• 4-minute read
  • 2nd October 2019

7 Beginners’ Tips on Writing Poetry

Oscar Wilde once wrote, “A poet can survive anything but a misprint.” It’s lucky for poets, then, that we provide an outstanding poetry proofreading service! But before anyone can proofread a poem, someone needs to write it.

So, what goes into a good poem? If you’ve never written any poetry before, you might not be sure where to start. But with our seven top poetry tips for beginners, you’ll be ready to begin writing in no time.

1. Types of Poetry

Poetry is a hugely varied art form, including everything from silly limericks to Homeric epics. Some common poetic styles and forms include:

  • Acrostics – Poems in which the first letter of each line spells a word.
  • Haikus – A Japanese poetic style comprising three lines and 17 syllables.
  • Lyric Poetry – Poems that express emotions or feelings.
  • Sonnets – Poems with 14 lines that follow one of several rhyme schemes.
  • Shape Poems – Poems where the words on the page create an image.

If you’re not sure which style appeals to you, try reading different types of poetry to get some some ideas of where you might want to start.

2. Focus on the Little Things

It can be tempting to make every poem about BIG subjects, such as love or suffering. But some of the most effective poetry is about everyday things. William Carlos Williams, for instance, took inspiration from a red wheelbarrow to write a short poem many now consider a classic.

William Carlos Williams’ muse.

Focusing on the little things like this can help root your poetry in the real world. So, if you’re not sure what to write about, why not pick something from your own experience? Maybe something you take for granted? Think about how you can turn the ordinary into the extraordinary!

3. It Doesn’t Have to Rhyme

Rhyme may be one of the first things you think of when you hear the word “poetry.” But poems don’t have to rhyme. And relying too heavily on rhyme can make a poem seem simplistic.

Luckily, though, poems don’t have to follow any rules! There’s even a term for poems that don’t have a rhyme scheme or regular rhythm: free verse. These poems typically sound more like speech.

The point is that, while poems often use familiar techniques like rhyme, the poet (i.e., you) decides whether and how to use these techniques. So be creative, even if it means breaking the rules.

4. Avoid Clichés

Like rhyme, metaphor, simile, and other literary devices are common in poetry, offering ways to make your language expressive. And looking at how people have used them can be a great source of inspiration.

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However, try to avoid clichéd imagery in your writing.

Thousands of poets have compared a lover to the sun, for example, so this image has lost its impact. Picking something unlikely for a poetic image, on the other hand, can make a huge impression. For instance, only John Cooper Clarke has written about love by saying, “I wanna be your vacuum cleaner/breathing in your dust.”

A truly romantic image.

5. Writing Exercises

Like any skill, writing poetry takes practice. Therefore, it’s a good idea to try out some poetry writing exercises now and then, especially if you’re stuck for something to write about. You could try writing a poem in the style of your favorite poet, for example. The key is to keep writing and learning!

6. Read Your Poetry Out Loud

Not all poetry is meant to be read out loud, but it can be a great way to get a different perspective on a work in progress. See how it sounds when you read it and whether that gives you any new ideas.

If you want a little support, you could even join a poetry workshop or writing group. The idea of reading your poetry in front of strangers might seem intimidating at first, but your fellow poets should make you feel welcome and the feedback can help you improve as a writer.

7. Embrace Failure

When starting out, your poetry might not be quite at Wordsworth’s level. But that’s okay! Poetry, like any art, is about experimenting. And even a “bad” poem is a chance to learn something.

The key to success is to write, seek feedback, and then write some more!

And don’t give up on a poem just because it doesn’t work right away. Instead, leave it for a day or two and come back with fresh eyes. A little editing might just reveal a diamond in the rough!

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