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        How to Write a Poem: Step-by-Step Guide to Writing Poetry

        • calenderMar 13, 2024
        • calender 6 min read

        Whether you’re writing poetry for a class or as a hobby, it can be difficult to get started. Precisely how do you write a poem, and how to write a good poem at that? Do poems have to rhyme? How to write a free verse poem? The questions are endless, but the process is more or less the same.

        So let’s unravel the art of poem-writing! We’ll tell you everything from how to start a poem to how to end one. But first, you’d probably want to go through our article on what a poem is, its elements, and its types. Now, let’s get started!

        Enhance your poetry with an expert review!

        Here’s how to write a poem:

        As you can see, this is a complete guide on how to write a poem for beginners. Let’s take an in-depth look.

        1. Read at least ten other poems

        All good poem writing comes from reading. If you want your poem to resonate with readers, you need to find out what resonates with you. Ideally, you should be a habitual reader of poetry. But if you’re writing a poem for class or tying it out as a hobby, try reading at least ten different types of poems

        Here are some poems you should read as a beginner:

        • The Sun Rising by John Donne (Metaphysical poem)
        • In Kyoto… by Matsuo Basho (Haiku)
        • Sonnet 18 by William Shakespeare (Sonnet)
        • I Wandered Lonely as a Cloud by William Wordsworth (Pastoral lyric)
        • Because I could not stop for Death by Emily Dickinson (Lyrical poem)
        • The Road Not Taken by Robert Frost (Narrative poem)
        • Jabberwocky by Lewis Carroll (Nonsense poem)
        • Howl by Allen Ginsberg (Free verse, “Beat epic”)
        • Tonight by Agha Shahid Ali (Ghazal)
        • Concrete Cat by Dorthi Charles (Concrete poetry)

        Likely, you won’t understand many of these poems on the first read; most readers don’t. Read them three or four times and once you get the gist, look up their explanations. That’ll clear things up and show you the possibilities in every type of poetry.

        2. List topics you feel passionate about

        Do you want to know how to write good poetry? Know what you’re writing about. Your poem will ring hollow if you write from a shallow state of mind.

        “Poetry is the spontaneous overflow of powerful feelings: it takes its origin from emotion recollected in tranquility.” —William Wordsworth

        Now, emotion is quite important in poetry, but your poem doesn’t always have to come from an emotional place. You should, however, care deeply about your topic. You can write a good poem only if the topic matters to you.

        Here’s how you can narrow down some topics:

        • Reflect on your life experiences, friendship, family, romance, joy, and heartbreak.
        • Think about philosophy: What are your big existential questions?
        • Observe plants, animals, and natural phenomena and document how they make you feel.
        • Ponder upon the social issues around you.
        • Try freewriting and journaling.
        • If you want to challenge yourself, use poetry writing prompts.

        3. Consider poetic form, but not too much

        The type of poem you write can affect your poem-writing process. A haiku, for example, dwells on stark images whereas a limerick is likely to be funny. If you really want to try your hand at a concrete poem, your theme, word choice, and tone will change accordingly. Plus, some forms like sonnet or ghazal are inherently trickier than a haiku or free verse.

        So, you should consider the poetic form you’d be most comfortable with. Make sure not to get caught up in the rules, though. Everyone’s creative process is different. Some poets thrive under the limits of form while others prefer the freedom of composition. Find what works for you and practice it a few times.

        4. Start writing, prioritizing sound

        Sound is incredibly important in a poem: It’s responsible for rhythm, which makes poetry pleasing to read. So when you begin to write, pay attention to how your words sound together. Try to create rhyming words, consonance, and assonance as you write. If you’re unsure about this, watch some poetry recitations online and compare them to written poems. This will help you “hear” the words as you write them down.


        “Nary a grin grinned Rudolph Reed” —The Ballad of Rudolph Reed by Gwendolyn Brooks



        “The lady is a sight

                a might

                a light” —Le sporting-club de Monte Carlo by James Baldwin

        You’re probably wondering how to start a poem when you’ve never done it before. It’s simple, really: Just start! No one’s first attempt is Nobel-worthy, but that’s not the point. Simply focus on getting your words out as creatively as you can. If you happen to use a startling image or a tender metaphor while you’re at it, all the better!

        It’s best to use pen and paper on your first try. It’s not only easier to organize your thoughts and cancel out lines, but also quicker. Plus, physical activity can help you focus better. 

        Does poetry have to rhyme?
        No, poetry does not have to rhyme. Many poems achieve a musical effect through assonance alone while many others don’t have a musical effect at all. It all depends on your taste and preference while writing poems!

        5. Google synonyms, antonyms, and rhyming words

        As beginners, it’s difficult to find the right words for your poem. So it’s perfectly fine to use Google or other tools to look for rhyming words, synonyms, or homophones. Even seasoned poets sometimes have to google synonyms while writing poems!

        Make sure you’re not asking an AI to produce a poem for you, though. That would defeat the purpose of the exercise! (Not to mention, AI-written poems lack originality, nuance, and soul.) But AI tools can be extremely useful while hunting for that slippery word that’s just the right fit in your line.

        6. Create original and striking imagery

        Imagery is the art of painting a picture using words, and you’re likely to do this in your poem without even realizing it. So pay attention to the images you create and make sure they’re not typical. This is quite important when learning how to write poetry for beginners. Images like a rose, the moon, and the nightingale are so overdone in poetry that they can cheapen your poem.

        Depending on the tone and theme of your poem, imagery can even be jarring and disturbing. Here’s an example of how to write such a poem:

        “What a thrill –

        My thumb instead of an onion.

        The top quite gone

        Except for a sort of hinge


        Of skin,

        A flap like a hat,

        Dead white.

        Then that red plush.” —Cut by Sylvia Plath

        Observe how Plath creates the original and raw image of the cut thumb. She uses metaphor (hinge of skin), simile (a flap like a hat), and color (dead white, red plush). You can also describe the senses of sound, smell, taste, and touch to create unique images.

        So, make sure that the images you use are vivid and striking. Also, check whether they’re appropriate for your poem: Your images shouldn’t stick out for the wrong reason!

        7. Use literary devices

        Remember consonance and assonance? Those are literary devices or tools that make your writing more interesting to read. There are more of these, and you should use them in your poem:

        Simile: Comparing dissimilar objects using “as” or “like”.

        “O my Luve is like a red, red rose” —A Red, Red Rose by Robert Burns


        Metaphor: Comparing two objects by saying that one thing is another.

        “‘Hope’ is the thing with feathers -” —“Hope” is the thing with feathers by Emily Dickinson


        Personification: Giving human characteristics to non-human entities.

        “The fog comes

        on little cat feet.” —Fog by Carl Sandburg


        Symbolism: Using symbols to depict ideas or qualities.

        The raven in Edgar Allen Poe’s poem The Raven symbolizes the narrator’s descent into madness.


        Oxymoron: Placing contradictory terms together.

        “Parting is such sweet sorrow.” —Romeo and Juliet by William Shakespeare


        Hyperbole: An exaggerated statement.

        “Belinda smiled, and all the world was gay.” —The Rape of the Lock by Alexander Pope


        Repetition: Repeating a word or phrase for impact.

        “Break, break, break,

        On thy cold gray stones, O Sea!” —Break, Break, Break by Alfred, Lord Tennyson


        Juxtaposition: Placing two things together for a direct comparison.

        “Some say the world will end in fire,

        Some say in ice.” —Fire and Ice by Robert Frost

        Of all the tips on how to write a poem, this can be the toughest for beginners. In the beginning, using these poetic devices may come off as crafty or put-upon, but you’ll get better at it with practice. When in doubt, think of proverbs and adages: You’ll find the best figures of speech used naturally!

        8. Choose an appropriate title

        A poem deserves a fitting title; it’s sort of a crowning moment while writing poetry! If you’ve got a strong first line in your poem, you can just use that as the title. Another method is to use the central image, symbol, or theme of your poem as the title. You can even use an interesting line connected to your poem, so your title starts the poem before your first line does.

        Whatever route you choose, the title of your poem should be impactful and fitting for the poem. Here are some great examples:

        • Night Sky With Exit Wounds by Ocean Vuong
        • Wild nights – Wild nights! By Emily Dickinson
        • The Language of Dust by Asotto Saint
        • A Small Needful Fact by Ross Gay
        • [Didn’t Sappho say her guts clutched up like this?] by Marylyn Hacker

        9. Edit and proofread your poem

        The biggest rule of editing any document is to leave it alone for at least a week. This way, you can come back to your poem with a fresh, (slightly more) objective perspective. If you spend this time reading, you’ll have many examples of how to use literary devices in a poem. Enriched with this new knowledge, you can examine your poem and improve it further.

        Here’s a poetry editing checklist for your poem:

        • Read your poem aloud. Can you improve its rhythm and sound?
        • If you’ve followed a meter, count the syllables and check the stress pattern.
        • Check line breaks and stanzas to see if the poem can be more impactful if it’s structured differently.
        • Examine your word choice and try out variations and synonyms where you’re unsure.
        • Check your images: Are they vivid? Are they appropriate?
        • Ensure you aren’t using any cliches.
        • Remove all spelling, punctuation, and grammar errors.

        The last step can be tricky for new poets since you have to balance poetic license with readability. This is precisely where poetry editing services can step in, helping you refine your poem with expert advice. If you can’t hire an editor, seek feedback on your poem from family, friends, or teachers.

        That’s about everything you need to know about how to write a poem! Now, start reading poems so you can start writing one. You can begin brainstorming and list down all ideas for poem writing. If you’d like some more writing tips, here are some resources that can help:

        Frequently Asked Questions

        Found this article helpful?


        Prasanna Linkedin

        Prasanna is on a little break from academia and spends his time compiling fiction writing tips. He enjoys poetry, mythology, and drawing lotuses on any surface he can find.

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