Tips for Writing Poetry

March 16, 2010 by Deb Hanson · 1 Comment · Poetry

 poetry letters

“I think that I shall never see
a poem lovely as a tree…”
- from a poem by Joyce Kilmer

So, you want to write poetry?
 Getting started: Inspiration and Motivation

 1. Tap into your feelings – are there things that make you happy, sad, angry, frustrated? Express these feelings in poetry.

 2. Be observant – what’s happening around you every day? Are there things going on at home, at school, in the community, or the world that inspire you or make you wonder, think or feel? Capture them in poetry.

 3. Capture the moment – did you see someone do a kind deed, say thank you, pick up trash, cry? Did you notice the flags flying, the sounds of the birds singing when you woke up today, the sirens in the distance? Can you hear the clock on the wall ticking away? Are you focused on the here and now, the present moment – what’s happening this instant in your life?

4.  Let nature inspire you! When was the last time you spent some time outdoors, enjoying a sunset or walk on the beach or in the park, sitting on the grass and watching the clouds? Take some time to let nature tell you its stories.

 5. Keep a journal – jot down things you observe, feel, think about, and dream about. Use these “captures” to create your poems.

 6. Read the newspaper or watch the TV News…is there something going on that makes you want to scream, shout, laugh, cry, jump for joy? What is it? Express those feelings in words…

 7. Make lists – list your “top three” and tell why they made your “top three list”…then write about them!
-favorite moments in life
-people you admire most/heroes
-most inspiring events or things
-objects that fascinate you
-dreams of what you will be like as an adult
-places you love
-issues you care about

Elements of Poetry
Poetic Devices 

  1. Alliteration – using a string of words that begin with the same consonant (soft summer sun)
  2. Assonance – consecutive words in a phrase with similar sounding vowels (Hear the mellow wedding bells. — Edgar Allan Poe, “The Bells“)
  3. Dissonance – collection of unpleasant sounding words to create harsh effect (“black cylindric body…ponderous side-bars, dense and murky clouds” – from W. Whitman’s “To a Locomotive in Winter”)
  4. Simile – comparison using “like” or “as” (your lips are like a red, red rose)
  5. Metaphor – comparison NOT using “like” or “as” (“the fog comes on little cat feet” – from “Fog”, by Carl Sandburg)
  6. Personification – giving a non-human thing human qualities (“the stapler bit the piece of paper angrily”)
  7. Oxymoron – pair of words that contradict (jumbo shrimp)
  8. Couplets – pair of consecutive lines that rhyme (a,a  or b,b)
  9. Imagery – vivid descriptions – appeals to senses (sight, sound, touch, smell, hearing)
  10. Onomatopoeia – words that sound like what it means (hiss, buzz, rattle, bang, ZZZZ)
  11. Rhyme – repetition of sounds (cat, hat)
  12. Rhythm – see below

 Meter/Rhythm in Poetry: emphasis on certain syllables 
1. Iamb – unstressed/stressed; hel-LO, de-STROY
2. Trochee – stressed/unstressed; MON-day, GIVE me
3. Dactyl – GO a-way, MER-ri-ly; BEAU-ti-ful
4. Anapest – in-ter-VENE; tam-bour-INE
5. Spondee – SHUT UP; HUM DRUM

  Forms of Poetry: here are just a few, there are many more

 Simple rhyme schemes: a,b,c,b  or  a,b,a,b    or a,a,b,b,    or a,a,a,a

Haiku – 17 syllables, 3 lines, 5,7,5

Cinquain – 5 unrhymed lines; 2, 4, 6, 8, 2 syllables

Ballad – about fatal or romantic relationships (80′s rock songs)

Free Verse – rhymed or unrhymed, free of conventional meter, often “conversation-like”

Sonnet – 14 line poem in iambic pentameter – abab, cdcd, efef, gg

Epic – a long narrative about a hero

Limerick – 5 lines, rhymed and humorous (lines 1,2, & 5 all have 3 beats and rhyme, lines 3 and 4 two beats and a rhyme)

Lyric – created to be sung with music

Quatrain – four line stanza – most common verse structure in poetry

Have fun writing! And be sure to enter the VPAA Poetry for the Planet Contest.


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