‘How to Write a Poem’ is something that beginners often ask themselves. This article is The Ultimate Guide on How to Write a Poem.
Writing is an art, and poetry writing is another level of expression. Poets and poetesses often form communities and start living a life filled with poetry and art that is often indecipherable for others. You must have watched Dead Poets Society if you’re here. If you haven’t go watch it now, to stimulate the little poet/poetess hiding inside of you!
Let’s take a look at the things we’ll discuss in this article.
What is a Poem?
A poem is a piece of writing – long or short – which serves as an account of an experience, a feeling, or a thought, written by someone who is then called a poet or poetess. Just like a song, a piece of poetry follows a certain rhythm. It can have different patterns and formats as well.
According to Oxford Languages, “Poetry is literary work in which the expression of feelings and ideas is given intensity by the use of distinctive style and rhythm; poems collectively or as a genre of literature.”
Britannica also says, “poetry is 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.”
A few examples of poetry types are Haiku, Sonnet, Free Verse, Elegy, Ode, and Limerick. Some good and famous pieces of poetry that you should read, to understand how this literary format works, are An Ode to a Nightingale by John Keats, The Road Not Taken by Robert Frost, The Solitary Reaper by William Wordsworth, and Still I Rise by Maya Angelou.
Who is a Poet/Poetess?
A poet or poetess is simply someone who writes poetry. In the examples mentioned above, John Keats, Robert Frost, William Wordsworth, and Maya Angelou are all poets and poetesses. Although they are writers of their own kinds and types, anybody who writes poetry is a poet or a poetess.
The History of Poetry
Poetry is otherwise a verbal art. It dates back to ages, when poetry was recited in the form of hymns and chants in large gatherings.
According to Wikipedia, “The oldest surviving speculative fiction poem is the Tale of the Shipwrecked Sailor, written in Hieratic and ascribed a date around 2500 B.C.E. Other sources ascribe the earliest written poetry to the Epic of Gilgamesh written in cuneiform; however, it is most likely that The Tale of the Shipwrecked Sailor predates Gilgamesh by half a millennium.
The oldest epic poetry besides the Epic of Gilgamesh are the Greek epics Iliad and Odyssey and the Indian Sanskrit epics Ramayana and Mahabharata. Some scholars believe that either the Mahabharata or the Tibetan Epic of King Gesar is the longest example of epic poetry in history.”
In today’s age, there is a rise in the popularity of poetry as an art form, wherein people perform poetry readings in the form of ‘Open Mics’ where an audience gathers and people can read their own pieces aloud. Open Mic poetry sessions are a generally popular event type all around the world, today. Open Mics are a type of performance poetry.
Why Poetry is So Appreciated Globally
Today, people celebrate occasions with poetry slams every now and then. Poetry slams are poetry recitations, where people come together to recite their pieces of poetry and express their thoughts in the form of interesting formats.
Poetry is known to ease the soul as something very soothing and therapeutic. Writer’s Digest says, “Biblio/Poetry Therapy is a creative arts therapy using the written word to understand, and then communicate, feelings and thoughts. Poetry is typically short, but largely emotional. Writers get in touch with sentiments they might not have known they had until it was down on paper.
Depression and anxiety are among the top two mental illnesses being treated with Biblio-therapy, and through poetry, one can start to understand the hindrances and blocks being formed around their mind. Expressing how one feels is difficult. I’ve found that poetry is one of the best outlets.”
This explains how poetry is therapeutic for the ‘writer’. It’s true, anything literary which is also understood in depth by the human brain can resolve a number of conflicts. That is why, some people say, that with words, any war can be solved.
Writer’s Digest also mentions, “For those who have a harder time expressing themselves, reading poetry can have a similar positive effect as writing it. Reading poetry allows one to see into the soul of another person, see what is weighing on their minds and on their hearts, and can open doors to feelings that are sometimes suppressed until that door is opened.
Reading can shine a light on all those dark and hidden crevices of the heart and mind once thought permanently closed off to the world.”
With this, Writer’s Digest is explaining how along with the writer, poetry is also therapeutic for the ‘reader’.
Elements of a Poem
- Sound: The most important element of poetry is the ‘sound’ it produces. Sounds are produced largely by the expression of the reciter, or how one showcases their body and their words in a poetic form.
As Grammarly explains it, “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.”
- Rhyme: Another very important element of poetry is the rhyme scheme. As we will also talk more about this in the rest of this article, a rhyme scheme makes the poem what it is supposed to be. Some people like to keep their poems simple, by rhyming it like aabbccdd, which means the first two lines rhyme, the third and fourth lines rhyme, and so on.
It completely depends upon how you want your poem to read, sound, and be perceived. Then, you can decide your rhyme scheme. We will talk more about this in the next section.
- Rhythm: Every piece of poetry has a rhythm. A poem therefore, sounds mellifluous, and can sometimes also be converted into a song by songwriters and singers.
Another important part that makes a poem’s rhythm is the Meter. According to Masterclass, “Meter is the basic rhythmic structure of a line within a work of poetry. Meter consists of two components: 1. The number of syllables and 2. A pattern of emphasis on those syllables.
A line of poetry can be broken into “feet,” which are individual units within a line of poetry. A foot of poetry has a specific number of syllables and a specific pattern of emphasis.”
To read more about this, read Masterclass’ article through the hyperlink.
How to Write a Poem: The Ultimate Guide
- Decide the Topic and Theme: The foremost step is to of course decide a topic for your poem, as well as a theme. Do you want to write about the lone wolf who always remained quiet in your class when you were a child? Or will your poem be about your mother? The easiest way to breakthrough and come to a conclusion for a topic is to simply start writing.
Some writers also advise to start writing your pieces in order to determine what your niche exactly is. Once you’ve written about 20 poems or articles (depending upon what you’ve decided to write), you’ll eventually realise what your niche is and what the subject matter is that you are always fascinated to write about. It’s that easy: Simply start writing!
But of course, the theme is also important. Will you have any characters in your poem? Where is the chronicle set? Is it in a jungle, or on your living room’s sofa, or just your imagination? Oh, and is it a romantic comedy, or a thriller, or a horror poetry piece? Play with your imagination as much as you can and you’ll soon have an answer.
- Decide the Type of Poetry: A Free Verse is where the writer doesn’t care about the rhyming phrases or sentences in the poem, but writes however their heart tells them. As easy as it may sound to write a Free Verse, this type of poetry format can be challenging for some writers.
There are many other formats you can pick, like writing an Ode. An Ode is “a lyric poem, typically one in the form of an address to a particular subject, written in varied or irregular metre”, according to Oxford Languages.
This format works best when you’ve to dedicate your writing to someone, by directly addressing them. An Ode to a Nightingale by John Keats is the perfect example for this.
There are many other poetry formats you can pick from. Another interesting one is Limerick. A Limerick is “a humorous five-line poem with a rhyme scheme aabba”. You must now be wondering what aabba is. It’s simple! The first two lines of this five-line poem rhyme with each other, as well as with the last line of the poem. Similarly, the third and fourth lines of this piece of poetry rhyme as well.
You can pick any rhyme format if you wish to give your poem a little twist of your own. Some people like to keep it simple by writing an aabbccdd format. You can also try the abababab format.
Poetry is all about experimenting with your words, thoughts, types, and feelings. This article won’t ask you to choose anything ‘wisely’, because poetry is meant to be played with. So, play well!
- Read Similar Pieces of Poetry: The best thing to learn from anything literary or related to writing is that you learn more and more with every new thing you read. Whether you’re writing a book or writing poetry for yourself, the more you read, the more you can gather new inspiration for your own writing.
Hence, the point becomes very clear: Along with practising writing poetry, keep reading similar pieces, to keep yourself updated. Poetry is not about keeping up with trends. Your old-school masterpieces can find traction on your blog as well, if it rings the bell of the readers’ hearts. It all depends upon how relatable your writing is.
Follow writers who write poetry on Medium, WordPress, Twitter. You can also read poetry submissions in the daily newspapers. If you don’t like newspapers, download their apps. Some media houses have specific sections for poetry and reader contributions. Keep glancing over those columns to read what other people write.
An excellent Instagram page to follow for poetry is Terribly Tiny Tales. They write beautiful poems and other literary pieces. They have even invented their own writing formats on their app!
- Finalise the Structure of Your Poem: If it helps and if your poem is in a story format, you can also start scribbling the tiny details in your diary. For example, the first stanza would talk about the woman – your protagonist – entering the room and everyone then falling silent because of her appearance.
The second stanza could be about her meeting with the person she was meant to meet in your piece, them having a conversation, the entire world disappearing as if they are the only ones present in that moment.
These could be followed by your own story-formatted stanzas. If you have a structure, you might find it to be more convenient to write your piece of poetry, because now, you have a plan, and outline. Your next step would be to only fill in the colours on the canvas!
- Start Writing, Will You? Yes, you can now start to write. Put your thoughts to paper, or your mobile notes, or on your laptop screen on Google Docs. And then, hit the publish button on your blog. Did we mention how important it is for you to have your blog as well? If you like writing, why hold yourself back?
Grammarly says, “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.”
It’s true, thinking a lot about your writing will only ruin it even further. Let your sentences flow freely and let your imagination go berzerk.
As Masterclass also mentions, “If you don’t feel you have exactly the right words to open your poem, don’t give up there. Keep writing and come back to the first line when you’re ready. The opening line is just one component of an overall piece of art. Don’t give it more outsized importance than it needs (which is a common mistake among first time poets).
- Keep Editing Till It Sounds Near Perfect: Read your poem aloud, or maybe share it with your friends and family. Does it sound perfect? Of course, it won’t be flawless, but do your words satisfy you? Keep editing your expressions till the last moment.
If you want to publish your poem somewhere, give it a good glance before finalising it and presenting it to the readers’ eyes.
The idea is to keep everything minimal, but also ensuring that you’re able to express everything properly.
How to Put Your Poetry Collection to Good Use
- Own a Blog or Website: Owning and regularly writing on a personal blog or website is a great way to practise regularity, consistency, and experimentation. Your personal platform gives you the freedom to try new things, during any point in your day.
You can think of writing a Haiku for someone close to you on their birthday and publish it on your blog, or you can write a piece of poetry which is actually a research piece, to spread awareness about a particular topic.
When you have a blog or a website to write on regularly, you are basically putting your words and your efforts to good use. This way, more and more people can read your work and this also becomes like a portfolio which you can share with people when trying to get freelance gigs or applying for a writing job.
Hence, it’s always good to have a blog or a website to put your poetry to good use.
- Submit Your Work to Publications: Whether it is BuzzFeed, VICE, NoticeBard’s Writer’s column, or a newspaper like The Indian Express, keep submitting your work to different publications and media houses, to stay in sync with the writing industry. Most of these media houses also pay you a certain amount for contributing to their platforms, so always discuss the payment aspect of things.
Getting published somewhere is a great way to celebrate your writing. You can pat yourself on the back for coming this far. NoticeBard’s Writers’ column publishes a lot of Calls for Submissions, which you can regularly check to know which magazines and media publications to submit your work to. For now, you can check this article which has a list of the initially published Calls for Submissions on our website.
- Google Docs: Fun fact: We wrote this article on Google Doc too, before publishing it for our readers. Google Docs is truly a necessary tool for writing poetry. The best part of writing on Google Doc is that all your progress is saved online and you don’t have to worry about pressing CTRL + S after every paragraph you write.
You have a Gmail account, right? Your progress will automatically be saved on your email account, without you having to worry, then!
- Grammarly: Yes yes, we know. We mention all these tools in every article we write about writing. But aren’t these some really elite tools you need to write? Once you start using them, you’ll be used to them as much as we are. Grammarly will help you read between the lines and edit meticulously, while also maintaining your own tone of voice in your poetry. Try it out!
- Write Better Poetry by Writer’s Digest: Ah! Finally a new tool! Write Better Poetry by Writer’s Digest has a number of poetry prompts for you that they publish every now and then. Undergoing a writer’s block? This page has got your back. Simply head to the hyperlink and you’ll find numerous resources like Interviews with Poets, Poetic Forms in various languages, and much more!
Writing poetry is truly an art form. People who practice this art are called poets or poetesses. Poetry soothes your mind, body, and soul, and is absolutely therapeutic to the human brain, especially for people with mental illnesses like anxiety and depression.
Poetry-writing is simple, easy, and effortless, especially when you know your topic, theme, discussion, along with your thoughts that you wish to put to paper. Some people like to gather their thoughts on paper – in their diaries – or on their laptop/mobile screens. It depends completely on how you’re comfortable with writing.
There are some simple ways in which you can write poetry. As a part of How to Write Poetry: The Ultimate Guide, here are some ways to help you start writing your poems. Let’s summarise:
- Decide the Topic and Theme
- Decide the Type of Poetry
- Read Similar Pieces of Poetry
- Finalise the Structure of Your Poem
- Start Writing, Will You?
- Keep Editing Till It Sounds Near Perfect
Do read about the different Elements of Poetry as well as How to Put Your Poetry Collection to Good Use.
On an ending note, watch this video on Everything You Need to Write a Poem (and How it Can Save a Life) by Daniel Tysdal published on TEDx Talks.
Share this article with your friends who would like to learn more about How to Write a Poem, and don’t forget to watch Dead Poets Society!
Image taken from here.