Poetry AdvicePoetry, Advice
ServiceScape Incorporated
ServiceScape Incorporated
2022

How To Write Poetry for Beginners

shaysieg

Getting started writing poetry can seem daunting. We have heard that there are so many "rules" over the years when it comes to good poetry, and while there are certainly rules that make good writing in fact good, poetry is one of those forms of writing that can be much more subjective and "looser" in terms of the rules. However, there are certainly things anyone can do to improve their poetry writing, and this is a worthwhile place to start for beginners who want to take on poetry so they have guidance when they might not know how to approach a poem.

For beginners, and anyone who needs a refresher about poetry writing (or even general writing guidelines) the below points will go a long way in leveling up those poems or give you a place to start if you're ready to get those ideas on paper.

1. Read poetry

Many of the points about writing good poetry for beginners on this list will speak to the art of writing as a whole. Stephen King once said, If you don't have time to read, you don't have the time (or tools) to write. Reading and paying attention to the writing of others that you admire is a great way to get you thinking about the poetry you'd want to create yourself. Even when you read casually without dissecting the work, it is having an impact on you and being absorbed, even if subconsciously. You can also of course read poetry in a less casual way to truly study the craft, pick up on what other poets are doing with their sentence structure and language, their descriptions, their unique choices with words, etc. This might get you thinking about the types of poems you want to write whether it be in terms of subject matter, sensory details, literary devices, rhyme scheme and structure, and so on. Reading is always the most important thing any writer can do to improve and be inspired. Often when a writer is stuck or experiencing writer's block, the best advice is to read. Inspiration will come soon enough.

2. Ask what the story of your poem is

All writing should have a story. This may be your starting point, or it may unfold after you begin with a detail, image, or literary device. If you don't start with building the story, then be sure to ask yourself what story you are telling once you have the poem drafted. This will inform where to take it next. While reading beautiful words and conjuring images is appealing, the story is where the emotion lies and where the reader will find connection.

3. Start small

For beginners, starting small can be much less daunting. A short poem of a few lines or even less is a good way to get the creativity flowing and become familiar with the poetry form. Try writing a haiku or even a brief reflective idea that may either stand on its own or become incorporated into a longer poem later. Some of the most impactful writing can be short and simple but contain a lot of depth. Simply getting started can be more than half the battle, so don't think you have to write a long narrative to make meaningful poetry. Quality outweighs quantity every time.

4. Write first, edit later

Nothing kills creativity like editing as you are writing. The first draft can (and often should) be full of liberties and mistakes and writing that doesn't even make sense because getting the creative ideas out is what first drafts are all about. Editing is a much more technical part of the writing development, and it can impede the creative process. Don't think about how the poem isn't perfect or you can't find the right word or description just yet. Just write first, the refining and perfecting will come later.

5. Read your poems out loud

Reading out loud helps you pick up on the way the words sound and flow together in ways that you may miss or not realize while reading silently. This can allow you to see if your word choice is working well, if your sensory details are hitting the way you intended, and if your story and point is coming across in the way you envisioned. Reading aloud is important for any type of writing and should always be part of the editing process. This allows you to hear your poems from a reader's point of view.

6. Utilize literary devices

Using tools like metaphor, simile, personification, allegory, and so on goes a long way in writing, but especially with poetry. Poems are often known for being deep or even interpretative. These devices lend to that and invite the reader to think deeply and draw their own conclusions or link their own experiences to what they feel through the use of these devices.

7. Use sensory descriptions

Sensory descriptions are one of the most important aspects of good writing. They are about showing versus telling. This comes down to emotion, thoughts, feelings, and even expressing ideas in simpler ways without outright telling the reader in stiff language. Every few lines ask yourself if these are verses the reader can see, smell, hear, feel, and taste firsthand. If the answer is no more often than not, then you will want to infuse your lines with more sensory descriptions. Always look to appeal to the senses, and this can also go hand in hand with utilizing literary devices. When the two work together truly powerful writing can emerge.

8. Express emotion

As noted, poetry is often known for being deep, philosophical, and interpretative. Even the simplest poems when done well will hold great emotion. If you are using sensory descriptions and "painting" with your words, as well as using appropriate literary devices, and telling a story then the emotion should automatically be felt. This step of good poetry writing results from a culmination of other executed steps that will take the poem to the next level and give it the needed depth.

9. Try writing structured poems that follow a set of rules and patterns

While free verse poetry has risen in popularity in the modern era, there are so many different types of poetry out there that serve as a great starting point for beginners. Some writers tend to do better when they have parameters they must stay within, plus it's a great challenge to get the creative juices flowing. Look up the different forms of poems like haiku, villanelle, quatrain, and so on, all with their own set of rules (number of lines, rhyme scheme, meter, etc.) to familiarize yourself with poetry in all its possible forms. Being able to incorporate versatility into your writing is always valuable, even if you do end up gravitating toward free verse poetry. Free verse has no set of rules in terms of rhyming, meter, and so on, but sticking to the other pointers of what makes good poetry is still important to create words — emotions and story — that will resonate with your reader.

10. Write what you know

Writing what you know doesn't necessarily mean only sticking to topics you know about, though many writers find that's most suitable to them while some want to research and explore new worlds. Writing what you know means there should be an emotional truth that you have experienced and has been part of your life. Even fictional poems, or any work of art, will have pieces of the artist within the creation. So not only should you appeal to emotions with the story you create, but it should contain truths that are part of your experience in one way or another.

Poetry is one of the forms of writing where you can take the most liberties, and many will agree that lots of different types of works can be considered poetry, whereas that isn't necessarily the case with other writing like a novel. Although poetry tends to allow the writer to be freer, there are rules that should always be followed to execute good writing. Along with reading other poets, you should look to connect with poets as well and have a few critique partners available. It's one thing to share writing with people that are part of our everyday lives, but if they aren't writers themselves then their feedback may not be the biggest help to aid your growth as a poet. So, after you get started following these steps, developing your poems, and familiarizing yourself with your voice and form, join a community that will take you to the next level! Now you have the tools you need to begin, and remember not to agonize over the daunting feel that starting can bring. Simply write and worry about refining and infusing emotion, sensory details, literary devices, and editing later on. The hardest part is always getting started, but once you do you'll be on your way to surpassing beginner status in no time.

Header photo by Thought Catalog.

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