Writing a poem for the first time can feel frightening or freeing. If you follow a few simple steps, you can learn how to write a poem that expresses your thoughts, feelings, or ideas. Grab your favorite writing tools and begin your poem!
Before you can write a simple poem, you need to know what makes a poem a poem in the first place! A poem is defined as any collection or arrangement of words that expresses an emotion or idea in a more concentrated style than standard speech or prose.
Poems are typically written in verses, rather than paragraphs. They can include complete sentences or incomplete sentences and often have a rhythm. Keep in mind, poems do not have to rhyme.
Why are you writing a poem and what do you want it to say? The purpose of your poem can dictate what form or style it should use, how long or short it should be, and the types of language you use. Are you writing for yourself, for an assignment, or for someone else?
The subject is the focus of your poem, or what your poem is about. Choosing a subject before you write can help focus your mind on that specific subject. If you need ideas to get started, a poetry prompt can help.
Some common poetry subjects are:
- An emotion, such as love or fear
- A person, real or fictional
- A place, real or fictional
- A feeling, like acceptance or rejection
- An object
- An animal
- A time
Start by writing down all the words that come to mind when you think of your subject. Poets and writers often imagine what other people or objects see or feel. If a poet saw an apple, he may wonder why it is there, who put it there, what the apple is thinking, or what it will become, like applesauce or apple pie.
Take a walk and try to experience every physical sense: touch, smell, sound, taste, and vision. Try to watch people and animals, and imagine their feelings and perspectives. Get silly and make up crazy stories. All you have to do is loosen up, have fun, and start writing whatever comes to mind.
The format of your poem is influenced by the subject and tone. As a beginner, you don’t need to worry too much about style or get caught up trying to perfect a format. Choose one, learn the basic rules, and do your best to stick to them.
There are many types of poems you can write. Poems don’t have to have rhymes and meter, but they can if you feel comfortable using them. Once you’ve selected a format, you can learn more about that style of poetry by reading many examples of that type of poem.
Some of the easier types of poems and poetry styles for beginners include:
- Acrostic: The first letter of the first word on each line spells out a word.
- Free verse: There are no rules. Just write what comes to mind.
- Haiku: This short poem uses a specific number of syllables per line.
- I Am: Write a poem all about you that doesn’t have to follow any other rules.
- Narrative: A narrative poem tells a story and includes ballads and epics.
- Rhyming couplets: The last word in each of two consecutive lines rhyme.
You have your purpose, subject, related words, and a format. Now it’s time to write. Jot down one line to start. This could end up being your title, your opening line, or your last line. Take a look at the line and see where you think it falls on the spectrum of your idea.
If you use the first line as your opening line, simply start adding lines after it. If it’s your ending line, you can work backwards or work towards that line. As you write, don’t worry too much about perfect formatting. You can fix that later.
One of the best things you can do is put the first draft of your poem away for a day or two. Come back to it and see if you can make any improvements with a fresh pair of eyes. You may even want to get someone else to read and critique it. When you feel good about the poem, it’s done.
Your first poem may not be perfect, or even good. That’s okay. If you keep a few things in mind as you write, your poem is more likely to be something you’re proud of.
- Write with feeling: What makes poems great is the feeling they give the reader.
- Avoid clichés: Clichés are sayings that have been overused, like “busy as a bee.”
- Use imagery: Use concrete words that appeal to the senses.
- Use similes and metaphors: Similes compare two things and usually use the word “like” or “as.” Metaphors do the same, but without using “like” or “as.”
Whether you’re writing for an assignment or for personal reasons, learning how to write poetry can be easy. All you have to do is start writing. What will your first poem sound like?