How to Write a Poem - Poetry Techniques 1 by CWN

The question "What is poetry" used to be easier to answer. If it rhymed and had a regular meter (a type of rhythm), it probably was a poem. As they say, "If it walks like a duck, quacks like a duck, looks like a duck, it must be a duck.” These days, not all poems rhyme or fit into standard forms. And if you look for a response to the question, "What is poetry?" you'll find lots of musings about how extremely important and meaningful poetry is, how it's the true essence of our world, the oxy......
Step 1

What to write about?

The first step in any poem is coming up with something to write about. Don’t feel that you have to choose profound or “poetic” material. Anything can be the subject for a poem. Great poems have been written about such topics as a gas station (Elizabeth Bishop,”The Filling Station”), a clothesline full of laundry (Richard Wilbur, “Love Calls Us to the Things of the World”), and pieces of broken glass on the beach (“Amy Clampitt, “Beach Glass”).

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Step 2

Getting Outside Yourself

In his book Poetry in the Making, the poet Ted Hughes talks about how to write a poem about an animal. The key, he says, is to concentrate hard enough on the animal, to choose the words that best capture the animal you have in your mind. You can use this approach with any subject matter.

In the beginning, you don’t have to worry about “style,” about writing in a “beautiful” or a “poetic” way. In fact, if you start to think about “being poetic,” it can distract you from what you’re actually writing about and hurt your poem. Have you ever tried to have a conversation with someone who was trying to impress you? Then you know how boring this can be. The person is really thinking about himself or herself, not about the conversation. Similarly, if your attention is focused on “being poetic,” if you are worrying about what impression your poem will make, then that takes your attention away from the animal or weather or whatever the subject of your poem is.

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Step 3

Expressing your insights Part 1

So far, I’ve talked about paying careful attention to your subject matter. But paying attention is obviously not enough - you also have to communicate your insights to the reader. Here are some tips that will help:

Don’t state the obvious. Everyone knows that grass is green, and that snow is cold. If you mention grass, readers will suppose it is green unless you inform them otherwise. It’s not necessary to mention the color of the grass unless you have something to say about it that the reader doesn’t already know.

Step 4

Expressing your insights Part 2

But don’t force originality. If the grass is actually green, you don’t have rack your brain for another way to express the color just to be “different.” Keep looking, focus on your subject matter, to find the real details that make it unique, the hidden meaning.

Step 5

Expressing your insights Part 3

Choose the right words. I’m not talking about words that are “poetic” or “impressive,” I’m talking about words that express your subject matter. In his essay about animal poems, Hughes talks about words as if they themselves were living animals, each with a certain appearance and sound and way of moving.

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