Maybe you’re just been out for a walk in the countryside on a beautiful day. Or perhaps you’ve just met the man or woman of your dreams. You might feel very strongly about a cause, or be overcome with happiness at the arrival of a child. Whatever motivates you to think about writing poetry, the best advice of all is – just do it. Poetry is a wonderful way to express what you feel and think, a way of sharing your thoughts, and a chance to entertain others. But if you’re a bit daunted at the prospect of putting pen to paper, here are our seven tips for writing poetry, to get you started.
1. Find Something to Write about
Poetic ideas come to us all from time to time. But remember your subject doesn’t have to be huge, or clever or beautiful. Some of the best poems in literary history are about quite dull, mundane or even ugly things. All professional writers jot down ideas whenever they come, and use notebooks, newspaper and magazine cuttings and mementoes to keep their ideas fresh until they have time to develop them.
2. Keep Clear of Stating the Obvious
Writing poetry should come from the heart , be from experience or just saying how you feel. Your task is to find a new and unique thing to say about your subject. When something important happens to you, or you come across something which really moves you, it may take a while before you can express it in your own words, rather than reverting to the ones everyone else would use in the same situation. Use the time to find hidden meaning in your experience, something which you can use to put your own unique mark on it.
3. Get All Your Ideas down on Paper
Don’t worry about making a poem at this stage. Just write down the things you want to say, and work on the words themselves. Choose the right words. Precision is important at this stage. In modern speech we often use words which mean roughly the same thing without thinking, but when you’re writing poetry you have the chance to choose exactly the right word for each occasion.
4. Get Real – and Honest
Don’t fall into the trap of writing what you think is poetic language. Modern poets write in their own language, not the one used by 14th Century writers. You can, and should, be creative, but don’t use words you wouldn’t use in speech in a million years. Avoid clichés too, everyone knows sugar is sweet, and snow is a blanket. If you’ve heard a phrase a good few times before, it’s not yours and it’s not original.
5. Choose the Size and Shape of Your Poem
This is where you get to design your work. A poem can be any size or shape, so choose what suits you and your words best. Your lines may be long or short, or a combination, they may rhyme, but they don’t have to. You may prefer lots of four-line verses, or one long verse. Writing poetry includes no set rules about format. It’s up to you. Think about how it looks on the page. Remember people read poetry as well as listen to it, and the look of your poem is important too.
6. Read Aloud
Read your poem out loud, to yourself, to your family or friends, or to anyone who will listen. You will see immediately where things need to change, where a word doesn’t seem to fit, or a line doesn’t reflect how you felt when you wrote it. The sound of each word needs to complement its meaning, and fit within the line, and the poem. Ask yourself, would the listener share my experience by reading this poem if I wasn’t there?
7. Write, Re-write, Experiment
All great poems have been re-written many times. Be ready to accept ideas from other people, and don’t be afraid to experiment with them. Remember to keep all the drafts you make, so you can go back. Sometimes trying something different is the best way of testing what you wrote in the first place. Be brave when writing poetry. Take out things that aren’t working, and make all your work as good as the best bits. If you’re serious about writing, help yourself by creating a discipline around it, setting yourself time and goals.
So now all you need is our tips for writing poetry, a pen, a bit of paper, (the back of an envelope will do) some time, and a good idea. Just as the journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step, the journey of a poet begins with a single word.
Hands up the budding poets?
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