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A Short Guide to Writing Poetry

by Team PoetrySoup

Poetry, according to Percy Bysshe Shelley, ‘reproduces the common universe of which we are portions and percipients, and purges from our inward sign the film of familiarity which obscures from us the wonder of our being’. This quote puts into words what poetry is all about.

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Every essay writer has at one point or another attempted to write poetry. Yet, the ‘anyone can write poetry’ advice is rather useless to those already aware they want to - or need to - come up with some verse. That’s because it can be challenging to compose poetry from the first shot.

Writing poetry for beginners revolves around the idea that one should put into conscious and written words the abstract feelings and thoughts we encounter every day. In this short guide to writing poetry, we want to illuminate this path and encourage others to try their hand at writing some verses.

Get going

Start writing. For any writer, that is the first and most important instruction. It’s perennial too, as writers need to write in order to be known as writers. So write as much as you can, as often as you can. Without wishing to immediately contradict this advice, write regularly, even though this practice doesn’t have to fill every waking moment of the day. Instead, try to write at an allotted time; just like taking certain kinds of medicine, your body will get used to it, and you will find yourself getting into a steady pattern of poetry production.

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Flex those creative muscles

Poetry writing exercises are a great way to fill this allotted time you have assigned. Exercises can be rather strict - only write in a certain meter, use a certain form like a haiku, or write three lines about the object that’s behind you.

Writing according to briefs means that you are focussing those creative energies somewhere, which can help you create connections in your brain between forms, functions, and appearances. Choose a subject and see what you can tease out of it when you give it your undivided attention.

Set an aim

Writing poetry can feel aimless, and those who don’t appreciate poetry will find it rather pretentious or nonsensical. So think about what you want your poetry to do, who you want to read it, and how you think it should be read. Explain in detail all these things, and write a manifesto of sorts. You don’t have to obey every edict you come up with; these rules and ideas might seem silly once they’re out on the page. Essentially, you must form your writing into a craft and seek to understand if you are perfecting your craft or wandering in circles.

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Do some more reading

Poetry looks and sounds are very different depending on which era and location they stem from. Consequently, by reading more you will find yourself able to reproduce and re-invent aspects of poems you enjoy and despise.

Get hold of a good anthology so you could skim through thousands of years in a single hand movement. Unlike novels, poetry can be found in the wild. Poetry is frequently used as a cheap advertisement or cultural enrichment strategy on public transport and in public places. Analyze why you think this poem was chosen, and whether you think it is any good.

Revisions and edits

If you write something, is it perfect as it comes out? This depends on your ideas around poetry and the idea of value. Some writers think that the initial bursts of creativity are best left untouched and unedited. For free-form poetry, this is perfect. However, if you are trying to tell a story through verse, like Beowulf or a piece by Milton, then you might want to give that piece a second glance and some polishing.

Reading your poetry out loud is one way to refine the text. What sounds smooth and fluid in your head may be clumsy and obdurate when it is read loudly to yourself in the mirror.

Poetry is a fickle thing: it is widely disliked and widely loved, it is easy to write and hard to master. The best solution to these paradoxes is to write for yourself, give this habit an appropriate time to form, and not expect to sell thousands of copies of your poetry book.