Writing a poem can be intimidating, but it’s also one of the most rewarding ways to creatively channel your life experiences into art. Even if you aren’t looking to poetry as an outlet for expression, knowing how to shape a stanza can teach you how to have fun with language in new and exciting ways.
Ready to write a poem? If you’re ready to put pen to paper and jot down some verses but don’t know where to start, we’re here to help! Here’s your roadmap to writing a poem.
1. Brainstorm where you want to begin
One of the fun things about writing a poem is that you don’t have to do it in order from first line to the last. Instead, you can pick a starting point that you then build out from.
A starting point can be a number things: a picture you saw, someone’s smile, or even a landscape you love. It might even be something personal like a feeling you’re having or a specific memory. These starting points are the reason you’re writing your poem and can help guide you as you begin to create your prose.
A great poem doesn’t have to start with you writing lines of prose. Take the time to dive into the image, feeling, or theme you outlined in step one, and learn how to put it into words.
Jot down anything that comes to mind when you think of your starting point — it can be bullet points, paragraphs, or even a drawing. This will give you a treasure trove of raw material to work with as you begin to piece together your poem.
3. Pick a form and style
Now that you have your free writing, it’s time to take a look at what you’ve written and start figuring out what shape it can take.
Here you’ll decide if you should write free verse, or maybe give it the rhyming pattern of a sonnet, or the syllabic limits of a haiku. You also need to decide on the tone of your language. Will you be short and pointed, verbose and whimsical, or something entirely different?
4. Start writing
It’s finally time to start drafting your poem! You’ve done the free-writing and found your inspiration so you are ready to go. However, actually producing your verse can be overwhelming and maybe a little anxiety-provoking. To eliminate any pressure, write your poem for an audience of one — you!
5. Read it out loud
A great poem should come alive on the page with a purposeful rhythm, whether rhythmic or discordant. To see if this is the case, read your poem out loud — line by line, and then all together.
Trying out every line can help you weigh out a choice between words to ensure you’re writing is capturing your intention. Reading out loud can also help you troubleshoot lines that just don't feel right.
6. Take a break
You’ve done a lot of work up to this point so it’s time to give your mind a break. Put your poem away for a bit. You’ve spent a lot of time with each line that they are probably blurring together and devoid of meaning. By taking some time off, you’ll come back refreshed and ready for the last step.
7. Revise your poem
Revising your poem can feel tedious, but it is an open-ended process that requires patience to produce your best work. Have fun with it and remember that poems change and evolve over time so there’s no set timeline for when you have to be done. Just make sure you give yourself the space to really listen to your words.
And if you want a second set of eyes on your poem, you’ve got a few choices. Consider swapping pieces with another writer, workshop it with a group, or even tap a professional editor to help refine your work.
Has this process awakened your inner Whitman, or are you wanting to try your hand at something more whimsical like Silverstein? Either way, playing with poetry is fun and we hope it gives you an opportunity to learn something new about the words you use.