5 Tips on How to Write a Poem

Okay, so there are probably about a million ways how to write a poem, but the five methods below help me when I’ve been stuck in a rut. If you have other ways to get those poems started, then feel encouraged to share in the comments below.

Here are 5 tips for how to write poetry:

  1. Capture a moment. One trap I can sometimes fall into is that I try to write the big poem or the poem filled with ideas (like love, hate, etc.). What always works better, for me anyway, is to focus on one moment that expresses an emotion or works as a metaphor for a bigger idea.
  2. Steal a conversation. My first chapbook includes a poem titled “Eavesdropping,” which is basically several conversations I overheard while in airport terminals. I took notes in the terminals and worked on the poem while doing my laundry at a laundromat. Listening to others can kickstart poems, because you’ll hear things you would never say or think yourself.
  3. Describe something or someone. Specificity strengthens a poem, and it’s hard to get more specific than throwing all your attention toward one thing or person. The only trap with these poems is that they can sometimes read like lists.
  4. Respond to something. Response poems have been around forever. In fact, an argument could be made that all poems are response poems. To what could your poem respond? For starters, you could respond to another poem, a piece of art, something someone said to you, a cool-looking car, etc. Nothing is off limits.
  5. Use someone else’s line. This is kind of like eavesdropping, I suppose, but there are poems that will take a line from another person’s poem and make that the first line. In this tradition, it is also good form to mention the poem is “after (poet’s name here).” How this can help is that you’ve already got a great line out of the way–and just need to write the rest of the poem.

How do you write poems?

As I said above, there are other ways how to write poems (and I encourage you to share those below), but these are some of my favorite techniques. If the five tips on how to make a poem mentioned above don’t work for you, that’s fine. One of the many rules of poetry is that there are no rules of poetry–more like guidelines.

Follow me on Twitter @robertleebrewer or check out My Name Is Not Bob.

Publish your poetry!
If your problem isn’t starting poems (or even finishing poems), but instead, it’s finding an audience for your poems, then I recommend the 2018 Poet’s Market, edited by me. This reference houses hundreds of publishing opportunities, including book publishers and (online and print) publications, in addition to several articles on finding an audience through getting published, speaking tips, and more!

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17 thoughts on “5 Tips on How to Write a Poem

  1. AvatarIrvines

    I think reading out loud is very important. A poem can sound completely different out loud when compared to writing it, and reading it in your mind. Some great tips here and I will be using them for my next poetry collection. Thanks.

  2. Avatarvictoriahunter

    HI everyone! I want to share my apprice to getting something down and what think helps to write every day. I believe every poet has a particular type of poetry in which they excel most at writing and can dig into more effortlessly or without much struggle. The style and approach will show up in any free write. you can free write and then circle phrases in hour poem that seem to speak or movd like a famous writer or particular form of poetry. I think this is half the battle in finding it easier to begin a poem.

    When I took a writing course online, other student kept comparing my work to imagine poets.
    I didn’t even know what imagist poetry were.
    I researched and then new where I fitted.
    For me my love of figurative language and writing a poem more imagery driven. I also learned my voice. The way I approach when I speak natural in plain speech. Writing a poem often comes hard if you don’t now how your voice move when you naturally speak.

    For ideas for poems for me. I take pictures or videos. I prefer to write about it after I have left it. This forced my mind to remember only what was most significantx what senses most represent the thing.

    So I look at a picture and then in a few minutes or so, I write about it. Covering the fact. Without getting fancy.

    For my recently print published imagist poem that got me selectwd as a distinguished writer, I wrote it along with the movement of the thing in memory in my mind, and almost every part is figurative in some way. It is a persona poem with several lines of personification shown in different ways.

    But I did not begin with this idea in mind. I am an imagist poet by nature.

    Even my short narrative are like imagist poems, they are more like a scene describe wit a little bit of dialogue.

    My suggestion would be to simply collect the senses you remember of the thing or place or person.

    For example when you write about a person especially, you make a list of things mostly connected to that person and physical thing you notice, and write any metaphors or similes for them in a separate list. This method is also good for writing about a thing.

    don’t try to get the sentences perfect yet.on the last list write any personal feeling your have in a subjective manner. It could be as questions to the reader to.

    Also when you write each sentence write without looking back at the last sentence u wrote o thinking of it. Write your poem in a document, and push the line to the next doctor so u don’t see it while u are writing the new one. Also when you are done, read your list from bottom to up, maybe the poem is coming toget her backwards, and need to be flipped.

    When you have your 3 list, then play around with the sentences, rearrange, mix them up and see what happens.

    Also you can writing them all on scrap paper and standing over them and moving them around to see what happens.
    Can also write on a message pad, as a message to someone or write it a a warning to someone about the thing.

    I wrote a poem two days ago that my poetry fans love and it was written a warning poem, in regards to a thing I came across outside.

    So warning poems, messages, letter poems are great way to get into a poem. Another one of my popular poems was the presentation of a thing. I wrote with my poem opening with someone bringing something in the room. Then I wrote my personal connection to the thing, getting into the physicalNess of the thing, getting to know it for the first time, and also any impression it left and any dialogue about the thing.
    My poem ended up attracting much attention from other poets in school group.
    You can use my approach to writing on the presentation of the thing as famous imagist poets have said to do. For me presentation is also the actual bringing of the thing. You can begin with an abstract to respect the joining thing’s also, but something must be revealed about your abstract first.

    For example if you went to write about your parents coming in the room, what do they bring with them that affect your personally and deeply? Don’t he sentimental but be honest, even if it brutally honest.

    I am a published and awarded poet. Just some suggestions.
    Learning various ways to begin poems will help you to write more poetry with least stress.

    Many blessings!

  3. AvatarShahvdd

    Hey, I’d like to learn how to write poems and I really want to learn. I hope you would teach me or even dmme asap this’s my twitter account ( _shahvd ) I’ll be waiting for you

  4. Avataradisonadolf

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  5. AvatarSally Jadlow

    I’ll hear a first line in my head. If I stop and write it down, the rest will come. If I try to think “I’ll remember that and write it later,” I’ve forgotten it and it’s gone. Therefore, I have been known to write on the steering wheel or scribble as I stir gravy. On long trips I like to write the images I see. Here in Kansas that’s not too dangerous to jot it on the steering wheel. (Not much traffic).

  6. AvatarDe Jackson

    Love this, Robert, thank you. Laughing, though, as I once titled a poem exactly that. It’s here: http://whimsygizmo.wordpress.com/2010/05/09/how-to-write-a-poem/

    As a kid and teenager, I was a Collector of Words (notice the caps). I cut words and phrases out of everything I could get my hands on, and played around with how they looked and sounded bumped up next to each other. I suppose it was my own early version of Magnetic Poetry (don’t we all wish we held the copyright on THAT?) I still do this, mostly mentally. This past month I could not get the words “apoplectic zombie” out of my head. No idea where they came from, or why on earth they liked each other. Finally wrote the poem yesterday. 😉

    1. AvatarLayla Coyle

      I love that idea! For me, there’s a high in finding new words and definitions. I feel as if I’ve stolen them, and the only way to hold them captive is to write them in my own hand and lock them away in my binder. As if they’ll escape 🙂

  7. AvatarLayla Coyle

    I love lists, so I have a binder of “poetry words” with lists of specific nouns (musical terms, types of fabric, etc.), active verbs (especially those that speak to the five senses), striking adjectives, and on and on. When I can’t think of what to write, I pick one word at complete random. Next, I go through the lists and see which other words pop out at me in relation to the first word. Once I have a set of five or six, I look at what relationships each of the chosen words have to the random word. Sometimes it’s obvious. Other times, I have to dig deep to see where I possibly made the connection- and that’s usually a better start to a poem, anyway.

  8. AvatarMary Mansfield

    I’m also a huge fan of free association/stream of consciousness writing to spark a poem, have been ever since reading Natalie Goldberg’s “Writing Down the Bones” years ago. Been doing writing practice for years, churning out lots of garbage and the occasional gem. I think it really helps in training the mind to access its creative side, after all, the mind is a muscle too and can use the exercise!

  9. Avatarmadcapmaggie

    I’ve found ‘stream of consciousness,’ especially in stressful moments, to be an interesting way to generate a poem. One way is to simply write about anything at all for a set period of time, and then try cutting it down to a poem .. however, this doesn’t work as well for me as, say, starting to write about my anxiety, fellow occupants, dingy carpet, muzak, etc, when waiting in the emergency room.

    I also find that writing about memories that haunt me can generate interesting poems — the problem is that it can take me a long time to figure out how to take it on. There are a couple of things I’d love to write a poem about, if only I could manage to figure out how I want to present it. There are a couple I’ve managed to figure out, but I have four or five versions of a particularly haunting incident that happened to my father — none of them satisfactory. This is where, for me, anyway, voice and POV are the key.

    Margaret Fieland

  10. AvatarMichelle Hed

    Great ideas Robert!

    Nature inspires me – since the majority of my poetry is written to the photographs I take, if I need inspiration, I go for a drive. I grab my camera, a notebook (always have one with me) and I drive. Different times of day, different settings, etc… all provide different inspirations. But even if you are not a photographer, just going for a drive for a change of scenery can get those creative writing juices flowing again. Happy Poem-ing!


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