I love writing poetry. It’s a really great emotional outlet, even when I can’t articulate how I’m feeling.
There are certain ingredients that are important when writing a poem, but poetry is one of those awkward little things where, just because something works for one poem, it doesn’t mean it’ll work for another.
There are so many types of poetry; you can do much more with the look, content and language of poetry than any other type of writing.
Poetry offers an unbelievable amount of creative freedom, but people often run away from it. Poetry needn’t be something to be scared of: with the right tools and the right direction, anyone can find a type of poetry for them.
This list contains some ingredients you can use in your poems to get you started.
Please keep in mind that some areas are more important than others when it comes to poetry, and that just because something is in the list, that doesn’t mean that you HAVE to have it in your piece. The omission of some features can be as powerful as their inclusion.
What are you trying to say?
The message of your poem is the most important part.The message of your poem is the most important part. Click To Tweet
It could be something as simple as your love of cupcakes, or it could be something more complex, like a relationship. Whatever it is, your message should be clear without stating the obvious or patronising the reader.
You can use visual language in your poem to explain to the reader what’s happening without making it blindingly obvious.
The layout of your poem can reinforce this message further…
What will your poem look like on the page?
Will it be a concrete poem? Will the length/shape of each stanza enhance the poem in any way?
Think carefully about how the poem looks on the page. A poem—particularly a concrete one—can be as visual as a piece of art.
If you’re not sure how to lay your poem out, experiment with different forms. What you’ve written may work better as a concrete poem, or it may fit a more structured layout, like a sonnet. A strictly structured poem looks very neat and tidy, but if you’re writing about things falling apart, it may not be the best layout to choose (unless you’re being ironic).
Some poets have their preferences for particular structures, others prefer to write with a lack of structure.
Write to whatever form fits your poem and writing style the best. It may take you several drafts of a poem to find the right form for it, but that’s ok!
3. Point of View
Whose perspective are you writing your poem from?
Are you writing it in first, second, or third person?
The perspective you write your poem from can dramatically change its meaning and impact on the reader.
I once wrote a poem about a mother/daughter relationship, and did it in first person, observing the two characters. It was hugely confusing to read, but once I omitted the unnecessary narrator and wrote it in first person from the perspective of the daughter, it started to make more sense. Observational poems can work, but make sure that you’re clear about who is whom. Poetry doesn’t work well (particularly short poetry) with lots of nameless characters.
Voice is important in everything that you write, and poetry is no different.
You could write something in a colloquial way, an old-fashioned way, a funny way, a serious way, a sarcastic way…in any way you like. The important thing is to make sure that the tone you’ve chosen fits the poem and the message you want to get across. Don’t write something in a serious way if you’re trying to be funny, and don’t go overboard with the jokes if you’re trying to be serious.
5. Rhyme Scheme (or Lack of)
I REPEAT: NOT ALL POEMS HAVE TO RHYME.
Right, now that that’s out of my system…
There’s a common misconception that poems have to rhyme. A lot of classic and well-known poems do. It’s true that if you want something that will stick in people’s heads or sound good read aloud rhymes help. But they’re not necessary.
A lot of modern poetry doesn’t rhyme, and it still works just fine. If you force your poem to rhyme, the reader/listener will be able to tell. The important thing in poetry isn’t whether or not it rhymes, it’s whether or not it resonates.
Now, repeat after me:
6. Grammar (or Lack of)
Grammar is incredibly important in poetry. Its absence can tell you as much as its usage. However, it’s important in poetry to know the rules before you can break them. This allows you to manipulate it to your advantage and even alter the meaning of your poem.
Line breaks can be effectively used as an alternative to punctuation, but if you’re not using any punctuation, make sure that the reader can still follow it.
Removing grammar it can say a lot about your narrator’s/character’s state of mind, but sometimes it just looks out of place, particularly in an abstract or concrete poem.
One thing to remember, though—make sure you have a reason for omitting grammar, and you’re not just doing it because you don’t like/understand it. If you want some help with your grammar, My Grammar and I (Or Should That Be ‘Me’?) is one of my favourites.
You may find that your poem naturally fits into or suits a particular rhythm. However, much like how rhymes aren’t integral to writing great poetry, neither is having a consistent rhythm. Free verse gives you the chance to do whatever you like with your poetry. Some find it exhiliarating, others terrifying. You don’t know until you try.
Poetry allows us to express ourselves in a way that combines imagery with words. There’s such a variety of poetry about that there really is something for everyone if you’re willing to take the time to experiment.
Whether it’s a sonnet, rondel, triolet or haiku, you’re bound to find something perfect for you! (Sorry. Had to.)
If you’ve never written a poem before, why not give it a shot using the guidelines above?
Over to You
What ingredients do you think are essential to write a poem? Are there any rules you feel apply to every poem?
Enjoy this post? Why not check out the rest of the writing ingredients series?