (I think I made you up inside my head.)
The stars go waltzing out in blue and red, And arbitrary blackness gallops in: I shut my eyes and all the world drops dead.
I dreamed that you bewitched me into bed And sung me moon-struck, kissed me quite insane. (I think I made you up inside my head.)
God topples from the sky, hell’s fires fade: Exit seraphim and Satan’s men: I shut my eyes and all the world drops dead.
I fancied you’d return the way you said, But I grow old and I forget your name. (I think I made you up inside my head.)
I should have loved a thunderbird instead; At least when spring comes they roar back again. I shut my eyes and all the world drops dead. (I think I made you up inside my head.)
Try a Poetic Form: Exercise
Pick your favorite poetic form (sonnet, limerick, haiku, or villanelle) and try writing a poem in that structure.
Remember that you don’t have to follow all the rules—pick the ones that spark your imagination, and ignore the ones that don’t.
These are our five favorite tips to get started writing poems. Feel free to try each of them, or to mix and match them to create something entirely new.
Have you tried any of these poetry methods before? Which ones are your favorites? Let us know in the comments.
Take your writing to the next level:
20 Editing Tips from Professional Writers
Whether you are writing a novel, essay, article, or email, good writing is an essential part of communicating your ideas., this guide contains the 20 most important writing tips and techniques from a wide range of professional writers..
Hannah is a speculative fiction writer who loves all things strange and surreal. She holds a BA from Yale University and lives in Colorado. When she’s not busy writing, you can find her painting watercolors, playing her ukulele, or hiking in the Rockies. Follow her work on hannahyang.com or on Twitter at @hannahxyang.
Learn everything you need to know about grammar.
Great Writing, Made Easier.
A grammar checker, style editor, and writing mentor in one package.
Try it for free today.
Drop us a line or let's stay in touch via :
- Entertainment & Pop Culture
- Geography & Travel
- Health & Medicine
- Lifestyles & Social Issues
- Philosophy & Religion
- Politics, Law & Government
- Sports & Recreation
- Visual Arts
- World History
- On This Day in History
- Top Questions
- Week In Review
- Image Galleries
- One Good Fact
- Britannica Explains In these videos, Britannica explains a variety of topics and answers frequently asked questions.
- Britannica Classics Check out these retro videos from Encyclopedia Britannica’s archives.
- #WTFact Videos In #WTFact Britannica shares some of the most bizarre facts we can find.
- This Time in History In these videos, find out what happened this month (or any month!) in history.
- Demystified Videos In Demystified, Britannica has all the answers to your burning questions.
- Student Portal Britannica is the ultimate student resource for key school subjects like history, government, literature, and more.
- COVID-19 Portal While this global health crisis continues to evolve, it can be useful to look to past pandemics to better understand how to respond today.
- 100 Women Britannica celebrates the centennial of the Nineteenth Amendment, highlighting suffragists and history-making politicians.
- Britannica Beyond We’ve created a new place where questions are at the center of learning. Go ahead. Ask. We won’t mind.
- Saving Earth Britannica Presents Earth’s To-Do List for the 21st Century. Learn about the major environmental problems facing our planet and what can be done about them!
- SpaceNext50 Britannica presents SpaceNext50, From the race to the Moon to space stewardship, we explore a wide range of subjects that feed our curiosity about space!
Attempts to define poetry
- Major differences
- Poetic diction and experience
- Form in poetry
- Poetry as a mode of thought: the Protean encounter
- poetry summary
- Related Content
- The Literary World
- A Study of Poetry
- Famous Poets and Poetic Form
- Literary Terms: A Pop Quiz
- Poets and Poetry (Part Two) Quiz
- More Articles On This Topic
- Additional Reading
- Article History
Our editors will review what you’ve submitted and determine whether to revise the article.
- Academia - History of Poetry
- Humanities LibreTexts - About Poetry
- Poetry Foundation - U.S. Latinx Voices in Poetry
- poetry - Children's Encyclopedia (Ages 8-11)
- poetry - Student Encyclopedia (Ages 11 and up)
- Table Of Contents
Read a brief summary of this topic
poetry , literature that evokes a concentrated imaginative awareness of experience or a specific emotional response through language chosen and arranged for its meaning , sound, and rhythm .
Poetry is a vast subject, as old as history and older, present wherever religion is present, possibly—under some definitions—the primal and primary form of languages themselves. The present article means only to describe in as general a way as possible certain properties of poetry and of poetic thought regarded as in some sense independent modes of the mind. Naturally, not every tradition nor every local or individual variation can be—or need be—included, but the article illustrates by examples of poetry ranging between nursery rhyme and epic . This article considers the difficulty or impossibility of defining poetry; man’s nevertheless familiar acquaintance with it; the differences between poetry and prose; the idea of form in poetry; poetry as a mode of thought; and what little may be said in prose of the spirit of poetry.
Poetry is the other way of using language . Perhaps in some hypothetical beginning of things it was the only way of using language or simply was language tout court , prose being the derivative and younger rival. Both poetry and language are fashionably thought to have belonged to ritual in early agricultural societies; and poetry in particular, it has been claimed, arose at first in the form of magical spells recited to ensure a good harvest. Whatever the truth of this hypothesis , it blurs a useful distinction: by the time there begins to be a separate class of objects called poems, recognizable as such, these objects are no longer much regarded for their possible yam-growing properties, and such magic as they may be thought capable of has retired to do its business upon the human spirit and not directly upon the natural world outside.
Formally, poetry is recognizable by its greater dependence on at least one more parameter , the line , than appears in prose composition . This changes its appearance on the page; and it seems clear that people take their cue from this changed appearance, reading poetry aloud in a very different voice from their habitual voice, possibly because, as Ben Jonson said, poetry “speaketh somewhat above a mortal mouth.” If, as a test of this description, people are shown poems printed as prose, it most often turns out that they will read the result as prose simply because it looks that way; which is to say that they are no longer guided in their reading by the balance and shift of the line in relation to the breath as well as the syntax .
That is a minimal definition but perhaps not altogether uninformative. It may be all that ought to be attempted in the way of a definition: Poetry is the way it is because it looks that way, and it looks that way because it sounds that way and vice versa.
- Poetry Contests
How to Write Poetry with Meter
By Dusty Grein
Most of us enjoy poetry in one form or another. I am going to attempt to lay out the basics of writing classical style poetry in English, based on standard poetry terms and references. This discussion will focus on rhyming, metered poems.
Who am I? I am a novelist, yet the world of classical poetry has always fascinated me. My journey as an author, and I daresay a poet, is one that I hope never to complete. If you are interested in learning about classical poetry styles, methods, and patterns, then join me and let’s explore. I might have to hold your hand as we go, since some of the terms we will use are intimidating (until you learn the simple meanings of them) and they scared me for a long time.
Please keep in mind that the natural flow of poetic pronunciation and patterns will be influenced by your diction, and sometimes even your accent. This exploration will be done using the diction that comes naturally to me. I am from the Pacific Northwest in the United States, and I speak with no dialect or discernible accent (at least not to me).
In order to build a poem, and to be able to discuss, explain and look at samples of poems, we must define some terms. Some of this may sound simplistic, but there are those who struggle with the concepts and I would like to begin with some very rudimentary basics concerning words, sounds and cadence.
SYLLABLES (word building blocks)
Syllables are single sounds and the English language is comprised of words built using these sounds. Some words, ”Cone” for example, contain only one syllable (sound burst). Other words, such as “Circle” (CIR-cle) contain two syllables. We have words built from any number of syllables – “Constitutional” has five syllables (CON-sti-TU-tion-al).
Syllables are the building blocks of sound that we use to build words, but we don’t usually talk in monotone (unless you are attempting to do an impression of a robot). Instead, we vary the pitch, volume and strength of our pronunciation, or stress, of the syllables in our words.
Sometimes our meaning may be completely different, depending on how we pronounce a single word, and classical poetry is built using these emphasized syllables in patterns that allow the words to flow in noticeable almost melodic cadence.
This is one of the hardest parts of poetic patterns to grasp, but if you stay with me, and maybe try my tapping methods, you can learn exactly what these words mean, and how we use them to reference and build poems.
Classical poetry in English, is usually composed using pairs and trios of stressed and unstressed syllables, in metered rhyming patterns. These syllable pairs and trios are known as poetic feet.
Each foot contains a combination of hard (stressed) and soft (unstressed) syllables. In English poetry there are 5 basic poetic-feet used. Here they are, with their syllable counts and patterns.
iamb – 2-syllable foot: A soft syllable, followed by a stressed one, as in the word “adjust” (ah – JUST’). Used to create iambic lines.
trochee – 2-syllable foot: A hard syllable, followed by a soft one, as in the word “shatter” (SHAT’- ter). Used to create trochaic lines.
spondee – 2-syllable foot: Two equally stressed syllables, as in the word “breakdown” (BRAKE – DOWN). Used to create spondaic lines.
dactyl – 3-syllable foot: A hard syllable, followed by two soft one, as in “carefully” (KAYR’ – ful – ly). Used to create dactylic lines.
anapest – 3-syllable foot: Two softs syllables followed by a hard one, as in “comprehend” (kom – pre – HEND’). Used to create anapestic lines.
There are other patterns of poetic feet, but they are very rarely used in classic English poetry.
Here is a complete list of two and three syllable feet, with a syllable count and pattern, using ‘DUM’ for the hard syllables, and ‘dee’ for the soft ones. By tapping your finger hard on the DUM and soft on the “dee,” you will get an idea of the sound stress patterns that can be created.
Syllable Count Foot Name Pattern
2 syllables: pyrrhus: dee – dee
2 syllables: iamb: dee – DUM
2 syllables: trochee: DUM – dee
2 syllables: spondee: DUM – DUM
3 syllables: tribrach: dee – dee – dee
3 syllables: dactyl: DUM – dee – dee
3 syllables: amphibrach: dee – DUM – dee
3 syllables: anapest: dee – dee – DUM
3 syllables: bacchius: dee – DUM – DUM
3 syllables: antibacchius: DUM – DUM – dee
3 syllables: cretic: DUM – dee – DUM
3 syllables: molossus: DUM – DUM – DUM
Poetic meter is a count of the number of feet in a line. Most poems are written with between 1 and 8 poetic feet per line. This creates the following poetic metric line types, based on how many feet are in the line:
# of feet Meter Name
Perhaps the most famous type of line is that used by Shakespeare in many of his works, both prosaic and poetic, iambic pentameter – or five pairs of iambs, for a total of 10 syllables.
Often, poets will use a line with a missing first or last syllable, for emphasis and strength in their pattern. These lines are referred to as CATALECTIC (“headless”).
Rhyme Pattern / STANZAS
The final ingredient in the creation of the classic rhyming poem, is the number and pattern of rhyming lines. The final syllable or syllables in the metered lines are set to rhyme with each other in many different patterns, and the number of these lines determines the stanza length.
Stanzas are generally sets of lines that are separated by a blank line. The most common of these are stanzas containing 4 lines, also known as a quatrain, but there are many varied types of stanzas, from the simple two-line couplet, to complex forms like the sonnet or sestina.
Lines Stanza Type
2 lines: couplet
3 lines: triplet
4 lines: quatrain
5 lines: quintrain, quintet
6 lines: sestet
7 lines: septet
8 lines: octet, octave
In order to show the rhyming pattern in poetic stanzas, I will use the labeling method of describing the rhyming lines using letters , so that all lines identified with the same letter rhyme with each other.
Now that we have a vocabulary, we can examine poetry with a common language. Probably the most common form of poetry, that we learn very young, is the quatrain, in an A B C B pattern. These poems may consist of different meters and feet counts, even having them mixed, as long as the second and fourth line rhyme.
(a) I loved you before, (b) I love you still, (c) I always have and (b) I always will.
This is a simplistic form of poetry, and is not truly metered. It is still a valuable form of poetry, and the greeting card industry would be lost without it. For our purposes of exploration however, we will leave this simplistic approach behind, and look at more organized and structured poems.
** in the following samples, the HARD syllables will be capitalized, and the feet will be shown with the symbol | as a separator) **
One of the simplest structured poems ever written is a couplet of two rhyming lines titled “Fleas,” written in trochaic monometer (a single trochee per line)
(a) AD am (a) HAD ‘em.
Another very popular poem, A Visit From St. Nick, was written in anapestic tetrameter quatrains (four anapests per line, four lines per stanza) with an A A B B pattern, with the B lines missing the first syllable (catalectic)
(a) ‘Twas the NIGHT | before CHRIST | mas and ALL | through the HOUSE , (a) Not a CREA | ture was STIR | ring, not EV | en a MOUSE . (b) __ The STOCK | ings were HUNG | by the CHIM | ney with CARE (b) __ In HOPES | that Saint NICH | olas SOON | would be THERE .
The last sample lines we’ll look at for now are from Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream . This epic play was written in iambic pentameter quatrains (four line stanzas, with five iambs per line) in A A B B pattern:
(a) And I | do LOVE | thee: THERE | fore, GO | with ME ; (a) I’ll GIVE | thee FAIR | ies TO | at TEND | on THEE , (b) And THEY | shall FETCH | thee JEW | els FROM | the DEEP , (b) And SING | while THOU | on PRESSED | flow ERS | dost SLEEP ;
So now we have a basic grasp on classic poetry terms and forms.
A 52 year old grandfather, Dusty has just recently become a professional author. He lives in Newberg, Oregon, where a dog named Naked, and his youngest daughter Jazzmyn keep him busy.
Featured Image: “The Poetry Reading” by Vittorio Reggianini.
NOTE TO READERS: If you enjoyed this poem or other content, please consider making a donation to the Society of Classical Poets.
The Society of Classical Poets does not endorse any views expressed in individual poems or comments.
- Click to share on Twitter (Opens in new window)
- Click to share on Facebook (Opens in new window)
- Click to print (Opens in new window)
- Click to share on LinkedIn (Opens in new window)
- Click to share on WhatsApp (Opens in new window)
- Click to email a link to a friend (Opens in new window)
- Click to share on Pinterest (Opens in new window)
Clear explanations here – like it.
Excellent explanation! Bit of trivia to share: syllables in English have to contain at least one vowel/vocalic sound (like n in ‘button’, r in ‘water’, l in ‘bottle’, …). A syllable can have consonants and consonant clusters, but it has to have a vowel sound.
“Flowers” is actually a monosyllable.
while THOU | on PRESS | ed FLOWERS | dost SLEEP
How does one decipher between a short and a long syllable?
It is simply longer to pronounce, verging on pronouncing two distinct vowels. For example, there is the short “like” and there is the long “fire” which sounds almost like “feye-yr”.
A good explanation:
There is indeed something known as long vs. short syllables. It is a borrowing from Latin and Greek poetry. Any syllable with a long vowel, any syllable with a dipthong, any syllable with a short vowel followed by more than one consonant, is a “long syllable” – as in, it literally takes longer to pronounce. These are also known as “heavy syllables” as opposed to “light syllables.” The Latin form terms were “longum” and “brevis.”
For instance, “am” is a short syllable. “Arm” is a long one. “Aim” is a long syllable. And the first syllable of “Amy” is a long syllable. This is not the same thing as stressed vs. unstressed syllables though I think it is natural for the two phenomena to interact. (source: https://english.stackexchange.com/questions/43086/how-does-one-tell-the-difference-between-long-and-short-syllables )
More on diphthongs here: https://examples.yourdictionary.com/diphthong-examples.html
Please read my poem
Don’t ever fall in love my friend you see it doesn’t pay although it causes broken hearts that happens day after day and when you need needs get wake and then yd is starting to dance when you’re world revolves around and there’s nothing like romance so you see my friend you Have already lost in love loans fade away So you see my friend don’t fall in love you see it doesn’t pay
Hello I wanted to ask: can I use iamb, trochee and dactyl in one poem … like can I alter between them in the poetic lines I write? Or is it usually that one has to stick to one type per poem?
Dear Maab, you should only have one that you use as the overall meter of the poem. However, it is perfectly normal to have metrical variation within a poem to make your poem sound natural. So in an iambic pentameter poem, you will find trochees and dactyls and anapests, but the poem tends toward iambic and is mostly iambic.
Leave a Reply Cancel Reply
Your email address will not be published.
Notify me of follow-up comments by email.
Notify me of new posts by email.
This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed .
- Paying for College
- Student Resources and Services
- Student Academic Records
- Academic Policies and Procedures
- Legal Notices
- Academic Programs
- Academic Plans
- Administrators and Faculty
- Workforce and Community Programs
- Littleton Campus Map
- Parker Campus Map
- Sturm Collaboration Campus Map
- Archived Catalogs
Programs by Pathway
Provides strategies for analyzing and writing poetry, including the study of form and craft with an emphasis on the revision process. Sample texts will cover a diverse range of works from various cultures and perspectives. Note: This course was previously listed as ENG 227.
Find the perfect editor for your book ➔
Find the perfect editor for your next book
1 million authors trust the professionals on Reedsy, come meet them.
Last updated on Nov 23, 2022
How to Write a Poem: Get Tips from a Published Poet
Ever wondered how to write a poem? For writers who want to dig deep, composing verse lets you sift the sand of your experience for new glimmers of insight. And if you’re in it for less lofty reasons, shaping a stanza from start to finish can teach you to have fun with language in totally new ways.
To help demystify the subtle art of writing verse, we chatted with Reedsy editor (and published poet) Lauren Stroh . In 8 simple steps, here's how to write a poem:
1. Brainstorm your starting point
2. free-write in prose first, 3. choose your poem’s form and style, 4. read for inspiration, 5. write for an audience of one — you, 6. read your poem out loud, 7. take a break to refresh your mind, 8. have fun revising your poem.
If you’re struggling to write your poem in order from the first line to the last, a good trick is opening with whichever starting point your brain can latch onto as it learns to think in verse.
Your starting point can be a line or a phrase you want to work into your poem, though it doesn’t have to take the form of language at all. It might be a picture in your head, as particular as the curl of hair over your daughter’s ear as she sleeps, or as capacious as the sea. It can even be a complicated feeling you want to render with precision — or maybe it's a memory you return to again and again. Think of this starting point as the "why" behind your poem, your impetus for writing it in the first place.
If you’re worried your starting point isn’t grand enough to merit an entire poem, stop right there. After all, literary giants have wrung verse out of every topic under the sun, from the disappointments of a post- Odyssey Odysseus to illicitly eaten refrigerated plums .
As Lauren Stroh sees it, your experience is more than worthy of being immortalized in verse.
"I think the most successful poems articulate something true about the human experience and help us look at the everyday world in new and exciting ways."
It may seem counterintuitive but if you struggle to write down lines that resonate, perhaps start with some prose writing first. Take this time to delve into the image, feeling, or theme at the heart of your poem, and learn to pin it down with language. Give yourself a chance to mull things over before actually writing the poem.
Take 10 minutes and jot down anything that comes to mind when you think of your starting point. You can write in paragraphs, dash off bullet points, or even sketch out a mind map . The purpose of this exercise isn’t to produce an outline: it’s to generate a trove of raw material, a repertoire of loosely connected fragments to draw upon as you draft your poem in earnest.
Silence your inner critic for now
And since this is raw material, the last thing you should do is censor yourself. Catch yourself scoffing at a turn of phrase, overthinking a rhetorical device , or mentally grousing, “This metaphor will never make it into the final draft”? Tell that inner critic to hush for now and jot it down anyway. You just might be able to refine that slapdash, off-the-cuff idea into a sharp and poignant line.
Whether you’ve free-written your way to a beginning or you’ve got a couple of lines jotted down, before you complete a whole first draft of your poem, take some time to think about form and style.
The form of a poem often carries a lot of meaning beyond the structural "rules" that it offers the writer. The rhyme patterns of sonnets — and the Shakespearean influence over the form — usually lend themselves to passionate pronouncements of love, whether merry or bleak. On the other hand, acrostic poems are often more cheeky because of the secret meaning that it hides in plain sight.
Even if your material begs for a poem without formal restrictions, you’ll still have to decide on the texture and tone of your language. Free verse, after all, is as diverse a form as the novel, ranging from the breathless maximalism of Walt Whitman to the cool austerity of H.D . Where, on this spectrum, will your poem fall?
Choosing a form and tone for your poem early on can help you work with some kind of structure to imbue more meanings to your lines. And if you’ve used free-writing to generate some raw material for yourself, a structure can give you the guidance you need to organize your notes into a poem.
A poem isn’t a nonfiction book or a historical novel: you don’t have to accumulate reams of research to write a good one. That said, a little bit of outside reading can stave off writer’s block and keep you inspired throughout the writing process.
Build a short, personalized syllabus around your poem’s form and subject. Say you’re writing a sensorily rich, linguistically spare bit of free verse about a relationship of mutual jealousy between mother and daughter. In that case, you’ll want to read some key Imagist poems , alongside some poems that sketch out complicated visions of parenthood in unsentimental terms.
And if you don’t want to limit yourself to poems similar in form and style to your own, Lauren has you covered with an all-purpose reading list:
- The Dream of a Common Languag e by Adrienne Rich
- Anything you can get your hands on by Mary Oliver
- The poems “ First Turn to Me ” and “ You Jerk You Didn’t Call Me Up ” by Bernadette Mayer.
- I often gift Lunch Poems by Frank O’Hara to friends who write.
- Everyone should read the interviews from the Paris Review’s archives . It’s just nice to observe how people familiar with language talk when they’re not performing, working, or warming up to write.
Even with preparation, the pressure of actually producing verse can still awaken your inner metrophobe (or poetry-fearer). What if people don’t understand — or even misinterpret — what you’re trying to say? What if they don’t feel drawn to your work? To keep the anxiety at bay, Lauren suggests writing for yourself, not for an external audience.
"I absolutely believe that poets can determine the validity of their own success if they are changed by the work they are producing themselves; if they are challenged by it; or if it calls into question their ethics, their habits, or their relationship to the living world. And personally, my life has certainly been changed by certain lines I’ve had the bravery to think and then write — and those moments are when I’ve felt most like I’ve made it."
You might eventually polish your work if you decide to publish your poetry down the line. (If you do, definitely check out the rest of this guide for tips and a list of magazines to submit to.) But as your first draft comes together, treat it like it’s meant for your eyes only.
A good poem doesn’t have to be pretty: maybe an easy, melodic loveliness isn’t your aim. It should, however, come alive on the page with a consciously crafted rhythm, whether hymn-like or discordant. To achieve that, read your poem out loud — at first, line by line, and then all together, as a complete text.
Trying out every line against your ear can help you weigh out a choice between synonyms — getting you to notice, say, the watery sound of “glacial”, the brittleness of “icy,” the solidity of “cold”.
Reading out loud can also help you troubleshoot line breaks that just don't feel right. Is the line unnaturally long, forcing you to rush through it or pause in the middle for a hurried inhale? If so, do you like that destabilizing effect, or do you want to literally give the reader some room to breathe? Testing these variations aloud is perhaps the only way to answer questions like these.
While it’s incredibly exciting to complete a draft of your poem, and you might be itching to dive back in and edit it, it’s always advisable to take a break first. You don’t have to turn completely away from writing if you don’t want to. Take a week to chip away at your novel or even muse idly on your next poetic project — so long as you distance yourself from this poem a little while.
This is because, by this point, you’ve probably read out every line so many times the meaning has leached out of the syllables. With the time away, you let your mind refresh so that you can approach the piece with sharper attention and more ideas to refine it.
At the end of the day, even if you write in a well-established form, poetry is about experimenting with language, both written and spoken. Lauren emphasizes that revising a poem is thus an open-ended process that requires patience — and a sense of play.
"Have fun. Play. Be patient. Don’t take it seriously, or do. Though poems may look shorter than what you’re used to writing, they often take years to be what they really are. They change and evolve. The most important thing is to find a quiet place where you can be with yourself and really listen."
Is it time to get other people involved?
Want another pair of eyes on your poem during this process? You have options. You can swap pieces with a beta reader , workshop it with a critique group , or even engage a professional poetry editor like Lauren to refine your work — a strong option if you plan to submit it to a journal or turn it into the foundation for a chapbook .
Want a poetry expert to polish up your verse?
Professional poetry editors are on Reedsy. Sign up for free to meet them!
Learn how Reedsy can help you craft a beautiful book.
The working poet's checklist
If you decide to fly solo, here’s a checklist to work through as you revise:
✅ Hunt for clichés. Did you find yourself reaching for ready-made idioms at any point? Go back to the sentiment you were grappling with and try to capture it in stronger, more vivid terms.
✅ See if your poem begins where it should. Did you take a few lines of throat-clearing to get to the actual point? Try starting your poem further down.
✅ Make sure every line belongs. As you read each line, ask yourself: how does this contribute to the poem as a whole? Does it advance the theme, clarify the imagery, set or subvert the reader’s expectations? If you answer with something like, “It makes the poem sound nice,” consider cutting it.
Once you’ve worked your way through this checklist, feel free to brew yourself a cup of tea and sit quietly for a while, reflecting on your literary triumphs.
Whether these poetry writing tips have awakened your inner Wordsworth, or sent you happily gamboling back to prose, we hope you enjoyed playing with poetry — and that you learned something new about your approach to language.
And if you are looking to share your poetry with the world, the next post in this guide can show the ropes regarding how to publish your poems!
Anna Clarke says:
29/03/2020 – 04:37
I entered a short story competition and though I did not medal, one of the judges told me that some of my prose is very poetic. The following year I entered a poetry competition and won a bronze medal. That was my first attempt at writing poetry. I am more aware of figurative language in writing prose now. I am learning to marry the two. I don't have any poems online.
Comments are currently closed.
Join a community of over 1 million authors
Reedsy is more than just a blog. Become a member today to discover how we can help you publish a beautiful book.
1 million authors trust the professionals on Reedsy, come meet them.
Enter your email or get started with a social account:
Polish up your verse
Sign up to meet professional poetry editors on Reedsy.
Writing Mindfulness: Sensual World/Poetry Mind
with Marc Olmsted
March 15th, 2023
A four-week class, melding the language mind with the sensual: How to turn detailed observation into a poem. With Marc Olmsted.
The Only Submission Workshop You Will Ever Need
with Meghan Sterling
March 20th, 2023
How do you get your poems in literary journals? This two part webinar shows you the ropes for getting your work published, read, and celebrated.
Poetry Workshop: Bring Your Poems to Life
with Rosemary Tantra Bensko
March 29th, 2023
Join us for this workshop on creating powerful poems—poems that are clear and organized, fresh and moving, full of life.
30 Poems in 30 Days
with Ollie Schminkey
April 1st, 2023
This National Poetry Writing Month (NaPoWriMo), build community and get feedback on your work while writing a poem every day.
Death Riding Shotgun: How Awareness of Our Mortality Impacts Poetry
with Lisa C. Taylor
April 5th, 2023
How can your own mortality inform your work? In this 6-week course, you'll use death to inspire and motivate your poetry writing.
Our wonderful instructor, Barbara Henning , tackles these different definitions in her recently published Prompt Book . Here’s an excerpt from her book that covers some different interpretations of prose poetry.
An excerpt from Prompt Book:
If you start searching around in literary dictionaries, you will find a variety of definitions, such as:
(1) Martin Gray writes, “Short work of POETIC PROSE, resembling a poem because of its ornate language and imagery, because it stands on its own, and lacks narrative: like a LYRIC poem but is not subjected to the patterning of METRE.”
(2) An entry in the Princeton Encyclopedia of Poetry And Poetics: “A composition able to have any or all features of the lyric except that it is put on the page—though not conceived of—as prose. It differs from poetic prose in that it is short and compact, from free verse in that it has no line breaks, from a short prose passage in that it has, usually, more pronounced rhythm, sonorous effects, imagery, and density of expression. It may contain even inner rhyme and metral runs. Its length, generally, is from half a page (one or two paragraphs) to three or four pages, i.e., that of the average lyrical poem.
If it is any longer, the tensions and impact are forfeited, and it becomes—more or less poetic—prose. The term “prose poem” has been applied irresponsibly to anything from the Bible to a novel by Faulkner, but should be used only to designate a highly conscious (sometimes even self-conscious) art form.” (John Simon)
(3) In one of the early prose poem anthologies, Michael Benedkt writes, “It is a genre of poetry, self consciously written in prose, and characterized by the intense use of virtually all the devices of poetry.. . . The sole exception . . . we would say, the line break.”
(4) A contemporary critic Stephen Fredman—who has written extensively about language poetry—calls it “poet’s prose.” He objects to the above definitions of the prose poem because they rely too heavily on Baudelaire’s description of a prose poem. The language poets were often critical of lyrical narrative-oriented poems. Fredman quotes David Antin:
“‘Prose’ is the name for a kind of notational style. It’s a way of making language look responsible. You’ve got justified margins, capital letters to begin graphemic strings which, when they are concluded by periods, are called sentences, indented sentences that mark off blocks of sentences that you call paragraphs. This notational apparatus is intended to add probity to that wildly irresponsible, occasionally illuminating and usually playful system called language.”
Novels may be written in ‘prose’; but in the beginning no books were written in prose, they were printed in prose, because ‘prose’ conveys an illusion of a common-sensical logical order.
Without writing, we had the sound of our words and poetic language to help us remember; then we had lines perhaps to help us hear the rhythm of our spoken voice. All aids to memory. Sentences and paragraphs are borders for organizing thoughts and pauses between thoughts.
I think of a prose poem as simply a poem written in sentences and paragraphs, rather than lines. It can be narrative. It can be dramatic. It can be lyrical. It can be scientific. It can be experimental. It can be so many things, but if the language and structure stand out, rather than the information, description, dialogue, plot, then I think of it as a poem. “Poetic prose” might be a little closer to language that explains or elaborates, unless it is fracturing and experimenting with the language of explanation. But, of course, this can be endlessly debated.
If you want to read a long thoughtful exploration on the definition of a prose poem, I suggest reading Michael Deville’s book, The American Prose Poem .
Summing Up: What is a Prose Poem?
In short, there’s no singular prose poetry definition, and many theorists disagree on the exact confines of the genres. However, most definitions agree on the following features of prose poetry:
Prose poetry is:
- Short—generally no longer than 4 pages, and sometimes only 1-3 brief paragraphs.
- Unconfined—prose poetry has no line breaks and is unaffected by the margins of the page.
- Sonic—a prose poem may rely on rhythm and internal rhyme, and often has a certain musicality (or, even, cacophony ).
- Concise—every word matters and builds tension.
- Experimental—the writer must rely completely on word choice , since prose poetry eschews the bounds of form and tradition.
To expand your understanding of the genre, check out Barbara’s course Poetic Prose: The Prose Poem .
Prose Poetry Examples
Let’s take a look at some prose poetry examples. The best prose poems incorporate the above features of prose poetry, and they also delve deeper into the speaker’s psyche, revealing powerful thoughts and feelings. Consider these 4 examples of prose poetry.
1. After the War by Heidi Howell
Originally published at Eastern Iowa Review .
After the War
- not remembering she thinks it. whenever there is a desire, a pause. she thinks it slowly blue, broken but not stars. (it can be more or less). something like a curve. or an after. she thinks it with or without the daughter. before or after the distance. a field and there isn’t any wind. finally, she has not seen it. she just stands and thinks it.
- the breath waits to happen. it pretends a separate movement. an open. a close. to refuse it is only wet feet. clothing. around the rain and after hold your hands up in the air. clasp it. asking. this always in the distance. and you not walking there.
- “i tell you not lingering what is the intimate. departing she has watched and stepped through. over them stumbling like the unexpected stick or fold. high. near. let fall. always a gap and she was believing its benevolence. holding that space and feeling it filled. everything happened. now. she will not deny or suspend.”
Let’s explore how “After the War” fits into our prose poetry definition.
- Short: The speaker explores the dissonance of thought in three brief paragraphs.
- Unconfined: There are no intentional line breaks or metrical patterns.
- Sonic: there are many examples of alliteration, such as “blue, broken but,” “believing its benevolence,” and “feeling it filled.” Additionally, the patterning of short and long sentences creates an evolving rhythm, like water gushing downstream.
- Concise: The sounds and sentence patterns build tension, while the writing explores the confines of a dangerous thought.
- Experimental: This prose poem explores a thought without ever speaking that thought. We feel the speaker’s emotions without needing to know exactly what’s on her mind. The writing also experiments with sentence structures, and it eschews the use of capital letters.
2. The Not Knowing is Most Intimate by Ilana Gustafson
Originally published in the writers.com Community Journal .
The Not Knowing is Most Intimate The dharma teacher’s wife is leaving him after forty-nine years of marriage. I think of him as you and I lay under the trees, away from the rest of the group. You ask me to identify birds. Acorn woodpecker. Rock pigeon. Red-tailed hawk. But you knew that one. My parents celebrate fifty years this month. I prefer the company of people who aren’t afraid to admit they don’t know a crow from a raven. Not knowing is most intimate. Not once has anyone at this party asked me what I do. I was prepared to answer honestly. “I hear animals calling through my body in the middle of the night,” and ponder how long they will keep talking to me. How long did his wife wish to leave? Oriole. They make these elaborate basket nests. I google a picture to show you. You drift off into the screen. Was it sudden? I am glad he is a Zen master. Preparation for this unfathomable fall into the intimate unknown. Life without his companion. That’s a raven, not a crow. The ground, a grassy little teeter-totter.
Let’s explore how “The Not Knowing is Most Intimate” fits into our prose poetry definition.
- Short: Multiple ideas are presented in one paragraph, exploring the intimacy and humanness of simply not knowing.
- Sonic: This prose poem alternates between short and long sentences. Additionally, it alternates between declarative sentences, questions, and dialogue, keeping the pace fresh and interesting.
- Concise: These three narratives could easily take up pages and pages of narrative. Instead, they’ve been condensed in a way that the reader can make connections and glean insight, without having that insight stated explicitly.
- Experimental: This prose poem uses a narrative technique called braiding , interweaving multiple storylines into a single cogent story. It is common for prose poetry to borrow techniques from other genres.
3. Be Drunk by Charles Baudelaire
Reproduced from Poets.org . Baudelaire was one of the first Western writers to embrace the prose poetry form.
You have to be always drunk. That’s all there is to it—it’s the only way. So as not to feel the horrible burden of time that breaks your back and bends you to the earth, you have to be continually drunk.
But on what? Wine, poetry or virtue, as you wish. But be drunk.
And if sometimes, on the steps of a palace or the green grass of a ditch, in the mournful solitude of your room, you wake again, drunkenness already diminishing or gone, ask the wind, the wave, the star, the bird, the clock, everything that is flying, everything that is groaning, everything that is rolling, everything that is singing, everything that is speaking. . . ask what time it is and wind, wave, star, bird, clock will answer you: “It is time to be drunk! So as not to be the martyred slaves of time, be drunk, be continually drunk! On wine, on poetry or on virtue as you wish.”
Let’s explore how “Be Drunk” fits into our prose poetry definition.
- Short: This prose poem is written in three brief paragraphs.
- Sonic: There are some great examples of alliteration, such as “burden of time that breaks your back and bends you,” as well as “drunkenness already diminishing.”
- Concise: Baudelaire captures a philosophy of life in three simple paragraphs. It’s not about alcoholism or chemical intoxication: it’s about being inebriated with life itself, much like all of nature seems to be.
- Experimental: The last paragraph is built with a single sentence, which emulates the intensity and ecstasy of life itself. Additionally, Baudelaire was highly experimental for his time, as most poetry still conformed to the strictness of meter and rhyme schemes.
4. Stinging, or Conversation with a Pin by Stephanie Trenchard
Stinging, or Conversation with a Pin
Stinging me—that pin. Caressing you—this curve. Imagine me that night forgetting you this morning. Lulling me, an oversight, goodnight. Alarming you under dark, rough morning. Reminding me of pain, forgetting you for pleasure. Shaming me for denying. Accepting you not believing. Always in a rush, never out of time. Lazy busy me. Enterprising deliberate you. Let it lay, a pin in the plush. Pick it up, this orb of concrete. Sleepy, pin pokes as pins do. Awake, orb rolls unlike orbs. Sharp unknown in the rug, smooth known under a bed, a thing that hurts remains untouched
Let’s explore how “Stinging, or Conversation with a Pin” fits into our prose poetry definition.
- Short: This prose poem is only a paragraph in length.
- Sonic: There’s a lot of internal rhyme in this piece, with consecutive “ing,” “ight,” and “zee” sounds.
- Concise: In one paragraph, this prose poem establishes a dialogue between the pin and the curve, with each symbolizing one side of a dysfunctional relationship.
- Experimental: Like other prose poetry examples, this piece relies on specific poetry techniques—namely, juxtaposition and symbolism. Yet this piece is also structured like dialogue, which is more common in prose. By putting the pin and the curve in conversation and letting each item represent one half of a doomed relationship, the speaker traces the psyche of someone whose love won’t let them thrive.
How to Write a Prose Poem: Tips and Strategies
In many ways, the act of writing prose poetry is freeing. Rather than deliberating over line breaks, rhyme schemes, or “sounding poetic,” the prose poet merely needs to write prose, poetically.
Nonetheless, there are a few strategies you can use to write polished, emotive prose poetry. Here’s 4 tips for success.
1. Write Stream of Consciousness
Stream of consciousness is a writing technique in which the writer’s thoughts flow unfiltered onto the page. It’s a tough technique to master: the writer has to focus on setting each thought on the page, without editing or omitting anything. This practice, also known as “First Thought, Best Thought,” is a facet of the Mindfulness Writing Method .
Writing stream of consciousness allows the writer to reveal crucial aspects of their psyche. Refer back to John Simon’s prose poetry definition, which argues that the genre is “a highly conscious (even self-conscious) art form.” Stream of consciousness requires practice and research, but with mastery, you can easily identify threads of thought that lend themselves to prose poems.
2. Use Poetic Devices
Although prose poetry doesn’t use meter or rhyme schemes, it does rely heavily on poetic devices . Sound devices (like alliteration, consonance, euphony, internal rhyme) and literary devices (like metaphor, symbolism, juxtaposition, anaphora) help create the experience of the prose poem, both sonic and emotive.
Just like stream of consciousness, the use of poetic devices takes time to master. However, many poetic devices emerge on their own accord, without intervention from the writer. Many images can be imbued with symbolic meaning simply by existing, and you might also benefit from starting with a writing prompt.
Simply put: use concrete images, play with sound, and write honestly. You might be surprised by the deeper meaning that emerges.
3. Play With Punctuation and Sentence Structure
In addition to sound devices, punctuation and sentence structure can improve the experience of the prose poem.
Punctuation greatly affects readability. If your sentences contain mostly commas and periods, they’ll be read as complete, authoritative thoughts. Sentences that contain colons and semicolons might: meander; flit between different thoughts and ideas; create moving, long-winded experiences; or even combine multiple ideas into one long, comprehensive sentence. Finally, the use of em-dashes—like in “With a Bang” by Barbara Henning —can highlight the poem’s stream of consciousness—moving in and out of thoughts like bees flitting through flowers.
Sentence structure also affects readability. Short sentences are crisp. They demonstrate authority and simplicity. Long sentences, on the other hand, can wander all over the page, creating vivid soundscapes and haunting juxtapositions—as well as hard-to-follow ideas or intricately constructed emotions.
Both prose writers and poets must pay attention to punctuation and sentence structure. However, these elements are especially important to prose poetry, as they seek to emulate the writer’s own thoughts and feelings. The elements of grammar aren’t just mechanical, they’re essential to creating the prose poetry experience.
4. Edit for Clarity
You might find that, after reading your stream of consciousness, your writing doesn’t make much sense. Sometimes, this is perfectly fine—prose poetry is often about creating a literary experience, evoking emotions without obvious logic.
At the same time, if the writing feels too obscure or incomprehensible, it’s worth editing for clarity and omitting needless words .
To be clear: your edits should focus mostly on clarity. You can clean up your sentences, add some sound devices, and alter punctuation.
However, you shouldn’t focus on adding more words or changing the poem’s meaning. Such interference can make the work more confusing and obscure. The best prose poems act as mirrors of the heart; over-editing merely streaks the glass.
Learn How to Write a Prose Poem in our Prose Poetry Course!
Looking for more prose poetry examples and tips? Barbara Henning’s course Poetic Prose: The Prose Poem helps writers experiment their way through prose poetry.
The prompts in Barbara’s class direct the student to look at their spoken and inner language as ever available material from which to make art. The assignments, backgrounds and prose poetry examples offered provide an introduction to the prose poem and to some of the poetic movements in modern and contemporary off-center poetry, such as imagism, surrealism, objectivism, the New York School, Language writing, etc. The prompts are designed to expand a poet’s sense of voice and form, offering new constraints and approaches. If you are a prose writer, the assignments may help you work on sentence style and narrative structures.
Learn the form’s history and techniques, and create moving works of poetic prose with Barbara’s prompts and assignments. You can also gain extra feedback on your work through our Facebook group . We hope to see you there!
I would love to take your class, but the tie is conflicting with a classIm taking now. Please let me know when you will give this class again
Hi Svetlana, thanks for your message! If the November 10th session of Poetic Prose doesn’t work for you, the next session will be offered on March 9th, 2022. Feel free to email [email protected] with any questions about this. Much appreciated!
Wow! This was very enlightening and super fun.. Thank you, so much for such a well detailed article. It’s as poetic as the topic discussed.
Leave a Comment Cancel Reply
Save my name, email, and website in this browser for the next time I comment.
- Full Course Schedule
- Short Story
- Stage and Broadcast
- Personal Essay
- Lifestyle and Wellness
- Live Workshops
- Private Courses
- Community Highlights
- Community Journal
- Social Media
- Free Writing Resources
- Curated Publication Opportunities
- Student Feedback
- Free Writing Tips
- View Course Calendar
- Gift a Course
- Refer a Friend!
- Writing Tips
Improve your writing in one of the largest and most successful writing groups online
Join for free!
Types of Poetry: The Complete Guide with 28 Examples
by Fija Callaghan
Updated Mar 29, 2022
Poetry has been around for almost four thousand years, predating even written language, and it’s still evolving all the time. Let’s explore some of the different types of poems you might come across, including rhymed poetry and free verse poetry, and how experimenting with a poem’s structure can make you a better poet.
Why do the different forms of poetry matter?
Poetic forms are important when we write poems for three main reasons:
1. Forms make poetry easier to remember
At its inception, poetry was used as a way to pass down stories and ideas to new generations. Poetry has been around longer than the written word, but even after people started writing things down, some cultures continued telling stories orally. They did this by telling stories as poems. Using set rhyme schemes, meters, and rhythms made it easier to learn those poems by heart.
2. Form shapes the rhythm and sound of a poem
Using poetic structure helps shape the way a poem will sound when it’s spoken out loud. Even though most of our poetry today is written down, it’s still heard at live performances, and we’ll often “hear” a poem in our head as we’re reading it. Different types of poetry will have different auditory moods and rhythms, which contributes to the overall emotional effect.
3. Form challenges our use of language
As writers, we always want to be challenging ourselves to use words in new and exciting ways. Using the constraints of formal poetry is a great way to stretch our imagination and come up with new ideas. The story theorist Robert McKee calls this “creative limitation.” By imposing limits on what we can do, we’ll instinctively look for ever more creative and imaginative ways to use the limited space that we’re given.
Free verse poetry vs. rhymed poetry
These days, rhymed poetry has fallen out of vogue with contemporary poets, though it still has its champions. In the early 20th century free verse, or free form, poetry was embraced for its fluid, conversational qualities, and dominates the poetic landscape today. It became popular in part because it feels less like a performance and more like you’re talking directly to the reader.
Rhymed poetry, on the other hand, is great for getting a message across to the reader or listener. Most pop songs today are, at least in part, rhymed poetry—that’s why we remember them and find ourselves mulling over the lyrics days later.
We’ll look more at different types of free verse poetry and rhymed poetry, and you can see which ones work best for you.
27 Types of Poetry
You might recognize some of these types of poems from reading poetry like them in school (Edgar Allan Poe, William Shakespeare, and Walt Whitman are all names you’ve probably come across in English class!) Others might be new to you. Once you know a little bit more about these common forms (and some less common ones), you can even enjoy writing some of your own!
A haiku is a traditional cornerstone of Japanese poetry with no set rhyme scheme, but a specific shape: three lines composed of five syllables in the first line, seven in the second line, and five in the third line.
Occasionally, some traditional Japanese haikus won’t fit this format because the syllables change when they’re translated into English; but when you’re writing your own haiku poem in your native language, you should try to adhere to this structure.
Haiku poems are often explorations of the natural world, but they can be about anything you like. They’re deceptively simple ideas with a lot of poignancy under the surface.
Here’s an example of a haiku poem, “Over the Wintry” by Natsume Sōseki:
Over the wintry Forest, winds howl in rage With no leaves to blow.
Learn more about writing your own haiku poetry in our dedicated Academy article.
A limerick is a short, famous poetic form consisting of five lines that follow the rhyme form AABBA. Usually these are quite funny and tell a story. The first two lines should have eight or nine syllables each, the third and fourth lines should have five or six syllables each, and the final line eight or nine syllables again.
Limericks are great learning devices for children because their rhythm makes them so easy to remember. Here’s a fun example of a limerick, “There Was A Small Boy Of Quebec” by Rudyard Kipling:
There was a small boy of Quebec, Who was buried in snow to his neck; When they said, “Are you friz?” He replied, “Yes, I is— But we don’t call this cold in Quebec.”
Clerihews are a little bit like limericks in that they’re short, funny, and often satirical. A clerihew is made up of four lines (or several four-line stanzas) with the rhyme scheme AABB, and the first line of the stanza must be a person’s name.
This poetry type is great for helping people remember things (or enacting some good-natured revenge). Here’s a famous example, “Sir Humphrey Davy” by Edmund Clerihew Bentley, the inventor of the eponymous clarihew:
Sir Humphrey Davy Abominated gravy. He lived in the odium Of having discovered sodium.
A cinquain is a five-line poem consisting of twenty-two syllables: two in the first line, then four, then six, then eight, and then two syllables again in the last line. These are deceptively simple poems with a lovely musicality that make the writer think hard about the perfect word choices.
Here’s an example of a cinquain poem, “November Night” by Adelaide Crapsey:
Listen… With faint dry sound, Like steps of passing ghosts, The leaves, frost-crisp’d, break from the trees And fall.
A triolet is a traditional French single-stanza poem of eight lines with a rhyme scheme of ABAAABAB; however, it only consists of five unique lines. The first line is repeated as the fourth and seventh line, and the second line is repeated as the very last line. Although simple, a well-written triolet will bring new depth and meaning to the repeated lines each time. Here’s an example of a classic triolet poem, “How Great My Grief” by Thomas Hardy:
How great my grief, my joys how few, Since first it was my fate to know thee! Have the slow years not brought to view How great my grief, my joys how few, Nor memory shaped old times anew, Nor loving-kindness helped to show thee How great my grief, my joys how few, Since first it was my fate to know thee?
A dizain is another traditional form made up of just one ten-line stanza, and with each line having ten syllables (that’s an even hundred in total). The rhyme scheme for a dizain is ABABBCCDCD. This poetry type was a favorite of French poets in the 15th and 16th century, and many English poets adapted it into larger works. Here’s an great example of a dizain poem, “Names” by Brad Osborne:
If true that a rose by another name Holds in its fine form fragrance just as sweet If vivid beauty remains just the same And if other qualities are replete With the things that make a rose so complete Why bother giving anything a name Then on whom may I place deserved blame When new people’s names I cannot recall There seems to be an underlying shame So why do we bother with names at all
A sonnet is a lyric poem that always has fourteen lines. The oldest type of sonnet is the Italian or Petrarchan sonnet, which is broken into two stanzas of eight lines and six lines. The first stanza has a consistent rhyme scheme of ABBA ABBA and the second stanza has a rhyme scheme of either CDECDE or CDCDCD.
Later on, an ambitious bloke by the name of William Shakespeare developed the English sonnet (which later came to be known as the Shakespearean sonnet). It still has fourteen lines, but the rhyme scheme is different and it uses a rhythm called iambic pentameter. It has four distinctive parts, which might be separate stanzas or they might be all linked together. The rhyme scheme is ABAB CDCD EFEF GG.
William Shakespeare is famous for using iambic pentameter in his sonnets, but you can experiment with different rhythms and see what works best for you. Here’s one of his most famous sonnets, Sonnet 18:
Shall I compare thee to a summer’s day? Thou art more lovely and more temperate: Rough winds do shake the darling buds of May, And summer’s lease hath all too short a date: Sometime too hot the eye of heaven shines, And often is his gold complexion dimm’d; And every fair from fair sometime declines, By chance, or nature’s changing course, untrimm’d; But thy eternal summer shall not fade Nor lose possession of that fair thou ow’st; Nor shall Death brag thou wander’st in his shade, When in eternal lines to time thou grow’st; So long as men can breathe or eyes can see, So long lives this, and this gives life to thee.
8. Blank verse
Blank verse is a type of poetry that’s written in a precise meter, usually iambic pentameter, but without rhyme. This is reminiscent of Shakespearean sonnets and many of his plays, but it reflects a movement that puts rhythm above rhyme.
Though each line of blank verse must be ten syllables, there’s no restriction on the amount of lines or individual stanzas. Here’s an excerpt from a poem in blank verse, the first stanza of “Frost at Midnight” by Samuel Taylor Coleridge:
The Frost performs its secret ministry, Unhelped by any wind. The owlet’s cry Came loud—and hark, again! loud as before. The inmates of my cottage, all at rest, Have left me to that solitude, which suits Abstruser musings: save that at my side My cradled infant slumbers peacefully. ’Tis calm indeed! so calm, that it disturbs And vexes meditation with its strange And extreme silentness. Sea, hill, and wood, This populous village! Sea, and hill, and wood, With all the numberless goings-on of life, Inaudible as dreams! the thin blue flame Lies on my low-burnt fire, and quivers not; Only that film, which fluttered on the grate
A villanelle is a type of French poem made up of nineteen lines grouped into six separate stanzas. The first five stanzas have three lines each, and the last stanza has four lines. Each three-line stanza rhymes ABA, and the last one ABAA.
Villanelles tend to feature a lot of repetition, which lends them a musical quality; usually the very first and third lines become the alternating last lines of each following stanza. This can be a bit like putting a puzzle together. Here’s an example to show you how it looks: “My Darling Turns to Poetry at Night,” a famous villanelle by Anthony Lawrence:
My darling turns to poetry at night. What began as flirtation, an aside Between abstract expression and first light Now finds form as a silent, startled flight Of commas on her face—a breath, a word… My darling turns to poetry at night. When rain inspires the night birds to create Rhyme and formal verse, stanzas can be made Between abstract expression and first light. Her heartbeat is a metaphor, a late Bloom of red flowers that refuse to fade. My darling turns to poetry at night. I watch her turn. I do not sleep. I wait For symbols, for a sign that fear has died Between abstract expression and first light. Her dreams have night vision, and in her sight Our bodies leave ghostprints on the bed. My darling turns to poetry at night Between abstract expression and first light.
The paradelle is a complex and demanding variation of the villanelle, developed in France in the 11th century… except it wasn’t. It was, in fact, a hoax developed in the 20th century that got drastically out of hand. The American poet Billy Collins invented the paradelle as a satire of the popular villanelle and, like many happy accidents, the paradelle was embraced as a welcome challenge and is now part of contemporary poetry’s repertoire.
A paradelle is composed of four six-line stanzas. In each of the first three stanzas, the first two lines must be the same, the second two lines must be the same, and the final two lines must contain every word from the first and third lines, and only those words, rearranged in a new order. The fourth and final stanza must contain every word from the fifth and sixth lines of the first three stanzas, and only those words, again rearranged in a new order.
11th-century relic or not, this poetry form is a great exercise for playing with words. Here’s an excerpt from the original paradelle that started it all, the first stanzas of “Paradelle for Susan” by Billy Collins:
I remember the quick, nervous bird of your love. I remember the quick, nervous bird of your love. Always perched on the thinnest highest branch. Always perched on the thinnest highest branch. Thinnest love, remember the quick branch. Always nervous, I perched on you highest bird the. It is time for me to cross the mountain. It is time for me to cross the mountain. And find another shore to darken with my pain. And find another shore to darken with my pain. Another pain for me to darken the mountain. And find the time, cross my shore, to with it is to. The weather warm, the handwriting familiar. The weather warm, the handwriting familiar. Your letter flies from my hand into the waters below. Your letter flies from my hand into the waters below. The familiar water below my warm hand. Into handwriting your weather flies you letter the from the. I always cross the highest letter, the thinnest bird. Below the waters of my warm familiar pain, Another hand to remember your handwriting. The weather perched for me on the shore. Quick, your nervous branch flew from love. Darken the mountain, time and find was my into it was with to to.
A sestina is a complex French poetry form (a real one, this time) composed of thirty-nine lines in seven stanzas—six stanzas of six lines each, and one stanza of three lines. Each word at the end of each line in the first stanza then gets repeated at the end of each line in each following stanza, but in a different order.
Some poets use favorite metres or rhyme schemes in their sestina poems, but you don’t have to. The classic form of a sestina is:
First stanza: ABCDEF; each letter represents the word at the end of each line.
Second stanza: FAEBDC
Third stanza: CFDABE
Fourth stanza: ECBFAD
Fifth stanza: DEACFB
Sixth stanza: BDFECA
Seventh stanza: ACE or ECA
Here’s an excerpt from a modern example of a sestina, the first stanzas of “A Miracle For Breakfast” by Elizabeth Bishop. Looking at the first two stanzas, you can see that the repeated end words match the mixed-up letter guide above.
At six o’clock we were waiting for coffee, waiting for coffee and the charitable crumb that was going to be served from a certain balcony like kings of old, or like a miracle. It was still dark. One foot of the sun steadied itself on a long ripple in the river. The first ferry of the day had just crossed the river. It was so cold we hoped that the coffee would be very hot, seeing that the sun was not going to warm us; and that the crumb would be a loaf each, buttered, by a miracle. At seven a man stepped out on the balcony.
A rondel is a French type of poetry made of three stanzas: the first two are four lines long, and the third is five or six lines long. The first two lines of the poems are refrains which are repeated as the last two lines of the following two stanzas—although sometimes the poet will choose only one line to repeat at the very last line.
Rondels usually use a ABBA ABAB ABBAA rhyme scheme, but they can be written in any meter. Here’s an example of a traditional rondel poem, “The Wanderer” by Henry Austin Dobson:
Love comes back to his vacant dwelling— The old, old Love that we knew of yore! We see him stand by the open door, With his great eyes sad, and his bosom swelling. He makes as though in our arms repelling, He fain would lie as he lay before;— Love comes back to his vacant dwelling, The old, old Love that we knew of yore! Ah, who shall help us from over-spelling That sweet, forgotten, forbidden lore! E’en as we doubt in our heart once more, With a rush of tears to our eyelids welling, Love comes back to his vacant dwelling.
A ghazal is an old Arabic poetry form consisting of at least ten lines, but no more than thirty, all written in two-line stanzas called couplets. The first two lines of a ghazal end with the same word, but the words just preceding the last lines will rhyme. From this point on, the second line of each couplet will have the same last word, and the word just before it will rhyme with the others.
Ghazals are traditionally a poem of love and longing, but they can be written about any feeling or idea. Here’s an excerpt from a ghazal poem, the first stanzas of “Ghazal of the Better-Unbegun” by Heather McHugh:
Too volatile, am I? too voluble? too much a word-person? I blame the soup: I’m a primordially stirred person. Two pronouns and a vehicle was Icarus with wings. The apparatus of his selves made an absurd person. The sound I make is sympathy’s: sad dogs are tied afar. But howling I become an ever more unheard person.
14. Golden shovel
A golden shovel poem is a more recent poetry form that was developed by poet Terrance Hayes and inspired by Gwendolyn Brooks. Though it’s much newer than many of the types of poetry on this list, it has been enthusiastically embraced in contemporary poetry.
It’s a bit like an acrostic-style poem in that it hides a secret message: the last word of every line of a golden shovel poem is a word from another poem’s title or line, or a saying or headline you want to work with.
For example, if you want to write a golden shovel poem about the line, “dead men tell no tales,” the first line of your poem would end in “dead,” the second line in “men,” and so on until you can read your entire message along the right-hand side of the poem.
Here’s an excerpt from Terrance Hayes’s poem that started the golden shovel trend:
When I am so small Da’s sock covers my arm, we cruise at twilight until we find the place the real men lean, bloodshot and translucent with cool. His smile is a gold-plated incantation as we drift by women on bar stools, with nothing left in them but approachlessness. This is a school I do not know yet. But the cue sticks mean we are rubbed by light, smooth as wood, the lurk of smoke thinned to song. We won’t be out late.
Palindrome poems, also called “mirror poems,” are poems that begin repeating backwards halfway through, so that the first line and the last line are the same, the second line and the second-to-last line are the same, and so on.
They’re a challenging yet fun way to show two sides of the same story. Here’s an example of a palindrome poem, “On Reflection” by Kristin Bock:
Far from the din of the articulated world, I wanted to be content in an empty room— a barn on the hillside like a bone, a limbo of afternoons strung together like cardboard boxes, to be free of your image— crown of bees, pail of black water staggering through the pitiful corn. I can’t always see through it. The mind is a pond layered in lilies. The mind is a pond layered in lilies. I can’t always see through it staggering through the pitiful corn. Crown of Bees, Pail of Black Water, to be of your image— a limbo of afternoons strung together like cardboard boxes, a barn on the hillside like a bone. I wanted to be content in an empty room far from the din of the articulated world.
An ode is a poetic form of celebration used to honor a person, thing, or idea. They’re often overflowing with intense emotion and powerful imagery.
Odes can be used in conjunction with formal meters and rhyme schemes, but they don’t have to be; often poets will favor internal rhymes instead, to give their ode a sense of rhythm.
This is a more open-ended poetry type you can use to show your appreciation for something or someone. Here’s an excerpt from one of the most famous and beautiful odes, written in celebration of autumn: “To Autumn” by John Keats:
Season of mists and mellow fruitfulness, Close bosom-friend of the maturing sun; Conspiring with him how to load and bless With fruit the vines that round the thatch-eaves run; To bend with apples the mossed cottage-trees, And fill all fruit with ripeness to the core; To swell the gourd, and plump the hazel shells With a sweet kernel; to set budding more, And still more, later flowers for the bees, Until they think warm days will never cease, For Summer has o’er-brimmed their clammy cells.
An elegy is similar to an ode in that it celebrates a person or idea, but in this instance is the poem centers around something that has died or been lost.
There’s a tradition among poets to write elegies for one another once another poet has died. Sometimes these are obvious memoriams of a deceased person, and other times the true meaning will be hidden behind layers of symbolism and metaphor.
Like the ode, there’s no formal meter or rhyme scheme in an elegy, though you can certainly experiment with using them.
Here’s an excerpt of an elegy written by one poet for another, “In Memory of W. B. Yeats” by W. H. Auden:
He disappeared in the dead of winter: The brooks were frozen, the airports almost deserted, And snow disfigured the public statues; The mercury sank in the mouth of the dying day. What instruments we have agree The day of his death was a dark cold day. Far from his illness The wolves ran on through the evergreen forests, The peasant river was untempted by the fashionable quays; By mourning tongues The death of the poet was kept from his poems.
Ekphrastic poetry is a little bit like an ode, as it is also written in celebration of something. Ekphrasis, however, is very specific as it’s used to draw attention to a work of art—usually visual art, but it could be something like a song or a work of fiction too. Sometimes ekphrastic poems and odes can overlap, like in John Keats’ “Ode to a Grecian Urn”—an ekphrastic ode.
Ekphrastic poems are most often written about paintings, but it can also be about sculptures, dance, or even theatrical performances.
Ekphrasis has no set meter or rhyme scheme, but some poets like to use them. Here’s an excerpt from an ekphrastic poem, “The Starry Night” by Anne Sexton, in celebration of Van Gogh’s painting:
The town does not exist except where one black-haired tree slips up like a drowned woman into the hot sky. The town is silent. The night boils with eleven stars. Oh starry starry night! This is how I want to die. It moves. They are all alive. Even the moon bulges in its orange irons to push children, like a god, from its eye. The old unseen serpent swallows up the stars. Oh starry starry night! This is how I want to die.
Pastoral poetry can take any meter or rhyme scheme, but it focuses on the beauty of nature. These poems draw attention to idyllic settings and romanticize the idea of shepherds and agriculture laborers living in harmony with the natural world.
Often these traditional pastoral poems carry a religious overtone, suggesting that by bringing oneself closer to nature they were also becoming closer to their spirituality. They can be written in free verse, or in poetic structure. Here’s an excerpt from a famous pastoral poem, “The Passionate Shepherd to His Love” by Christopher Marlowe:
Come live with me and be my love, And we will all the pleasures prove That valleys, groves, hills, and fields, Woods, or steepy mountain yields. And we will sit upon the rocks, Seeing the shepherds feed their flocks, By shallow rivers to whose falls Melodious birds sing madrigals.
An epic poem is a grand, overarching story written in verse—they’re the novels of the poetry world. This is sometimes called ballad poetry, or narrative poetry. Before stories were written as novels and short stories and then, later, screenplays, all of our classic tales would be written as a narrative poem.
Experimenting with epic poems, such as writing a short story all in verse, is a great way to give your writer’s muscles a workout. These don’t have a specific rhyme scheme or metre, although many classic epic poems do use them to give a sense of rhythm and unity to the piece.
Here’s an excerpt from one of our oldest surviving epic poems, “Beowulf,” translated from old English by Frances B. Gummere:
Lo, praise of the prowess of people-kings of spear-armed Danes, in days long sped, we have heard, and what honor the athelings won! Oft Scyld the Scefing from squadroned foes, from many a tribe, the mead-bench tore, awing the earls. Since erst he lay friendless, a foundling, fate repaid him: for he waxed under welkin, in wealth he throve, till before him the folk, both far and near, who house by the whale-path, heard his mandate, gave him gifts: a good king he!
(Irish poet Seamus Heaney has also completed an even more modern translation for the layperson.)
A ballad is similar to an epic in that it tells a story, but it’s much shorter and a bit more structured. This poetry form is made up of four-line stanzas (as many as are needed to tell the story) with a rhyme scheme of ABCB.
Ballads were originally meant to be set to music, which is where we get the idea of our slow, sultry love song ballads today. A lot of traditional ballads are all in dialogue, where two characters are speaking back and forth.
Here’s an excerpt from a traditional ballad poem, “La Belle Dame sans Merci” by John Keats:
O what can ail thee, knight-at-arms, Alone and palely loitering? The sedge has withered from the lake, And no birds sing. O what can ail thee, knight-at-arms, So haggard and so woe-begone? The squirrel’s granary is full, And the harvest’s done.
In acrostic poems, certain letters of each line spell out a word or message. Usually the letters that spell the message will be the first letter of each line, so that you can read the secret word right down the margin; however, you can also use the letters at the end or down the middle of the lines to hide a secret message. Acrostic poems are especially popular with children and are sometimes called “name poems.”
Here’s an example of an acrostic poem, “A Boat Beneath a Sunny Sky” by Lewis Carroll. The first letter of each line spells out “Alice Pleasance Liddell,” who was a young friend of Carroll’s and the inspiration behind Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland .
A boat beneath a sunny sky, L ingering onward dreamily I n an evening of July— C hildren three that nestle near, E ager eye and willing ear, P leased a simple tale to hear— L ong has paled that sunny sky: E choes fade and memories die: A utumn frosts have slain July. S till she haunts me, phantomwise, A lice moving under skies N ever seen by waking eyes. C hildren yet, the tale to hear, E ager eye and willing ear, L ovingly shall nestle near. I n a Wonderland they lie, D reaming as the days go by, D reaming as the summers die: E ver drifting down the stream— L ingering in the golden gleam— L ife, what is it but a dream?
A concrete poem, sometimes called a shape poem, is a visual poem structure where the shape of the poem resembles its content or message. These are another favorite with children, although they can be used to communicate powerful adult ideas, too.
When writing concrete poetry, you can experiment with different fonts, sizes, and even colors to create your visual poem. Here’s an example of a concrete poem, “Sonnet in the Shape of a Potted Christmas Tree” by George Starbuck:
* O fury- bedecked! O glitter-torn! Let the wild wind erect bonbonbonanzas; junipers affect frostyfreeze turbans; iciclestuff adorn all cuckolded creation in a madcap crown of horn! It’s a new day; no scapegrace of a sect tidying up the ashtrays playing Daughter-in-Law Elect; bells! bibelots! popsicle cigars! shatter the glassware! a son born now now while ox and ass and infant lie together as poor creatures will and tears of her exertion still cling in the spent girl’s eye and a great firework in the sky drifts to the western hill.
24. Prose poem
A prose poem combines elements of both prose writing and poetry into something new. Prose poems don’t have shape and line breaks in the way that traditional poems do, but they make use of poetic devices like meter, internal rhyme, alliteration, metaphor, imagery, and symbolism to create a snapshot of prose that reads and feels like a poem.
Here’s an example of a prose poem, “Be Drunk” by Charles Baudelaire:
You have to be always drunk. That’s all there is to it—it’s the only way. So as not to feel the horrible burden of time that breaks your back and bends you to the earth, you have to be continually drunk. But on what? Wine, poetry or virtue, as you wish. But be drunk. And if sometimes, on the steps of a palace or the green grass of a ditch, in the mournful solitude of your room, you wake again, drunkenness already diminishing or gone, ask the wind, the wave, the star, the bird, the clock, everything that is flying, everything that is groaning, everything that is rolling, everything that is singing, everything that is speaking… ask what time it is and wind, wave, star, bird, clock will answer you: “It is time to be drunk! So as not to be the martyred slaves of time, be drunk, be continually drunk! On wine, on poetry or on virtue as you wish.”
25. Found poetry
Found poetry is a poem made up of a composite of external quotations. This may be from poems, beloved works of literature, newspaper articles, instruction manuals, or political manifestos. You can copy out pieces of text, or you can cut out different words to make a visual collage effect.
Another form of found poetry is blackout poetry, where words are crossed out and removed from an external source to create a new meaning.
These can be a great way to find new or contrasting meaning in everyday life, but always be sure to reference what sources your poem came from originally to avoid plagiarism. Here’s an example of a found poem, “Testimony” by Charles Reznikoff, cut up from law reports between 1885 and 1915:
Amelia was just fourteen and out of the orphan asylum; at her first job—in the bindery, and yes sir, yes ma’am, oh, so anxious to please. She stood at the table, her blond hair hanging about her shoulders, “knocking up” for Mary and Sadie, the stichers (“knocking up” is counting books and stacking them in piles to be taken away).
A nonce poem is a DIY poem structure intended for one-time use to challenge yourself as a writer, or just to try something new. It’s a formal, rigid, standardized poetry form that’s brand new to the world.
For example, you might say, “I’m going to write a poem starting with a three-line stanza, then two four-line stanzas, then another three-line stanza, and each line is going to be eight syllables except the first and last line of the poem which are each going to have eleven syllables, and the last word of every stanza will be true rhymes and the first word of every stanza will be slant rhymes.” And then you do it, just to see if you can.
Nonce poems are a great way to stretch your creativity and language skills to their limit. Then, like Terrance Hayes’s “Golden Shovel,” or Billy Collins’ “Paradelle,” your nonce poem might even catch on! Here’s an excerpt from a nonce poem, “And If I Did, What Then?” by George Gascoigne:
Are you aggriev’d therefore? The sea hath fish for every man, And what would you have more?” Thus did my mistress once, Amaze my mind with doubt; And popp’d a question for the nonce To beat my brains about.
27. Free verse
Free verse is the type of poetry most favored by contemporary poets; it has no set meter, rhyme scheme, or structure, but allows the poet to feel out the content of the poem as they go.
Poets will often still use rhythmic literary devices such as assonance and internal rhymes, but it won’t be bound up with the same creative restraints as more structured poetry. However, even poets that work solely in free verse will usually argue that it’s beneficial to first work up your mastery of language through exercises in more structured poetry forms.
Here’s an example of a poem in free verse, an excerpt from “On Turning Ten,” by Billy Collins:
The whole idea of it makes me feel like I’m coming down with something, something worse than any stomach ache or the headaches I get from reading in bad light— a kind of measles of the spirit, a mumps of the psyche, a disfiguring chicken pox of the soul.
3 ways poem structure will make you a better writer
Maybe you’ve fallen in love with formal rhymed poetry, or maybe you think that for you, free verse is the way to go. Either way, it’s good training for a writer to experiment with poetry structure for a few different reasons.
1. Using poetic form will teach you about poetic devices
Using poetic form will open up your world to a huge range of useful poetic devices like assonance, chiasmus, and epistrophe, as well as broader overarching ideas like metaphor, imagery, and symbolism. We talk about these poetic devices a lot in poetry forms, but just about all of them can be used effectively in prose writing, too!
Paying attention to poetic form takes your mastery of language to a whole new level. Then you can take this skill set and apply it to your writing in a whole range of mediums.
2. Writing poems with structure teaches you how to use rhythm
Rhythm is one of the core concepts of all poetry. Rhymes and formal meter are two ways to capture rhythm in your poems, but even in free verse poetry that lacks a formal poetic structure, the key to good poetry is a smooth and addictive rhythm that makes you feel the words in your bones.
Once you start experimenting with poetry forms, you’ll find that you’ll develop an inner ear for the rhythm of language. This rhythmic sense translates into beautiful sentence structure and cadence in other types of writing, from short stories and novels, to marketing copy, to comic books. Rhythm is what makes your words a joy to read.
3. Formal poetry helps you increase your vocabulary and refine your word choice
No matter what you’re writing, specificity is a game changer when it comes to getting a point across to your reader. With the English language being well-populated with nice, easy syllables, many new writers fall into the bad habit of choosing words that are just kind of okay, instead of the exact right word for that moment.
Writing formal poetry forces you to not only expand your vocabulary to find the right word to fit the rhyme scheme or rhythm, but to weigh each word and examine it from all angles before awarding it a place in your poem. This way, when you move into other forms of writing, you’ll carry good habits and a deep respect for language into your work.
Start writing different types of poetry
Learning about different types of poems for the first time can be a bit like opening a floodgate into a whole new way of living. Whether you prefer free verse poetry, lyric poetry, romantic Shakespearean sonnets, short philosophical haikus, or even coming up with your own nonce poetry structure, you’ll find that writing poetry challenges your writer’s muscles in ways you never would have expected. Next time you’re in a creative rut, trying experimenting with poetry forms to get the words flowing in a whole new way.
Get feedback on your writing today!
Scribophile is a community of hundreds of thousands of writers from all over the world. Meet beta readers, get feedback on your writing, and become a better writer!
Join now for free
How to Write a Haiku (With Haiku Examples)
Poetic Devices List: 27 Main Poetic Devices with Examples
Short Story Submissions: How to Publish a Short Story or Poem
Classifieds Photos About Contact Advertise
Free Trial Subscribe Sign In
The Wahkiakum County Eagle - Established as The Skamokawa Eagle in 1891
- Wahkiakum People
- Sheriffs Report
Clatskanie's Raymond Carver Writing Festival begins with April poetry contest
March 16, 2023
- Song Circle is at the Grange Hall on Sunday
- Downriver Dispatches
- Winter weather will be here for a bit longer
- What's happening at the Fair?
Reader Comments (0)
- Mobile Browser
- Place a Classified Ad
- Submit Content
- Letter to the Editor
Connect With Us
The Wahkiakum County Eagle
P.O. Box 368 Cathlamet, WA 98612 Ph: (360) 795-3391
© 2023 The Wahkiakum County Eagle Inc.
Powered by ROAR Online Publication Software from Lions Light Corporation © Copyright 2023
- EXPLORE Coupons Tech Help Pro Random Article About Us Quizzes Contribute Train Your Brain Game Improve Your English Popular Categories Arts and Entertainment Artwork Books Movies Computers and Electronics Computers Phone Skills Technology Hacks Health Men's Health Mental Health Women's Health Relationships Dating Love Relationship Issues Hobbies and Crafts Crafts Drawing Games Education & Communication Communication Skills Personal Development Studying Personal Care and Style Fashion Hair Care Personal Hygiene Youth Personal Care School Stuff Dating All Categories Arts and Entertainment Finance and Business Home and Garden Relationship Quizzes Cars & Other Vehicles Food and Entertaining Personal Care and Style Sports and Fitness Computers and Electronics Health Pets and Animals Travel Education & Communication Hobbies and Crafts Philosophy and Religion Work World Family Life Holidays and Traditions Relationships Youth
- HELP US Support wikiHow Community Dashboard Write an Article Request a New Article More Ideas...
- EDIT Edit this Article
- PRO Courses New Guides Tech Help Pro New Expert Videos About wikiHow Pro Coupons Quizzes Upgrade Sign In
- Premium wikiHow Guides
- Browse Articles
- Quizzes New
- Train Your Brain New
- Improve Your English New
- Support wikiHow
- About wikiHow
- Easy Ways to Help
- Approve Questions
- Fix Spelling
- More Things to Try...
- H&M Coupons
- Hotwire Promo Codes
- StubHub Discount Codes
- Ashley Furniture Coupons
- Blue Nile Promo Codes
- NordVPN Coupons
- Samsung Promo Codes
- Chewy Promo Codes
- Ulta Coupons
- Vistaprint Promo Codes
- Shutterfly Promo Codes
- DoorDash Promo Codes
- Office Depot Coupons
- adidas Promo Codes
- Home Depot Coupons
- DSW Coupons
- Bed Bath and Beyond Coupons
- Lowe's Coupons
- Surfshark Coupons
- Nordstrom Coupons
- Walmart Promo Codes
- Dick's Sporting Goods Coupons
- Fanatics Coupons
- Edible Arrangements Coupons
- eBay Coupons
- Log in / Sign up
- Education and Communications
- Writing Poetry
How to Write Poetry for Beginners
Last Updated: January 12, 2023 References Approved
This article was co-authored by Alicia Cook and by wikiHow staff writer, Hannah Madden . Alicia Cook is a Professional Writer based in Newark, New Jersey. With over 12 years of experience, Alicia specializes in poetry and uses her platform to advocate for families affected by addiction and to fight for breaking the stigma against addiction and mental illness. She holds a BA in English and Journalism from Georgian Court University and an MBA from Saint Peter’s University. Alicia is a bestselling poet with Andrews McMeel Publishing and her work has been featured in numerous media outlets including the NY Post, CNN, USA Today, the HuffPost, the LA Times, American Songwriter Magazine, and Bustle. She was named by Teen Vogue as one of the 10 social media poets to know and her poetry mixtape, “Stuff I’ve Been Feeling Lately” was a finalist in the 2016 Goodreads Choice Awards. There are 13 references cited in this article, which can be found at the bottom of the page. wikiHow marks an article as reader-approved once it receives enough positive feedback. In this case, 91% of readers who voted found the article helpful, earning it our reader-approved status. This article has been viewed 203,933 times.
Writing poetry is a way to convey emotions, memories, and nostalgia without directly stating what you are describing. Writing poetry for the first time can be challenging, since there are so many ways to start and finish a poem. If you are a beginner and want to write poetry for the first time, use a journal to keep track of your inspiration and expand your language by using metaphors and similes to create beautiful and relatable poetry.
Finding Time and Inspiration for Poetry
- Langston Hughes, Maya Angelou, and Sylvia Plath are also famous poets that have varying styles.
- You can also see some examples of different styles and tones in poetry by comparing and contrasting authors.
- Understanding your own emotions can be difficult. Try to dissect how you feel on a daily basis, and what situations disrupt your mood often.
- Emotions are a great tool to use in poetry because people feel them universally.
- If you think you will forget to write, try setting an alarm on your phone or using a post-it note to remind you.
Tip: Use a journal that is small enough to keep in your bag, or even your pocket.
- For example, answer a prompt like, “Write about your first birthday party,” or, “Convey an emotion using only colors.”
- You can often find poetry writing prompts on sites that accept poetry submissions.
Beginning Your Poem
- A poem doesn't have to make sense grammatically. What matters is that your audience gets the message you want to communicate using your own formation of the words.
For example: Do you like the sunflower? Does it invoke any emotions in you? Does the sunflower represent or remind you of something?
- How does the sea look? Use descriptive terms relating to colors, motion, depth, temperature, and other standard features. The sea might be foaming, producing whirlpools, looking glassy, or turning grey at the advent or a storm; describe whatever comes to mind for you.
- What are some of its aspects that are noticeable in your sea? The froth of the waves, the fish under the surface, the height of waves during a storm, the lull when the wind dies down, the mounting garbage greys, a school of dolphins passing through, sea level rise along coastlines, the mournful cries of the Pacific gulls––these are all things you might notice in relation to the sea of your poem.
Writing the Rest
- Try to think of these words yourself rather than looking them up in a dictionary or online so that your poem flows better.
- Stressed and unstressed syllables also create rhythm in a poem. In the sentence “He’d like some pumpkin pie,” “like,” “pump-,” and “pie” are all emphasized based on how you say them.
- Remember that not all poems rhyme! It's okay if you don't want your poem to rhyme.
For example, you could say, “The sea was a night sky, expanding like an inkblot in the water.”
- Your first poem can be short. You can work your way up to longer poetry over time.
- Remember that you are the poet, expressing your feelings through your poems so intuition, above anything else, is key.
- If you will be submitting your poem anywhere, it is very important to make sure your final copy looks exactly how you want it to.
Community Q&A Did you know you can get answers researched by wikiHow Staff? Unlock staff-researched answers by supporting wikiHow
Support wikiHow by unlocking this staff-researched answer.
You Might Also Like
- ↑ https://earlybirdbooks.com/most-famous-poems
- ↑ https://www.nwp.org/cs/public/print/resource/402
- ↑ https://www.familyfriendpoems.com/poem/article-write-poetry-every-day
- ↑ https://www.loc.gov/poetry/180/007.html
- ↑ https://poetrysociety.org.uk/competitions/national-poetry-competition/resources/poetry-writing-prompts/
- ↑ https://www.familyfriendpoems.com/poems/other/
- ↑ Alicia Cook. Professional Poet. Expert Interview. 11 December 2020.
- ↑ https://jerz.setonhill.edu/writing/creative1/poetry-writing-tips-how-to-write-a-poem/comment-page-4/
- ↑ https://www.poetryfoundation.org/articles/70212/learning-image-and-description
- ↑ https://literaryterms.net/rhyme/
- ↑ https://www.poetryfoundation.org/articles/69588/the-start-writing-your-own-poem
- ↑ https://jerz.setonhill.edu/writing/creative1/poetry-writing-tips-how-to-write-a-poem/#10
- ↑ https://abegailmorley.wordpress.com/2012/12/30/drafting-a-poem/
About This Article
If you’re a beginner trying to write poetry, start by deciding what your poem will be about, like love or a meaningful experience. Then, choose a structure that you're comfortable with, like rhyming or free-form. Next, come up with an interesting or mysterious first line that entices your reader to keep reading. Once you have a good opening line, use as many strong, descriptive words as you can in the rest of the poem to express your thoughts and feelings to the reader. To learn how reciting your poem out loud as you write can make your poem even better, keep reading! Did this summary help you? Yes No
- Send fan mail to authors
Reader Success Stories
May 10, 2022
Did this article help you?
Feb 18, 2017
Oct 7, 2020
Santhakumary P. R.
Jan 4, 2020
Jan 18, 2017
- Do Not Sell or Share My Info
- Not Selling Info
Get all the best how-tos!
Sign up for wikiHow's weekly email newsletter
36 Poetry Writing Tips
by Melissa Donovan | Nov 10, 2020 | Poetry Writing | 64 comments
Poetry writing tips.
Poetry is the most artistic and liberating form of creative writing. You can write in the abstract or the concrete. Images can be vague or subtle, brilliant or dull. Write in form, using patterns, or write freely, letting your conscience (or subconscious) be your guide.
You can do just about anything in a poem. That’s why poetry writing is so wild and free; there are no rules. Poets have complete liberty to build something out of nothing simply by stringing words together.
All of this makes poetry writing alluring to writers who are burning with creativity. A poet’s process is magical and mesmerizing. But all that freedom and creativity can be a little overwhelming. If you can travel in any direction, which way should you go? Where are the guideposts?
Today’s writing tips include various tools and techniques that a poet can use. But these tips aren’t just for poets. All writers benefit from dabbling in poetry. Read a little poetry, write a few poems, study some basic concepts in poetry, and your other writing (fiction, creative nonfiction, even blogging) will soar.
Below, you’ll find thirty-six writing tips that take you on a little journey through the craft of poetry writing. See which ones appeal to you, give them a whirl, and they will lead you on a fantastic adventure.
- Read lots of poetry. In fact, read a lot of anything if you want to produce better writing.
- Write poetry as often as you can.
- Designate a special notebook (or space in your notebook) for poetry writing.
- Try writing in form (sonnets, haiku, etc.).
- Use imagery.
- Embrace metaphors, but stay away from clichés.
- Sign up for a poetry writing workshop.
- Expand your vocabulary.
- Read poems over and over (and aloud). Consider and analyze them.
- Join a poetry forum or poetry writing group online.
- Study musicality in writing (rhythm and meter).
- Use poetry prompts when you’re stuck.
- Be funny. Make a funny poem.
- Notice what makes others’ poetry memorable. Capture it, mix it up, and make it your own.
- Try poetry writing exercises when you’ve got writer’s block.
- Study biographies of famous (or not-so-famous) poets.
- Memorize a poem (or two, or three, or more).
- Revise and rewrite your poems to make them stronger and more compelling.
- Have fun with puns.
- Don’t be afraid to write a bad poem. You can write a better one later.
- Find unusual subject matter — a teapot, a shelf, a wall.
- Use language that people can understand.
- Meditate or listen to inspirational music before writing poetry to clear your mind and gain focus.
- Keep a notebook with you at all times so you can write whenever (and wherever) inspiration strikes.
- Submit your poetry to literary magazines and journals.
- When you submit work, accept rejection and try again and again. You can do it and you will.
- Get a website or blog and publish your own poetry.
- Connect with other poets to share and discuss the craft that is poetry writing.
- Attend a poetry reading or slam poetry event.
- Subscribe to a poetry podcast and listen to poetry.
- Support poets and poetry by buying books and magazines that feature poetry.
- Write with honesty. Don’t back away from your thoughts or feelings. Express them!
- Don’t be afraid to experiment. Mix art and music with your poetry. Perform it and publish it.
- Eliminate all unnecessary words, phrases, and lines. Make every word count.
- Write a poem every single day.
- Read a poem every single day.
Have You Written a Poem Lately?
I believe that poetry is the most exquisite form of writing. And anyone can write a poem if they want to. In today’s world of fast, moving images, poetry has lost much of its appeal to the masses. But there are those of us who thrive on language and who still appreciate a poem and its power to move us emotionally. It’s our job to keep great poetry writing alive. And it’s our job to keep writing poetry.
What are some of your favorite writing tips from today’s list? How can you apply poetry writing techniques to other forms of writing? Do you have any tips to add? Leave a comment!
Interesting article! 🙂 Thank you for writing this, Melissa!
Thank you for reading it, Maria!
I find this very helpful in my search to write poetry with some help. I am finding lots of things on the internet. This is my favorite so far.
Thanks for your kind words, Sandy. I’m glad you found this article helpful!
Nice article~ I started writing poetry on a regular basis back in November. Gave myself permission to write really bad stuff without hitting the delete key 🙂
I’d like to see recommendations for poetry blogs ands sites if you don’t mind sharing.
Hi Connie. In my experience, creative freedom (permission to write bad stuff) is essential in poetry writing. Most of the poetry sites I visit are online literary magazines, but I actually get most of my poetry from books. There are some excellent podcasts too — IndieFeed: Performance Poetry and Poem of the Day come to mind as two favorites.
Poem: Our Promise Kiribaku
You promised You promised me the world You promised You promised me your last name You promised You promised me heaven You promised You promised me Money You promised me freedom But now I am shackled by the pain of our broken promise
I have not written a poem lately. I don’t know why, but I only feel compelled to write poetry when I’m overflowing with emotion of some kind. Anger, passion, remorse, grief, love … the things that are so hard to contain in prose and need the stretchier boundaries of poetry to give them the room they need. Otherwise, I’m a down-to-earth, prose girl, and since, as a rule, I’m pretty even-keeled as emotions go … I don’t do the poetry thing very often. I think about it, though. Does that count?
Do you read a lot of poetry? I too tend to get the urge to write poetry when I’m overflowing with emotion, so I know what you mean. And it’s easy to drift away from poetry writing, especially when you’re blogging and writing copy! I don’t know if thinking about it counts, but I guess if your thoughts eventually lead to a poem, then it does count! Ha!
I really don’t read that much poetry, I like to think of myself as a creative person, but I’m still a prose girl at heart. Also, I have an aversion to things that rhyme (other than song lyrics) because sappy Hallmark cards pretty much ruined that for me when I was in my teens (grin).
Hallmark hasn’t exactly been a positive PR machine for poetry in general, has it? But what about Dr. Suess-ish rhymes? Nursery rhymes? Rhymes in song lyrics? Can you tell I love rhyming? I know what you mean about sappy rhymes and greeting-card poems. When I’m writing (or reading) I always look for clever and unexpected rhymes. That sort of levels out the cheesiness factor.
Thanks for posting this list!
My illustrious poetry career was cut short around the age of 13, when I became more obsessed with journaling about boys than writing witty epic poems commemorating family members’ birthdays.
I’ve decided that this will be the year that I finally open up to poetry again! I’ll probably start up with writing in my signature “grade 6” style of poetry which is likely to include rhymes like “bee” and “pee” and classic highbrow toilet humour. Hopefully I can grow from there. I’m currently trawling through your previous posts and comments for poetry tips, terms and reading suggestions – the one on meter and musicality looks especially good.
You asked for topic requests in a previous post, so here are a few post suggestions that I’d be interested in reading about:
1. A list of your favourite poets or pieces? (I’m currently asking all my friends for suggested readings as a starting point!) 2. More poetic devices or techniques that you may know about?
Hi zz. I’ll have to think about compiling a list of my favorite poems and poets. Some of my favorites are ee cummings, Maya Angelou, Margaret Atwood, Emily Dickinson, and so many more…
Like you, I started writing poetry when I was 13 years old. Since then, I’ve been in and out of poetry writing over the years. It’s comforting to know that I can always return to it. Good luck this year with your poetry!
All the tips are most useful for anyone who wants to become a poet. But it is not easy to follow each and every step. Concentration and hard work is essential to reach the goal.
True, although it depends on the goal. I’ve known a lot of writers who write poetry solely for personal expression. Their poems are private, much like a journal. You’re right in that it’s not easy to follow every step, and becoming a (published) poet takes concentration and hard work.
I think I never write poems because I don’t know when a poem is a poem and when it’s not. I never figured out any simple criteria for something to be a poem.
Do you ever read poetry? I think that learning through example is the best way to figure out what is a poem, although I have come across a few poems that I would consider prose or fiction — these are often referred to as “prose poems.” If you wanted to try your hand at poetry writing, you could always go the traditional route and compose sonnets or haiku. Those are definitely poems.
Thanks for sharing your insights on poetry.It is a nice article.Surely to improve poetry,one has to keep writing and editing.
That’s true. Improvement comes from practice, so keep on writing.
I made a New Year’s resolution to write a poem a day…so far I have strayed from my resolution hehe…nice post
Aw, but you still shouldn’t give up. You can also double up to catch up. Good luck!
Thank you Melissa, I will catch up by doubling up. The hardest thing to do is to employ various poetical techniques in a hip-hop form and present them to an audience that may be too dense to grab or understand dedication to the craft. I have learned that there is a market for everything though.
Don’t underestimate your audience! One of the reasons I fell in love with hip hop was because of its poetry (Jay-Z in particular). Of course, then there was the dance element!
Hi Melissa! Thanks for this site.It feels nice being with people who loves to write and your tips are really very useful. I am a lover of poems and I have tried writing poems myself. I’ve tried to write poems everyday as suggested and I realized that it is good practice…although most of them are not really even worth sharing, but it gives me time to critic my own work and at the same time improve on them. Oftentimes I dream that someday my poems will entertain others the way some poems entertain me, but many I find my poems very shallow. And much as I would like to say that poetry is just a way of expressing myself and sometimes venting myself of some negative feelings so I have to keep them to myself, most of the time, I have the urge to share it to somebody. Sometimes, the beauty of the poem for me is when you are able to share what it is you want to express and somebody else understands it the way you wanted it to be understood. It may be vain, but I think it is also a great feeling when someone says he/she liked my poem. Is it normal for a writer?
Hi Mary. Yes, I think what you’re experiencing is completely normal for a writer. Often, what seems obvious or ordinary to you is fascinating to someone else. If we, as writers, write what we know, then it’s not necessarily new or exciting, but for someone who hasn’t walked in our shoes or lived inside our heads, our words are fresh and compelling.
Of course it’s a wonderful feeling when someone likes your poem! The trick is to also experience a wonderful feeling when someone likes it enough to offer suggestions for improvements: “I like this poem a lot, but it would be even better if…” That’s a sign that someone believes in your work enough to want to help you grow.
My suggestion is to read tons and tons of poetry. There is plenty of great work online, but be sure to explore the classics and literary journals too. Good luck to you!
i have written a lot of poems. where can one send these for publishing….
Hi Charlan. Your question is really beyond the scope of what I can answer in a blog comment. There are hundreds, if not thousands, of publications that accept submissions. But before you submit to any of them, you should read them. I recommend searching for literary magazines, poetry magazines, literary journals, and poetry journals. That should be a good start.
.35 read a poem every day.
Well, there are lots of great tips here, but I thought I’d share a source of poetry that allows me to read a sacred poem everyday. It’s great–stuff all the way from Rumi to Levertov. And it draws on all spiritual traditions. Here’s the link! http://www.poetry-chaikhana.com/
Thanks for sharing that link, Rose. I’ll have to check it out. Great poetry is a bit hard to find online, so I appreciate your suggestion.
I love poetry. I recently got the word tattooed on my right arm. 🙂 Now that I’ve read this, I’m inspired to write a sonnet! Thank you!
Thank you, Lauren. Good luck with your sonnet.
Though I write youth fiction now, I can’t get away from poetry and end up scribbling poetic lines down in my journal every now and then. I guess that stems from my teen music writing days, where I had notebooks full of songs, poetry, whatever. Poetry is such a free form of writing, kind of like dancing 🙂
I couldn’t agree more, Alex. My focus these days is more on fiction and creative nonfiction, but the poems still show up at will. When they do, I write them in my journal. It’s definitely like dancing (a magical kind of dancing).
Melissa Donovan, I could disagree with everything you said, but that would make me a fool. And I am no fool no sir re, although I act a bit like one from time to time. Yes Notebooks galore are stored in my little pad.
I don’t read a lot as I am creating a lot and posting and maintaining my Blogs and websites along with all their supporting Bookmakers and Indexers. Forums are great and workshops are better. But the thing I find most supportive is pretending to be your own Publisher your own Boss.
This is what I am doing day in and day out or whenever the spirits move me. I talk about mostly creating as I am not educated enough in the forms of other poetry just free verse and prose. I guess I should try others forms and I may at a latter date.
But right not I am trying to make my poetry work for me, as I am Home bound and disabled to a great extent. Well I enjoyed this write it states much truth for Poets and Poetesses a like, God Bless and may you Keep on Keeping On!
Donnie/ Sinbad the Sailor Man
I believe that reading is essential to good writing. Many writers have reasons for not reading, but I think the reasons to read are far more convincing. In fact, I think spending an hour a day reading and twenty minutes writing will improve your writing faster and more thoroughly than spending an hour and twenty minutes a day writing. Keep at it, Donnie.
hi melissa, i am 14 and i wrote my firt poem a month ago. since then my school had registered my name for a competition. i am not really experienced and i am worried since i have to write a poem on a topic given by thejudges, in an hour. any tips?
My first tip would be this: don’t take the competition too seriously. It’s an honor that you were selected. Most poets aren’t constrained by a one-hour time limit, but this is definitely an opportunity to have a little fun with your creativity and challenge yourself. I say, just go with it. If you can, give yourself about ten minutes to jot down words and images once you’ve been given your subject. Then spend about thirty minutes working that material into a poem. Use the remaining twenty minutes to edit and revise. Good luck to you, Ash!
These are really good advise. I love point 23 especially, to meditate before penning down. I’ve always find poetry writing a way to connect with my own spirituality. I have always been smitten by poems of others with their powerful rhyming and rhythm, which I always have difficulty pulling it off. It always seem to me that they have not one word wasted. What would you suggest to make an improvement on ths aspect?
The best suggestion I can offer you is to edit your poems slowly and thoughtfully. Poems can happen very quickly and many beginning poets are inclined to go over the poem once or twice, sweeping it rather than giving it a deep cleaning. Spend time with the poem. Look for alternative words in a thesaurus. If you’re having trouble with rhyme, use a rhyming dictionary. If the rhythm is off, use a metronome or play music (without lyrics) while you write, or study music on the side to get a sense of rhythm and meter.
Wow!!!! Found it just awesome.. Yeah I have written some poems, but haven’t published anywhere, so, how can I do it to publish on this site.. This made me, to devote myself more and more for my dream Thaanxx for the article
Hi Nibedit. This is not a publishing platform for poetry, but you can do a search for “poetry journals” and “literary magazines” to find a host of sites that accept work for publication. I wish you the best of luck with your writing!
Well-written tips Melissa! Reading a lot definitely helps you to produce better poetry. I always have a small book in my bag, so that I could write whenever I feel to 🙂
Thanks, Summer! I carry a tiny notebook too, plus my phone, which I can use if I’ve forgotten my notebook for some reason.
Hey, Melissa! I’ve read through your article, but I’m still stuck on how I’m supposed to write a poem with deeper meaning. It seems like every other poem I’ve ever written have the same words on it and I’m running out of ideas of how to start. I would’ve considered myself to be fairly good as a learning poet but now i think I’m doubting myself because i used to know more vocabularies and now i can’t seem to think of any witty writings. I would appreciate any suggestions you may offer.
My best suggestion is to read some poetry and read some books on the craft of poetry. I always found those to the best ways to break through a plateau. You can check my Writing Resources page, where I have listed some of my favorite poetry resources.
I’m 13 and I’m trying to put together a poetry book. It’s about being gay and losing friends because of it, people not liking me back, etc. So far the poems I have written are very good (in my opinion), although depressing. I sent one in to a literary agent asking if it was professional material and he said he would gladly help me publish it.
So, what I wanted to say is that I barely ever read poetry and I can still write well. My ideas, rhythm patterns, rhyme schemes, etc. are original, and I like that about them. I’m not going for perfect or a masterpiece. I just want to get my messages and emotions across, so I don’t read the poetry of others. I can see why other poets would, but I just don’t. I just let myself write, and then I edit and revise whatever I come up with. Just stop when it sounds good.
Also, I want to add that you shouldn’t be afraid to write dark or depressing poetry. Just write with the emotions that you feel inside. Almost all of my poems are depressing, but it doesn’t mean that I cut myself or anything. So don’t be afraid to do that. (Writing depressing poetry, not cutting yourself. Lol)
Good luck to all of you aspiring poets out there!
Thomas, I think it’s wonderful that you’re writing poetry at age thirteen (coincidentally, that’s the age I started writing it, too) and that you’re using poetry to express yourself and address important social issues. I applaud you!
However, I cannot get on board with the notion that one can write great poetry without reading it. You say you write good poems, but how could you possibly know whether your poems are good if you don’t read any other poetry? What, exactly, are you comparing your poems to? You may very well be a born talent, but I can assure you that if you study your craft, your poems will be a thousand times better.
You say “I just want to get my messages and emotions across, so I don’t read the poetry of others.” It sounds to me like you want the world to listen to you but you don’t want to listen to anyone else, which is too bad. I hope that in time, you’ll change your mind and decide to embrace poetry in full, which means reading it as well as writing it.
I do enjoy reading a poem everyday. I subscribed to Academy of American Poets Poem A Day. That way I’m sure to read a different poem each day delivered to my email. The last time I wrote a poem was a week ago. I need to get back into a better routine with writing poetry. I enjoy it very much and I do try to find different journals and contests to submit my poetry to at least a few times a year. Thanks for the motivation with this article.
I’ve always viewed poetry as the most artistic (and sometimes magical!) form of writing. I just wish more people would embrace it.
hi. i’ve been so empty lately. the thought of making poems is that it interests me, at my good times and bad times. i dont know if it is talent or something. they dont even know, my friends and my family. im a little shy and ashame about it. they would say poetry sucks, its not for you, they would never understand the feeling. this is what i really love to do . i want to play with words. they found me. help me understand it. thanks.bye
If you want to make poems, then make poems. Other people don’t get to decide how you spend your free time. Why on earth would you be ashamed about wanting to write poetry? There are always people who want to shame and bully people because they are different. Don’t let them control you. Can you imagine shaming someone because they like soccer or knitting?
Ms Melissa, Also “steal” techniques and then perfect them to your purpose.
Thank you so much for this article Melissa! I wanted to write a book on my life for so many years but decided it would hurt too many people, even though they never thought about their actions. I woke up one morning and wrote poems(literally) based on the way i felt which I felt was less hurtful but more direct and expressive! My poems are free form and I’ve been reading up on writing good poetry. Although I find it difficult to fit to the guidelines. This article really helps! Cheers!
Hi Gayle! I’m so glad you liked this article. I once had an idea for a book based on real life, but like you, it wasn’t worth it to risk upsetting people, and I had plenty of other things that I wanted to write. Actually, it was a good way to eliminate an idea at a time when I had too many of them! And I agree that poetry is the most expressive and cathartic form of writing. Thank you for your comment.
Thank you so much for this fantastic article Melissa. I have just published my first book and working on my next one. I’m always on the outlook for crafted information to help me as a writer. I have developed my own style when writing poetry but it’s always nice to dapple using different ideas and constraints. Thanks…
You’re welcome, David. Congratulations on finishing your first book. May there be many more to follow!
This is encouraging. I’ve written a couple of poems but didn’t think they were good enough. Now I know there are really no limits. Thanks!
I’m glad you found this encouraging, Grace. As long as you stick with it, there are no limits. Keep writing.
Thanks beloved friend & Poetess I appreciate all your tips Everyone is On point, Phenomenal brilliant Food for a, poetry writer & speaker To use.
Lovely! Thanks, Jeffrey.
I’ve been writing poetry for years and have a collection of books on Amazon. When it comes to critique from your audience, it may surprise you! You might find teachers, other poets, writers and artists love your work. However, you will get feedback from people who hate your words. They will be harsh and leave you with a terrible review. This doesn’t mean you should stop and feel terrible, it just means you didn’t resonate with that person. Every type of creative work is open to good and bad feedback. It’s all part of the process. Just keep doing what you love.
This is so true. All art is subjective. I’ve had some interesting debates with people who don’t care for the poetry of ee cummings. Personally, I love his work. Unfortunately, reviewers often lack objectivity. For example, a trained and experienced reviewer can probably acknowledge the merit of a work while expressing their dislike (“it’s good work but not to my taste”). Some say you haven’t really “made it” until you get your first negative review. Writers can use feedback to grow and improve, but we should not let negative reviews impede our progress or determination. Thanks for your comment!
I lost my muse trying to find it again. So I wrote this
Yellow is the sun Blue is the sky Hot is the desert Blank is the heart
Filled is the store Hungry do we wake
Many are they None is there
Alive we are Dead are we walking
Happy is the face Sad is the heart
Many are friends Lonely is he
Beauty is the body Ugly is the being
Island do we dwell Thirst are we
Kings are we born Shackles around neck
Love do they preach Hate do we see
Blessed are we born Cursed are we
Perfect is the earth made Chaos do we see
Mercy sowth the creator Vengeance ignited the creation
Noises do we hear Yet deaf are we.
Thank you for sharing your poem with us. Lovely.
Submit a Comment Cancel reply
Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *
This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed .
Subscribe and get The Writer’s Creed graphic e-booklet, plus a weekly digest with the latest articles on writing, as well as special offers and exclusive content.
- Writing Description in Fiction
- Grammar Rules: Capitalization
- Do You Need a Creative Writing Degree to Succeed as a Writer?
- The Benefits of Keeping a Reading Journal
- A Few Good Writing Tips to Keep You on Your Toes
Write on, shine on!
Pin It on Pinterest
How to Write Poetry and Seven Types of Poems Students Love.
Poetry is a broad area of literature that offers teachers and students the opportunity to dip their toes or completely dive into creative writing. Learning how to write poetry is a fun and engaging process that will positively affect the use of language across all other styles of writing.
With over fifty acknowledged styles of poetry, there is plenty on offer to students of all ages and abilities. We will look at seven different styles of poetry and strategies for teaching it in the classroom. These styles of poetry are most commonly taught in elementary/primary classrooms.
To learn how to write poetry even more effectively, we also have a complete guide to the elements of poetry that may be useful.
Poetry Key Terms
- Cadence – The patterning of rhythm in natural speech or poetry without a distinct meter.
- Meter – The rhythmical pattern of stressed and unstressed syllables in verse.
- Refrain – A phrase or line repeated at intervals within a poem, especially at the end of a stanza.
- Rhyme – The repetition of syllables, typically at the end of a verse line. Rhymed words conventionally share all sounds following the word’s last stressed syllable.
- Stanza – a group of lines forming the basic recurring metrical unit in a poem; a verse
- Tone – The poet’s attitude toward the poem’s speaker, reader, and subject matter, as interpreted by the reader.
- writing arranged with a metrical rhythm, typically having a rhyme
- Verse – writing arranged with a metrical rhythm, typically having a rhyme
THE ULTIMATE GUIDE TO TEACHING POETRY
Make poetry FUN, ENGAGING , AND RELEVANT! This unit is a complete solution for teaching and learning poetry to students. ❤️ NO PREP REQUIRED ❤️ . Just download and start teaching.
POETRY WRITING TIPS FOR TEACHERS
Above all else, writing poetry must be fun in its infancy. Be sure to get some quick wins with acrostic poetry and shape poetry before exploring more complex poetry such as sonnets and palindromes.
Limericks are a great starting point for rhyming poetry as it requires only a moderate vocabulary for students.
Be sure to share your poetry with students. Have fun with the fact they may have used crazy rhyming words that didn’t make a great deal of sense in the context of the poem. As long as they understand the rhyming sound pattern, such as AA BB A found in a limerick, it is of far greater importance than if the limerick makes sense. They are supposed to be nonsensical.
My final tip on teaching how to write poetry is to mix it up. An hour of limericks can get tired quickly. Maybe throw in some shape poetry to mix it up and bounce between the two areas.
RHYMING POEMS and free verse poetry in the classroom
When the concept of poetry is introduced to students, their first thoughts are usually around beautiful rhyming language that is catchy, emotional, friendly to the ear and easy to remember.
Whilst rhyming poetry should be part of your poetry teaching toolkit; students must understand RHYME SCHEMES beforehand.
A rhyme scheme dictates the tempo and flow and accentuates the key points of poetry. It achieves this by reinforcing sounds and key terms through repetition.
For all our examples outlined below, you will see we have used letters to illustrate the rhyming pattern. For example, AA BB A
- Each letter represents a single line of poetry.
- When the letters vary, it determines a change in rhyming pattern at any point, which could be an internal rhyme or end rhyme.
- When the final word in a line of poetry rhymes with the last word in another line, this is called an end rhyme . Many common poetry forms use end rhymes.
- When words in the middle of a line of poetry rhyme with each other, this is called an internal rhyme and is less common.
If rhyming poetry seems like a bridge too far for some of your students, ensure you have a free verse or other non-rhyming poetry options such as Haiku and acrostic forms demonstrated below to keep them engaged.
Seven simple poetry styles your students will love
Acrostic poetry is considered one of the simpler forms of poetry and is commonly taught to younger students. Acrostic poems are generally quick and easy to write and open students’ minds to the understanding that poetry is a non-conventional style of writing which doesn’t always have to make perfect sense.
Listen to an Acrostic Poem Example
Top Tips for writing an Acrostic Poem
- Write your word or words down vertically when planning
- Brainstorm words or phrases that describe your idea.
- Place your brainstormed words or phrases on the lines that begin with the same letters.
- Fill in the rest of the lines to create a poem.
- Horizontal words do not always have to start with the first letter of the vertical word you can use any letter from the word.
In its original form, an epitaph is the defining words written on a tombstone that future generations will know us by. The limited space and complexity of chiselling a stone tablet did not allow for complexity, so short, sweet and direct to the point was the order of the day.
Today actual epitaphs are rarely seen and, in a poetic sense, have become an opportunity to have a bit of fun reflecting on the misfortune or good humor of others.
Epitaphs are very easy for younger writers to pick up due to the simplicity of the rhyming pattern, length and above all else, they are fun to write.
If you are looking for a starting point for rhyming poetry, Epitaph are a great option.
Listen to an Epitaph Example
TOP TIPS FOR WRITING A GREAT EPITAPH
Epitaphs are an ancient form of writing that remains popular today. As long as we honor our dead, epitaphs will always be an essential way to celebrate their lives.
When teaching students how to write poetry remember the following tips:
- Epitaphs are short and concise, don’t overcomplicate them.
- They emphasize strong feelings.
- Often, someone speaks in the first person (a relative, a friend, the deceased.)
- The writer should think about their audience. When and where will they see it?
The Clerihew is a very similar style of poetry to the epitaph. It uses the exact same rhyming pattern and length as an epitaph but is more of a mock piece targeted at famous people.
Both the Epitaph and Clerihew style of poetry can be introduced in the same session to reinforce rhyming poetry and writing for a specific purpose and audience.
Listen to a Clerihew Example
TIPS FOR WRITING A GREAT CLERIHEW
A Clerihew is supposed to be funny first and foremost, so keep in that spirit when writing one.
Clerihews have just a few simple rules to follow:
- They are only four lines long.
- The first and second lines rhyme with each other, and the third and fourth lines rhyme with each other.
- The first line names a person, and the second line ends with something that rhymes with the person’s name.
A limerick is another fun type of poetry continuing concepts learnt from epitaphs’ which steps it up slightly in complexity due to a different rhyming pattern and increased length.
When teaching students how to write poetry emphasize the concept of fun and humor which is the essence of writing a limerick in the classroom . They will both love writing and reading these aloud for this reason.
Listen to a Limerick Example
TIPS FOR WRITING A GREAT LIMERICK
Being only five lines long, limerick poems have an AABBA rhyme scheme, which means the first, second, and last lines rhyme while the third and fourth lines rhyme. Pretty straightforward, really.
There are two common elements you will notice when you read limericks:
The first line usually ends with a person’s first name or the name of a place.
The last line is usually funny.
Shape or Concrete Poetry
These styles of poetry rely on a solid relationship between visuals and words. There is no preferred style or guidelines for shape and concrete poetry so long as the audience can clearly make the connection between the words and visuals.
You will know if you have succeeded at these forms of poetry if it is clearly understood without a title and is an easy win when teaching students how to write poetry.
Refer to the images below for further clarification.
Shape Poetry in action
TIPS FOR GREAT SHAPE POETRY
- Start by writing out your whole poem without putting it into a shape, and then add then let the words make up the shape later.
- There are no rules when it comes to a concrete poem, so you’re free to let your imagination run wild.
- Don’t stress about the length of your poem, but remember that the more words you have, the bigger your shape will be.
A Quatrain is an ancient french style of poetry with one hard rule. It must be no more or less than four lines in length.
Most quatrains rhyme following one of the patterns as demonstrated below.
Listen to a Quatrain Example
TIPS FOR WRITING A GREAT QUATRAIN
Quatrain poetry is constructed by four lines that alternate in rhyme. So, the first and third lines have a word rhyming with each other at the end, as do the second and fourth lines. The quatrain poem can also be written with two different rhythms, either A,B,A,B or as A,A,B,B.
The quatrain would not be your first introduction to poetry. Ensure your students understand rhyming poetry by trying some of the other styles above.
A palindrome is a phrase that can be read forwards and backwards with the same outcome. “A man, a plan, a canal — Panama” is a commonly used example. Read it backwards for yourself…
A palindromic poem follows this concept in a structured model, as demonstrated below. The only word which is not repeated is found on the fourth (or centre) line. This word allows us to reverse the words we have been presented with in the first half.
Palindromes are easy to write once your students clearly understand the why and what they are expected to do.
Listen to a Palindrome Example
TIPS FOR WRITING A GREAT PALINDROME
- When studying how to write poetry ry reading a few things backwards to get your mind in the palindromic head space.
- Don’t let perfect stop productivity. Try to make sense of your palindrome but don’t overcomplicate it in the strive for perfection.
- Do some research. There are plenty of famous palindromes that can be found and read on the web. Read a few of them before beginning.
A poem containing both emotion and rhyme is considered a lyric and, as such, has strong connections to drama and music. The great William Shakespeare’s preferred style of poetry was the sonnet, and he frequently included them in nearly all of his plays to convey a greater sense of emotion.
The Shakespearean Sonnet is a strict 14-line model, as demonstrated below and should be aimed at older and more accomplished writers who already have a sense of rhyming poetry and emotive language.
Listen to a Sonnet Example
TIPS FOR WRITING A SHAKESPEAREAN SONNET
- Try writing your sonnet about something you deeply love… It could be a person, but if that was a little awkward it might be easier to start with a sport, food or something else you are passionate about.
- Write your lines in iambic pentameter (duh-DUH-duh-DUH-duh-DUH-duh-DUH-duh-DUH.
- Structure your sonnet as an argument that builds as it moves from one metaphor to the next.
Free 30 Day Poetry Blitz Matrix
Your students will love this 30-day Poetry Matrix to challenge their understanding of and ability to write great poetry.
It works beautifully for DISTANCE LEARNING due to its instructional hyperlinks and simple guides for students to follow. Add it to GOOGLE CLASSROOM or SeeSaw to keep your students engaged on the task. DOWNLOAD NOW
A COMPLETE UNIT OF WORK ON POETRY
Poetry is one of the few styles of writing which openly encourages students to let go of their emotions and share them with others.
This is not an easy thing for students to do, and the process can be even more difficult if we expect them to write deep and meaningful styles of poetry, such as ballads and free verse, without developing an appreciation and understanding of poetry through fun and simple structure.
These eight styles of poetry are great entry points for teachers and students to approach poetry confidently yet still allow creativity and emotion to be part of the writing process.
Each style contains a clear structure you can teach your students by following the instructions, alongside diagrams and the highly recommended audio recordings by our resident voice actor Alan Munro. Just click the audio button for each style.
These poems come from a collection of 19 styles of poetry from Innovative Teaching Ideas, which include 115 pages of templates, rubrics and more for all major styles of poetry.
MORE GUIDES ON HOW TO WRITE POETRY
How to Write a Superb Simile Poem
Elements of Poetry
7 Types of Poetry for Kids (With Examples & Tasks)
Learn the 7 best forms of poetry to teach students including Haiku poetry, Calligram poetry, Limericks, Kenning Poetry, Free-verse and sonnets. Improve you poetry writing skills.
Writing About Poetry
View in pdf format, get to know the poem.
Describe the poem: Before you begin to organize your essay, read the poem aloud several times, noting its structure, meter, recurring images or themes, rhyme scheme – anything and everything which creates an effect. Paraphrase the poem: Again, before you begin to organize your essay, make sure you understand the language of the poem. Poetry, particularly from other time periods, often contains confusing syntax or vocabulary. Put into your own words those lines or phrases which are especially difficult. Resist the temptation to brush over the lines or phrases which seem unintelligible; these can be the most crucial parts of the poem. The Oxford English Dictionary is a good resource for defining difficult vocabulary.
How the Poem Works
Analyze the poem: Since your analysis should make up the bulk of your essay, approach it with care. Knowing that you will not be able to address every aspect of the poem, select the elements which work together to create special effects. Look beyond the surface meaning of the words and start to think about how the techniques used in the poem add depth to its meaning. How do the elements work together? Do they complement each other, do they create tension, or both? Think in terms of cause and effect and look for relationships within the poem itself. For example, if you see a pattern of imagery which suggests something about the speaker, look at other areas of the poem for more evidence along the same lines. In poetry, form and content are inseparable, so you must not overlook the relationship between what the speaker says and how he or she says it.
Interpret the poem: Using your analysis of how the poem works as your evidence, interpret the poem – answer the question, "So what is this poem all about?" In the interpretation, you bring together your analysis of the elements in the poem and show what they mean to the poem as a whole. You may suggest an interpretation of the speaker's state of mind, the poem's subject, or the nature of the experience which the poem creates. For example, does Poe's "The Raven" describe a dream? A drug-induced hallucination? A recollection? Why do you think so? What evidence, from your analysis, supports your idea? The main argument of your paper should begin to take form as you struggle with this process.
You have great freedom in interpreting a poem, provided that your assertions are solidly linked to your evidence. Interpretation that does not align with your analysis will be invalid. In the words of M. H. Abrams, editor of the Norton Anthology of Poetry , "There is no one, right interpretation of a poem – but there is one which is more right than any of the others."
The multi-faceted nature of poetry demands that you know where you are going before you begin to construct your written argument, which is why the description and paraphrase stages are so important. Your selective analysis emerges from them in the form of an argument that is limited to a manageable set of ideas. After you have thought through these stages and taken good notes, you should be ready to begin writing your essay.
Constructing Your Paper
Thesis: Review your notes. Look for patterns and themes. Formulate a thesis statement that will allow you to explain the relationships and the effects of elements in the poem. If you can, indicate in the thesis the areas or features of the poem important to your argument (a pattern of imagery, for instance, or a series of crucial lines). Remember, your thesis statement must argue a point; instead of simply saying that a poet uses certain poetic devices, you must give some indication in your thesis as to how those devices work and what they do to the poem's meaning. You do not need to go into elaborate detail in your thesis, but do show the relationship between the poem and your argument.
Your first paragraph should make your reader comfortable with the poem by identifying the poet, offering a brief, general description of the poem and, most importantly, leading into the thesis and development of the argument by narrowing and limiting the subject. It may be helpful to imagine the introduction as a funnel, initially appealing to your reader from a wide perspective and then swiftly directing him or her into the body of your essay. Avoid sweeping, abstract statements or statements which you cannot concretely link to your thesis. The more quickly you get away from the general and focus on the specific, the sooner you will engage your reader.
The Development of Your Argument
The approach you undertake in your thesis determines the organization of the rest of the essay. Some arguments lend themselves to a linear presentation. For example, if you choose to trace the development of the speaker according to the recurrence of an image throughout the poem, you might want to go through the poem chronologically to show how that image changes in significance from line to line or stanza to stanza. You need not limit yourself to such a presentation, however. Many poems are difficult to explain chronologically; some poems are better suited to a non-linear argument which reflects cycles or other patterns in the poem. If you organize your argument according to the patterns you choose to address, your argument might move through the poem several times, according to the instances of the images and their contextual significance. For example, one word may have a formal relationship to numerous other words in the poem. The word "snow" has a relationship to the word "flow" in that they rhyme, and to the word "ice" in that they are both associated with winter. To discuss the significance of these relationships, you may find yourself jumping around the poem. That's fine, as long as you make your argument clear and keep your thesis in sight.
Each paragraph should consist of a point which is credible, relevant to your thesis, and analytical. Remember that you are arguing for a certain position and need to convince your reader of that position. At the beginning of each paragraph, tell your reader the focus of your argument in that paragraph by starting with a topic sentence. The rest of the paragraph should address the assertion with convincing evidence. The effectiveness of your argument depends heavily on how well you incorporate evidence into your paragraphs.
You cannot create a compelling argument without evidence to back it up, but you must present that evidence in the context of your own argument. Merely including a line or a passage in your paper without linking it to your argument will not be convincing. Try incorporating your evidence into a "sandwich" of information which will allow your reader to receive the full impact of the lines. Before the quotation, describe the evidence in terms of the poem. Where is it located in the poem? Is it part of a pattern? Let your reader know what he or she should be looking for. After the quotation, if the passage is particularly difficult to understand, you should explain problematic syntax or vocabulary. Then, you must analyze the quote and show how that quote supports the claims you are making in your thesis. This is the most important part of your paper; it is where you make your interpretation clear to the reader and where you prove your thesis. Don't assume that the quotation will speak for itself—it is your job to explain it.
Be sure to cite your evidence properly. Citing from a poem is different from citing from a prose text. Because the line form of poetry is so important, you must indicate where lines end by separating them with a slash mark "/". If you are quoting more than three lines, single space the passage, indent, and present the passage as it appears in the poem. Follow the quotation with the appropriate line numbers enclosed in parentheses (see English Department handout on use of quotations and citations, available from the department office and the Writing Center).
Conclusions take many forms. In your conclusion you can emphasize crucial ideas, raise questions about the poem, or connect the poem to other literary works or experiences. This is where you can offer your interpretation of the poem, which by now should be convincing to your reader since you have presented your evidence in the body of the paper. You may raise new ideas in a conclusion, provided that they are solidly linked to the development of your argument. Remember, you have flexibility, but your conclusion should flow naturally from the body of your paper.
- If you have the choice of which poem to write about, pick one you like.
- Read the poem aloud. Your ear will notice things your eyes miss.
- Notice the way the poem looks on the page. The form of the poem may reveal something about the way it works.
- Be careful to make a clear distinction between the poet and the speaker. Even in poems that are written in the first person, you should be careful not to assume anything about the speaker that the poem itself does not suggest.
- Let your interpretation follow your analysis – avoid making unsupported assertions.
- Be selective with your evidence. Limit the length of your quotations to a workable size. Passages longer than a few lines will be impossible to explain in a single paragraph.
Enjoy the Poem!
Poems are artistic expressions that demand that you appreciate them before you begin to reduce them to something explainable. Often, the most brilliant elements in a poem are very subtle and will be felt before they are understood. Remember, you are not just explaining what a poem does, you are explaining what it does to you. You are the medium in which the poem comes to life. Writing about poetry offers you a special opportunity to interact with a work of art.
by Seth DuCharme '92
Office / Department Name
Nesbitt-Johnston Writing Center
Writing Center Director
The $400 million campaign to provide students with a life-altering education.
“Poetry for Everybody” – Doralee Brooks in Allegheny County
Life-long educator and poet doralee brooks named new poet laureate for allegheny county..
By Jody DiPerna
Doralee Brooks, the new poet Laureate for Allegheny County, wants to highlight and spotlight poetry’s intersections with other art forms — with music and with the visual and performing arts. This convergence of the poetic with hard-lived life, everyday occurrences of beauty, and all the ways that Pittsburghers make art feels like an appropriate reflection of Brooks’ own lifelong journey with poetry. It also suits the position to which Brooks has been named.
Brooks also believes poetry is for everybody and hopes to engage her fellow Pittsburghers in the space where art meets the quotidian.
“I think that poets are listeners, and they are observers. We’re very watchful and maybe that’s why we are able to make material of the everyday, because we’re attuned to the importance of it,” she said.
In the summer of 2020, as part of their “All Pittsburghers Are Poets” initiative, City of Asylum established the first poet laureate for Allegheny County, Celeste Gainey. They also named MJ Shaheen, ASL poet laureate.
As with the poet laureate for the nation (a position currently held by Ada Limon), there aren’t many codified duties, but that doesn’t mean there isn’t much work to be done. Poets laureate are generally given the freedom to shape the position based on their own interests and inclinations.
Brooks said that she wants to focus her time as laureate on regional poetry and poetry about Pittsburgh, as well as those poetic intersections with other forms of expression.
“I think we have such a rich heritage in Pittsburgh of poets,” Brooks said. “I want to highlight what we have, and I want to promote that. I also want to show how the other arts are also a part of the poetry. I’m very interested in those connections.”
A lifelong teacher and mentor, Brooks holds an MEd from the University of Pittsburgh and an MFA from Carlow University. She is Professor Emerita of Developmental Studies at the Community College of Allegheny County. She was also a fellow of the Western Pennsylvania Writing Project, a national writing project for teachers of kindergarten through college with an emphasis on the practice of writing instruction in every discipline.
It was while she was working on that project that her life intersected with Toi Derricotte, a tremendously influential poet who is a professor emerita in writing at the University of Pittsburgh. Derricotte, along with Cornelius Eddy in 1996, founded Cave Canem as the home of Black poetry to remedy the underrepresentation and isolation of African-American poets in academia and in writing workshops across the nation.
“Toi consulted with the (Western Pennsylvania Writing) project, to help teachers think of themselves as writers, and also to encourage writing in the classroom. That’s what the writing project is all about — no matter what you teach, writing is a part of it. We started writing poetry in workshops at the writing project,” Brooks said.
Derricotte invited Brooks to join Cave Canem in 1997.
“It was all part of my development as a poet, which was a very, very slow process,” Brooks said.
Brooks is as passionate about reading poetry, as she is about making it and teaching it. Derricotte is an influence on her work, as are poets like C.K. Williams and Elizabeth Bishop, both of whom, like Derricotte, are keen observers of the small moments that add up to life. Being able to feel another person’s struggles, or joys, or just moments of quiet solitude, pull Brooks into the medium. That is the magic of poetry.
“You are able to enter other consciousnesses and other places. You’re not limited by your life and you can experience the lives of others,” she said.
Brooks has retired from teaching at CCAC and currently facilitates writing workshops in poetry at Carlow University. Her work has appeared in journals such as Voices from the Attic , Pittsburgh Poetry Review , Uppagus , Dos Passos Review , and Paterson Literary Review . Her chapbook, “When I Hold You Up to the Light,” won the 2019 Cathy Smith Bowers Poetry Prize and was published in 2020 by Main Street Rag.
Brooks hopes to bring her love for the medium, and her lifelong love of reading, to her role as poet laureate.
“Poetry is my life — reading and writing is, in some way, experiencing life. It is the fullest way of being alive. You know, that’s what poetry is for me,” Brooks said.
Are you an Architect?
by Doralee Brooks
I recall a line from Ok, Mr. Field , a serialized novel, as I drive past the now shelled-out row houses on Bennett Street. Only the exteriors remain. My college friend, Charles, lived here and complained when the neighbors didn’t keep up. In the story, it’s all about the house— house lonely house summer house white-stucco house on a mountain in Cape Town that in Hopper solitude overlooks the sea. In Charles’s room, a paper lantern floated over the bed like a blood moon, and Stevie Wonder’s Songs in the Key of Life streamed from the walls, filled every sensation of space. Back in the day. Before the Joneses raised the stakes, and everyday people learned the language of the A.R.M. the balloon-payment. Before I ever heard someone say house-poor, too much house Before Detroit evolved beyond Motor City, Motown, blue brutality, Black uprising, Became the name for collapse. Before McMansion was a joke—narrow lawn no furniture ghost street no one home— and the promised invites just another Americanism such as how are you; have a nice day.
This article has been republished by the generosity of the Pittsburgh Institute for Nonprofit Journalism .
Jody DiPerna lives, reports and writes from her home in Pittsburgh. She is an award winning journalist and one of the founders of the Pittsburgh Institute for Nonprofit Journalism . Currently, she is researching a book about the importance of reading, writing and literary life in Appalachia for West Virginia University Press. She conducted one of her finest interviews in a rural laundromat.
Dreaming at the Mattress Factory
The New Stewards of Skateboarding
Hindsight and Regulation in East Palestine, Ohio
Get the best regional writing in your inbox every week.
(Plus 15% off items in the Belt Shop!)
CUNY Creative Writing MFA (Poetry)
Hello. Has anyone joined one of CUNY's MFA programs in creative writing (poetry specifically). I got accepted to Brooklyn College and Queens College, and waiting to hear back from Hunter College and City College (safety school). Out of those four programs, which would you say is the best for the creative writing MFA? Anybody have any experience at all with these school's MFA programs in creative writing? Thanks.
Choose based on the Professors. Who will you learn the most from? Who has a writing style you aspire to?
This is the answer; who you study with and learn from matters so much more than any ranking.
Ranked by Size
Develop your poetry writing skills by inserting metaphor, allegory, synecdoche, metonymy, imagery, and other literary devices into your poems. This can be relatively easy in an unrhymed form like free verse and more challenging in poetic forms that have strict rules about meter and rhyme scheme. 7. Try telling a story with your poem.
Poetry is a lyrical, emotive method of self-expression, using the elements of poetry to highlight feelings and ideas. A poem should make the reader feel something. In other words, a poem should make the reader feel something—not by telling themwhat to feel, but by evoking feeling directly.
Writing about poetry can be one of the most demanding tasks that many students face in a literature class. Poetry, by its very nature, makes demands on a writer who attempts to analyze it that other forms of literature do not. So how can you write a clear, confident, well-supported essay about poetry?
Literary devices commonly found in poetry include: Figurative language Juxtaposition Onomatopoeia Simile Metaphor Puns Chiasmus Imagery Hyperbole Mood Motif Personification Often, poets use literary devices in conjunction with other poetic elements.
Poetry is a very image-based form of writing, so practicing poetry will improve your imagery in other forms as well. Poetry is concise and impactful— it uses strong language, and no more words than are necessary. If you have an understanding of how to write a poem, your prose when writing a novel will become crisper and stronger.
Poetry is a powerful medium when it comes to using lyrical language and expressing poignant imagery. Keeping a journal can help you catalog particularly striking images and thoughts as they occur to you throughout your day. Free moments can give you a chance to brainstorm and jot down your thoughts in your poetry journal. 6.
One of the best ways to start writing poetry is to use concrete images that appeal to the five senses. The idea of starting with the specific might feel counterintuitive, because many people think of poetry as a way to describe abstract ideas, such as death, joy, or sorrow. It certainly can be.
poetry, literature that evokes a concentrated imaginative awareness of experience or a specific emotional response through language chosen and arranged for its meaning, sound, and rhythm.
Line METER. Poetic meter is a count of the number of feet in a line. Most poems are written with between 1 and 8 poetic feet per line. This creates the following poetic metric line types, based on how many feet are in the line: # of feet Meter Name. 1 monometer. 2 dimeter.
2027. Provides strategies for analyzing and writing poetry, including the study of form and craft with an emphasis on the revision process. Sample texts will cover a diverse range of works from various cultures and perspectives. Note: This course was previously listed as ENG 227. credits |.
Poetry is a literary art form that can be written, spoken, or performed. It focuses on the aesthetics of language. It is usually composed in verse and is concerned with evoking an image or emotion. Poetry makes liberal use of literary devices, such as alliteration and metaphor. It is the musicality of language, the rendering of abstract ...
How to Write a Poem in 5 Easy Steps. Poetry is one of the most elegant forms of human expression. From the epics of Homer to the sonnets of William Shakespeare to Edgar Allen Poe's "The Raven" to the silly limerick you learned at school, there is a type of poetry for every purpose. Reading poetry is a rite of passage for American ...
100 Poetry Prompts. Write a poem about colors without ever naming any colors in the poem. Write a poem that tells a story. Use the following words in a poem: under, thrust, harbor, wind, prance, fall. Write a poem about the following image: an empty stadium with litter strewn about and one sneaker on the stadium stairs. Write three haiku.
8. Have fun revising your poem. At the end of the day, even if you write in a well-established form, poetry is about experimenting with language, both written and spoken. Lauren emphasizes that revising a poem is thus an open-ended process that requires patience — and a sense of play. "Have fun. Play. Be patient.
In many ways, the act of writing prose poetry is freeing. Rather than deliberating over line breaks, rhyme schemes, or "sounding poetic," the prose poet merely needs to write prose, poetically. Nonetheless, there are a few strategies you can use to write polished, emotive prose poetry. Here's 4 tips for success. 1. Write Stream of ...
Poetry has been around longer than the written word, but even after people started writing things down, some cultures continued telling stories orally. They did this by telling stories as poems. Using set rhyme schemes, meters, and rhythms made it easier to learn those poems by heart. 2. Form shapes the rhythm and sound of a poem
to climb the stairs my imagination made I would like to be a bird, unburdened, I would like to be me, unbound. I just want to nap And wonder And wander. And dream. Of letting go, ego dissolving ...
The revived Raymond Carver Writing Festival (RCWF) is back for its second year with an emphasis on poetry. Located in Clatskanie, Oregon where the world-famous poet and short story writer Raymond Carver (1938-1988) was born, the two-day festival, May 19-20, will be preceded by a poetry contest in April "Poetry Month" with the theme from Carver's poem Happiness: "Happiness.
Write a poem every single day of the year with Robert Lee Brewer's Poem-a-Day: 365 Poetry Writing Prompts for a Year of Poeming. After sharing more than a thousand prompts and prompting thousands of poems for more than a decade, Brewer picked 365 of his favorite poetry prompts here. Click to continue. *****
Let your mind wander for 5-10 minutes and see what you can come up with. Write to a prompt. Look up poem prompts online or come up with your own, like "what water feels like" or "how it feels to get bad news.". Write down whatever comes to mind and see where it takes you. Make a list or mind map of images.
Poetry Writing. Get your students excited about writing poetry by sharing the video below featuring one of our favorite poets, Jennifer Dignan. Then introduce your students to poetic terms like alliteration, onomatopoeia, and personification with our handy Poetry Glossary.
You can often find poetry writing prompts on sites that accept poetry submissions. Method 2 Beginning Your Poem 1 Choose the type of poem you want it to be. Your poem doesn't have to be among an already-set category.  Poem structure is purely dependent on the poet and the poem itself.
Here are some examples of poems by famous poets that have particularly striking first lines—in fact, for many of them the first line functions as the de facto title of the poem. 1. "I wandered lonely as a cloud" from "I Wandered Lonely As A Cloud (Daffodils)" by William Wordsworth. 2. "Whose woods these are I think I know" from ...
Study musicality in writing (rhythm and meter). Use poetry prompts when you're stuck. Be funny. Make a funny poem. Notice what makes others' poetry memorable. Capture it, mix it up, and make it your own. Try poetry writing exercises when you've got writer's block. Study biographies of famous (or not-so-famous) poets.
Poetry is a broad area of literature that offers teachers and students the opportunity to dip their toes or completely dive into creative writing. Learning how to write poetry is a fun and engaging process that will positively affect the use of language across all other styles of writing.
Writing about poetry can be difficult. A poem does not affect its reader in quite the same way that a work of prose does. To be able to understand and write about the way a poem works, you need to spend some time thinking analytically about the poem before you start your draft.
We started writing poetry in workshops at the writing project," Brooks said. Derricotte invited Brooks to join Cave Canem in 1997. "It was all part of my development as a poet, which was a very, very slow process," Brooks said. Brooks is as passionate about reading poetry, as she is about making it and teaching it.
Has anyone joined one of CUNY's MFA programs in creative writing (poetry specifically). I got accepted to Brooklyn College and Queens College, and waiting to hear back from Hunter College and City College (safety school). Out of those four programs, which would you say is the best for the creative writing MFA?