How do you write poetry?

One Perspective

That's a hard question... but here goes:

To start, try writing a poem with a specific structure, like a Haiku. A Haiku is usually structured like this:

5 syllables

7 syllables

5 syllables

Write about whatever you want. Haikus are usually about nature, but the idea is to just try writing something that fits into a form. Write a couple, and read some online, and see which ones sound better. Don't try to rhyme the lines because that is not needed in this type of poem.

Once you think that you have a couple of Haikus that please you, move on to more difficult structures. Try a Cinquain or a Diamante, or any poem form you find online, but don't try anything more than 10 lines long or anything that has a rhyme scheme at first. Give yourself some room to work and don't get overwhelmed with restrictions at first.

The idea of poetry is to take a big idea or emotion or moment in time, and express it precisely. Being concise in poetry isn't just a nice idea: it is imperative.

Try rhyming form poetry if you want to, or long repeating forms if you are up for a challenge. The final challenge is free verse. It is challenging because it doesn't have a specific form. You have to have the ability to be concise and clear without limitations on your syllables, number of words, rhyme scheme or number of lines in a stanza. When given that much freedom some people tend to go back to regular writing rather than poetry.

To review, practice with forms first and then expand. Read some poetry by E.E. Cummings, David Ignatow, Billy Collins, or any poet you admire. See if you can write something similar, in that style. Think about how you can change and make it better. Write what you feel, and then change it and refine it over and over again. Ask yourself: Where should the line breaks be; What is the word that is exactly right for this idea or feeling or moment? Remember to stay concise and not to try to express too much at once. Then, if you want to go further, you can read some of the authors (Adrienne Rich comes to mind) who have written poems that are pages and pages long.

Somewhere in there, hopefully you will find your own style, and realize when it is good to follow writing "rules" and when you don't need to, for you. Unfortunately, a lot of it is just practice and feeling. If you enjoy writing, then keep doing it. Writing is its own reward in so many ways.

A Different Perspective

First: Think of a subject to write about.

Second: Ii doesn't have to rhyme. I happen to find non-rhyming poems much more beautiful, because you can really express yourself. Only really good poets can get a message across through a rhyming poem. If you like to rhyme then go ahead. You may be one of those special poets who can rhyme and express themselves.

Third: Don't try to hard. Just let your words flow. Try to base it on an emotion or message. Try to get the reader to see that message, or feel that emotion.

Fourth: Your poetry is YOURS. People write in different ways. Poetry isn't one thing, it's unlimited things. It's expressing. It's beautiful. It's unlimited. It's YOU.

Fifth: Use figurative language, similes, metaphors symbolism, or imagery. Similes are when you compare two things alike in one sentence. Example, her eyes were like a million diamonds. A metaphor is the same thing, except you call the two alike things each other. Example, Her smile is a sunrise. Symbolism is a device that uses one thing to symbolize another. For example, the phrase "Without dreams; life is a barren field; frozen with snow" (Robert Frost). Imagery is when you describe an image using sound, taste, feel, or smell through words. For example, "The tall white horses plunged through the icy water, with foam around their knees, slipping over the rocks on the opposite bank." You can see that image, right?

Sixth: Be creative! There are no real "ways" to write, it's just you. The sky is the limit!