Breaking Grammar Rules in Poetry Writing

grammar rules poetry writing

Do you break grammar rules in poetry writing?

Accomplished writers respect the rules of grammar the way an acrobat respects the tightrope — grammar might be intimidating and complicated, but we need it in order to perform.

Yet sometimes, an acrobat takes her foot off the tightrope. She does a flip or some other trick of physical prowess that seems to defy the laws of gravity and exceed the potential of the human body.

Grammar rules lend structure and clarity to our writing and gives us common ground rules that we can use to communicate clearly and effectively, just like the tightrope gives the acrobat a foundation upon which to walk.

So when does a writer take her foot off the rules of grammar so she can perform spectacular tricks? Read more

Improving Your Writing Through Poetry

improving your writing

Improving your writing with poetry.

In the world of writing, one form stands out as different from all the rest: poetry.

Poetry is not bound by the constraints of sentence and paragraph structure, context, or even grammar.

In the magical world of poetry, you can throw all the rules out the window and create a piece of art, something that is entirely unique.

That doesn’t mean writing poetry is creatively easy. It can be much more difficult to make a poem than it is to write an essay or piece of fiction. There’s so much creative space, and without any limitations whatsoever, it can be overwhelming. Read more

Three Poetry Writing Exercises

three poetry writing exercises

Stretch your writing muscles with these poetry writing exercises.

If you’re going to exercise, it’s a good idea to warm up first. That way, you’ll get your body geared up to do the heavy lifting, the hard running, and the strenuous workout.

Writing’s no different.

Poetry writing exercises are ideal when you’re feeling uninspired or lazy, or maybe your poetry is getting stale and you need to take it in a fresh direction. Perhaps you’re getting ready to embark on a big, long writing project and want to warm up first.

Today’s poetry writing exercises are good starters and don’t require you to know anything about poetry or have any experience writing poems. In fact some of these exercises don’t require any poetry writing whatsoever. Read more

Writing Resources: Perrine’s Sound and Sense

Writing resources for more compelling language.

This is one of my favorite writing resources of all time. It is subtitled “An Introduction to Poetry,” but it’s full of concepts that can benefit any form of writing.

Whether you write fiction, articles, essays, or blog posts, Perrine’s Sound and Sense will enhance the way you perceive and use language to communicate an idea, a scene, or information.

After all, language is a writer’s medium. How do we choose words and string them together? What makes one sentence so vivid while another is practically impossible to visualize? How can we play with the meaning of words in a way that is meaningful? How do we craft prose that is musical? Read more

All-Natural Poetry Prompts

poetry prompts

Poetry prompts inspired by nature.

Throughout the centuries, poets have composed meditations on seasons, landscapes, and constellations. Vegetation and animals have been the subjects of countless poems, and even when poetry is not centered around nature, it often makes references to it.

In poetry, nature may function as the backdrop — the setting in which the action takes place. Nature and various elements of nature may also hold center stage. Why are so many poets compelled to write about nature?

Consider the closing stanza from “Crossings” by Ravi Shankar:

Suspended in this ephemeral moment
after leaving a forest, before entering
a field, the nature of reality is revealed.

Source: poets.org




Words like forest and field hint at nature’s presence in this piece, but the closing line cleverly reminds us that nature is not present in individual words. Nature is reality, and it’s everywhere, all the time.

Poetry Prompts

Poetry prompts are a great way to start a writing session when you’re feeling uninspired or when you simply want to try something new. Maybe you’ve never written a poem before. Maybe you’ve never written about nature. Maybe you’ve never tackled a writing exercise. Whatever your reason, these poetry prompts are meant to provide loose guidelines for kick-starting your creativity and get you pushing your pen across the page.

Below you’ll find a list of words that relate to nature. These words are your poetry prompts. You can use these prompts in several different ways. You can choose a single word and build a poem around it as a topic. You can choose a handful of words (about five would be good) and use those words to kick off different lines or verses. Or you can challenge yourself to write a single poem with all of the words included in it.

As you read through the list and choose which words will act as prompts for your poem, relax. Engage your imagination and visualize different images that these words might describe. Build actions with them. String them together with words from your own vocabulary. Put them in lines and verses. And make a poem.

lava
droplet
gazelle
bloom
nest
snake
moon
chirp
field
stream
grasshopper
hiss
seed
fur
forest
sunlight
energy
metamorphosis
prey
birth

If you have any ideas or suggestions for poetry prompts, share your thoughts by leaving a comment. And keep writing!

Creative Writing Prompts

What is Poetry?

what is poetry

“Poetry is prose bewitched, a music made of visual thoughts, the sound of an idea.” — Mina Loy.

Prose Bewitched

When I read Mina Loy’s description of poetry as “prose bewitched,” I felt like someone had captured the true essence of poetry for the first time.

We often struggle to define abstract or obtuse concepts. One of the greatest and most challenging questions of all time is, what is art? Although dictionaries attempt to define art, no definition quite captures its essence, so artists and thinkers have tried to define art in their own words for centuries.

Like art, the definition of poetry has been explored by writers, thinkers, artists, and poets themselves. So what is it? What is poetry?

Defining Poetry




Merriam-Webster’s Dictionary gives us plenty of definitions for the word poetry:

  • the writings of a poet : poems
  • something that is very beautiful or graceful
  • metrical writing : verse
  • writing that formulates a concentrated imaginative awareness of experience in language chosen and arranged to create a specific emotional response through meaning, sound, and rhythm
  • something likened to poetry especially in beauty of expression

With all due respect to Merriam-Webster, I don’t think any of these definitions do poetry justice or truly convey an answer to the question, what is poetry?

I thought I’d take a stab at defining poetry:

Poetry is a linguistic art form that can be written, spoken, or performed. It focuses on the aesthetics of language. It is often composed in verse as opposed to prose and is more concerned with evoking an image or emotion (or both) over clearly communicating a thought or idea. Poetry makes liberal use of literary devices, such as alliteration and metaphor. It is the musicality of language, the rendering of abstract thoughts, ideas, and emotions, rendered with words and sounds. It is pictures painted with words.

As you can see, I can’t capture the essence of poetry any better than a dictionary. Poetry is all of these things and none of these things. There’s a magic in poetry that is difficult to describe in words, even though poetry itself often uses words to create magic.

What is Poetry?

I think we need poetry itself in order to truly convey what poetry is. Mina Loy said it well, so let’s revisit her explanation of poetry:

“Poetry is prose bewitched, a music made of visual thoughts, the sound of an idea.” — Mina Loy.

Do you ever write poetry? Which poems and poets are your favorites? How would you answer the question, what is poetry? Share your thoughts and ideas by leaving a comment, and keep writing poetry!

Writing Resources: A Poetry Handbook

a poetry handbook

Mary Oliver: A Poetry Handbook.

Poetry is the music of language, the fine art of the written word. It demands a broad vocabulary and creative thinking. It promotes rhythm and meter, and it invites imagery. Poetry triggers the imagination, engages the intellect, and touches the heart.

Reading and writing poetry are excellent practices for any writer. Through poetry, we learn the nuances of language, the power of showing rather than telling, and the necessity for clear and succinct wordcraft.

Basically, poetry reading and writing improves all other writing.

So, whether you are a poet or not, as a writer, a basic understanding of poetry will improve your writing exponentially. Can you succeed without it? Of course. But with poetry skills in your writer’s toolbox, your writing will soar. Read more

36 Poetry Writing Tips

poetry writing tips

Poetry writing tips.

Poetry writing is the most artistic and liberating form of creative writing. You can write in the abstract or the concrete. Images can be vague or subtle, brilliant or dull. Write in form, using patterns, or write freely, letting your conscience (or subconscious) be your guide.

You can do just about anything in a poem. That’s why poetry writing is so wild and free: there are no rules. Poets have complete liberty to build something out of nothing simply by stringing words together.


All of this makes poetry writing alluring to writers who are burning with creativity. A poet’s process is magical and mesmerizing. But all that freedom and creativity can be a little overwhelming. If you can travel in any direction, which way should you go? Where are the guideposts?

Today’s writing tips include various tools and techniques that a poet can use. But these tips aren’t just for poets. All writers benefit from dabbling in poetry. Read a little poetry, write a few poems, study some basic concepts in poetry, and your other writing (fiction, creative nonfiction, even blogging) will soar.

Below, you’ll find thirty-six writing tips that take you on a little journey through the craft of poetry writing. See which ones appeal to you, give them a whirl, and they will lead you on a fantastic adventure.

36 Poetry Writing Tips

  1. Read lots of poetry. In fact, read a lot of anything if you want to produce better writing.
  2. Write poetry as often as you can.
  3. Designate a special notebook (or space in your notebook) for poetry writing.
  4. Try writing in form (sonnets, haiku, etc.).
  5. Use imagery.
  6. Embrace metaphors but stay away from clichés.
  7. Sign up for a poetry writing workshop.
  8. Expand your vocabulary.
  9. Read poems over and over (and aloud). Consider and analyze them.
  10. Join a poetry forum or poetry writing group online.
  11. Study musicality in writing (rhythm and meter).
  12. Use poetry prompts when you’re stuck.
  13. Be funny. Make a funny poem.
  14. Notice what makes others’ poetry memorable. Capture it, mix it up, and make it your own.
  15. Try poetry writing exercises when you’ve got writer’s block.
  16. Study biographies of famous (or not-so-famous) poets.
  17. Memorize a poem (or two, or three, or more).
  18. Revise and rewrite your poems to make them stronger and more compelling.
  19. Have fun with puns.
  20. Don’t be afraid to write a bad poem. You can write a better one later.
  21. Find unusual subject matter — a teapot, a shelf, a wall.
  22. Use language that people can understand.
  23. Meditate or listen to inspirational music before writing poetry to clear your mind and gain focus.
  24. Keep a notebook with you at all times so you can write whenever (and wherever) inspiration strikes.
  25. Submit your poetry to literary magazines and journals.
  26. When you submit work, accept rejection and try again and again. You can do it and you will.
  27. Get a website or blog and publish your own poetry.
  28. Connect with other poets to share and discuss the craft that is poetry writing.
  29. Attend a poetry reading or slam poetry event.
  30. Subscribe to a poetry podcast and listen to poetry.
  31. Support poets and poetry by buying books and magazines that feature poetry.
  32. Write with honesty. Don’t back away from your thoughts or feelings. Express them!
  33. Don’t be afraid to experiment. Mix art and music with your poetry. Perform it and publish it.
  34. Eliminate all unnecessary words, phrases, and lines. Make every word count.
  35. Write a poem every single day.
  36. Read a poem every single day.

Have You Written a Poem Lately?

I believe that poetry is the most exquisite form of writing. And anyone can write a poem if they want to. In today’s world of fast, moving images, poetry has lost much of its appeal to the masses. But there are those of us who thrive on language and who still appreciate a poem and its power to move us emotionally. It’s our job to keep great poetry writing alive. And it’s our job to keep writing poetry.

What are some of your favorite writing tips from today’s list? How can you apply poetry writing techniques to other forms of writing? Do you have any tips to add? Leave a comment!

Family-Inspired Poetry Prompts

poetry prompts

Poetry prompts inspired by family.

Writers are always looking for new ideas. Sometimes we look so far and wide for inspiration that we’re oblivious to what’s right in front of us.

They say, “You can pick your friends, but you can’t pick your family.” In life, we are presented with many choices, but family is not one of them. It’s pretty much luck of the draw.

That’s why family provides excellent inspiration for writing.

Poetry Prompts

Poetry prompts are a great way to do a little writing when you’re not feeling particularly inspired. The prompts provide the subject matter and a few, choice words. Below, you’ll find four lists of words. Each list focuses on a single topic. You can use these poetry prompts in any of the following ways:

  • Choose one list of poetry prompts and write a poem using all the words in the list.
  • Write four separate poems, each based on one of the lists.
  • Mix and match random words from the lists to write a single poem.
  • Write one poem using all the poetry prompts from all the lists.
  • Bonus: Write a form poem (sonnet, haiku, etc.) using any of the words from the lists.

Writing a poem using prompts is a helpful exercise. To take it a step further, set your completed poem aside and come back to it the following day. Spend some time revising and polishing it. Delete any unnecessary words and make sure the poem contains images that readers can easily visualize. If you wrote a poem in form, check that you’ve adhered to the rules of the form. When you feel the poem is complete, add it to your pile of finished writing projects and think about submitting it to a poetry publication.

Parents Grandparents Siblings Children
Womb Roots Brother / Sister Adorable
Birth Old Childhood Responsibility
Nurture Heritage Vacation Tiny
Provide Memories Toys Growing
Protect Doting Rivalry Playground

Feel free to add to these lists by leaving a comment. Of course, each of us can come up with a host of additional words about our own families, many of which would be entirely subjective. I’ve tried to keep the lists fairly general, but as you prepare to write a poem based on these prompts, feel free to add your own words to the lists.

Discover and Share

Once your poem is completed, come back and share your thoughts about using these poetry prompts. Did you find the process easy or challenging? Which list(s) did you use? Did you polish your poem? If you’d like to share your poem, you can post it in the comments or include a link to it.

Keep writing poetry!

Creative Writing Prompts

From 101 Creative Writing Exercises: Haiku

101 creative writing exercises - haiku

Haiku, from 101 Creative Writing Exercises.

Today’s writing exercise comes from my book, 101 Creative Writing Exercises, which takes writers on an exciting journey through different forms and genres while providing writing techniques, practical experience, and inspiration.

Each chapter focuses on a different form or writing concept: freewriting, journaling, memoirs, fiction, storytelling, form poetry, free verse, characters, dialogue, creativity, and article and blog writing are all covered.

Today, we’ll take a peek at “Chapter Seven: Form Poetry” with a poetry exercise simply called “Haiku.” Enjoy!

Haiku

Although haiku appears to be one of the simplest poetry forms, it’s actually quite complex. To truly understand haiku, you need to know a little bit about the Japanese language, or more specifically, some key differences between Japanese and English. Also, traditional haiku adhere to a few pretty strict rules regarding form and content.

A haiku consists of seventeen moras or phonetic units. The word mora can loosely be translated as syllable.




A haiku is a seventeen-syllable verse. Traditionally, haiku were written on a single line, but modern haiku occupy three lines of 5-7-5 syllables.

Haiku also use a device called kireji (cutting word). This word breaks the haiku into two parts, which are distinctly different but inherently connected. The kireji is not a concept used in English, so poets writing haiku in English often use punctuation marks instead of kireji, usually a hyphen or ellipses.

The kireji provides structure to the verse and emphasizes imagery used on either side. It may not always be easy to identify the kireji in a haiku, but if you look for a word or punctuation mark that abruptly breaks the train of thought and severs the haiku into two parts, you’ve probably found it.

Another basic element of haiku is the kigo (season word). A true haiku is set in a particular season and is fundamentally concerned with nature. The kigo might be an obvious word like snow (indicating winter) or it could be vague as with a word like leaves (which can be present in any season).

Contemporary Haiku

There is much debate (and some controversy) over what technically qualifies as a haiku. Some poets merely adhere to the 5-7-5 syllabic and line structure and disregard the kireji and kigo elements. Purists insist that a poem is not haiku if it does not meet all of the traditional requirements.

Additionally, many modern poets do not write haiku that exclusively focus on nature. Contemporary haiku explore just about any subject imaginable.

The Exercise

Try your hand at writing a few haiku. For this exercise, focus on writing a poem that is seventeen syllables on three lines with the following meter: 5-7-5.

Tips: The most captivating haiku are quite lovely and use imagery that is almost tangible. Many haiku have an element of surprise or use turns of phrase that are clever, reminiscent of puns.

Variations: Write a few haiku that follow stricter, more traditional rules. These haiku are concerned with nature and include the kireji (cutting word) and kigo (season word).

Applications: Haiku remain popular and can be found in literary and poetry journals. They are also ideal for social media (especially Twitter) and are fun and quick to write. They promote clear, concise writing and can help you cultivate the art of using vivid imagery.

Give it a Try

Feel free to write a haiku and share it in the comments. Don’t forget to pick up a copy of 101 Creative Writing Exercises, available in paperback and ebook.

101 Creative Writing Exercises