Everyone can write poetry, but, like all other art forms, it takes a lot of practice to write good poetry — especially poetry you want to publish. (Many publishing companies will provide the resources for you to self-publish and create your own book of poetry.) Here are a few pointers that can help every aspiring poetry writer…
(Thanks to Writer’s Voice intern, Josh Wilder, for the following.)
Ready, Set, Goal!
First, set out the goals you hope to achieve with the poem. What do you want to describe to the reader? Do you want to convey a political view, recount a moment in time or simply describe a scene of natural beauty? No matter what your specific goal is, decide on it before you start writing. By writing this way, you can make sure each line is working towards the goal and the end result will be tight and focused writing.
Cut The Schmaltz
Next off, avoid excessive sentimentality. Most good poems will appeal to the reader’s emotions in one way or another, but letting specific emotions dominate your poem can take away from the literary quality of the poem in the end. Writing with a melodramatic tone of either happiness or sadness can also distract or discourage your reader from continuing on with the poem. As with any good literary technique, use in moderation and keep the effect of the poem balanced between strong emotions and strong word and sentence use.
Make Like Michelangelo
Great poetry often leaves the reader with vivid images and a connection to the scene. The best poems out there will affect the reader’s six senses: sight, smell, touch, taste, hearing and motion. For example, you can describe a beautiful vista, the thick and overwhelming smell of smoke, the jagged edges of the face of a cliff, the sweet juices flowing from a blueberry, a loud smashing sound or a world class runner sprinting past you. The possibilities are endless for powerful description, so have a blast creating memorable passages.
Make It Real
When making decisions on word choice for your poem be concrete instead of abstract. Concrete words are those that describe things that are tangible and can be felt with the abovementioned six senses. For example, blue, dog, or sharp are all concrete because when you read the word you can imagine exactly what they are like.
Abstract words, on the other hand, create various different ideas and thoughts in different people. For example, freedom, anger or love are all abstract words because you cannot pin down a universal meaning that would apply for everyone. By using concrete words in the poem you will be able to convey your message more effectively to more readers and thus avoid confusion or misinterpretations of your work.
Leave The Doggerel To The Puppies
Perhaps one of the most important tips to keep in mind when writing poetry is to avoid rhyming excessively, and do so only if you feel it is absolutely necessary. While rhyming can be a good device occasionally, if you overuse a specific rhyming scheme your poem could end up sounding like a nursery rhyme or a sing-along.
Thou Shalt Edit
Last but not least, be sure to revise constantly and always edit your work to make it the best you can. And read great poetry for inspiration!
Here are some useful links to poetry and how-to poetry sites: