Writing poetry

Let me start by saying that writing poetry is an intensely personal activity. Poems are personal artefacts that come out of experience and are linked to how we interpret the world. So, in a sense, no one can teach you to write poetry if that creative heart or desire is not right there within you. Poems help us transcend the ordinariness of life and take us to worlds of our imagination.

That being said, and given that you have that deep passion to write and experiment with words, there are some principles for writing poetry that might be helpful.

1. Poetry is sensory, so use your senses and describe. Instead of “I love you”, frame your words in images such as “your love is as quiet and as deep as a still pond on a sunlit day”.

2. Poetry is impressionistic, not persuasive. You are giving an impression and emotion in poetry, which the reader then interprets. It is not your job as a poet to tell the reader what to believe or convince them of something. A poem is a sharing or an emotional connection. It is not “I hate war”; it is “the smoke of war lingered over the desolate landscape”.

3. Poetry is experimental. You are trying to find new shapes and dispositions with words. So, cliches and conventional forms are not suited to poetry. So, “it sent a shiver up my spine” could become “it possessed every nerve and every impulse in this expectant body”.

4. Poetry is rhythmical. Poems are, arguably, meant to be read or performed. Their flow is an intrinsic part of their beauty and power to evoke emotion. So, working on the rhythm and flows of a poem so that it drips like nectar off the tongue is an important part of the repertoire of the poet.

5. Poetry comes in all shapes and all sizes. There is no standard length or shape to a poem, though many poems come in stanzas or verses. Some poems rhyme while other poems sound more like conversation. You are free to create poetry that you like and that gives you pleasure. Short poems of four lines, long poems of many verses, it is all poetry.

6. Poetry takes work to make it work. To create poetry that says what you want it to say, you need to be prepared to work at it. It often takes many drafts and attempts to get a poem to read well and communicate its impressions. If you want to be a poet be prepared to have lots of rough notes and lots of rough drafts and to be never fully satisfied with your poems.

And finally, last but definitely not least….

7. Read lots of poetry. I believe that poetry begets poetry. As you read poetry and experience poetry you can be inspired and you can learn some useful techniques by published and experienced poets.

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