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
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.
Poetry starts in childhood with nursery rhymes and the beloved works of authors like Shel Silverstein and Dr. Seuss. But what comes next?
There is a vast universe of poetry out there, and it’s hard to know where to begin. Many young writers are turned off by poetry because most of what they’re exposed to in school is ancient or obscure. Many students believe poetry is strictly for lovers, greeting cards, and the academic elite. But in the world of poetry, where few do more than scratch the surface, there is something for everyone. So, where does one begin?
You can start exploring poetry with a few, basic resources. Mary Oliver’s A Poetry Handbook is foremost among them.
A Poetry Handbook
It’s a simple but comprehensive guide to reading and writing poetry. It’s a perfect introductory text — ideal for beginners and for folks who have strayed from poetry but feel like it’s time to come home.
Under 125 pages, this handbook is a quick and easy read with straightforward examples and clear explanations. Oliver talks about how to read a poem, how to imitate the greats, and then gets into the technical aspects of poetry, covering sound, literary devices, line, and form. Finally, she takes a look at free verse.
A Poetry Handbook touches on reading and writing poetry. It include poems and excerpts by accomplished poets and uses them as examples to teach you the nuances, structure, and techniques that go into poetry writing.
Mary Oliver herself is an acclaimed poet, and her tone is friendly and witty and easy to follow. From the text:
Something that is essential can’t be taught; it can only be given, or earned, or formulated in a manner too mysterious to be picked apart… Whatever can’t be taught, there is a great deal that can, and must, be learned.
If you’ve ever been captivated by the magic of language, then you have already experienced the power of poetry. The concepts you’ll learn in working with poetry can be applied to all forms, including fiction, journalism, and copywriting. So do yourself a favor and start collecting some writing resources that deal exclusively with poetry reading and writing. Having read dozens of books on poetry, I recommend starting with A Poetry Handbook.
Poetry writing requires no license, no education, and no experience. All you need to get started is a pen and some paper.
In fact, lots of writers discover their calling because they are compelled at a young age to write poetry.
But there’s a big difference between writing poetry and writing good poetry.
Opinions about the art and craft of good poetry writing are many and varied. Some hold poetry to a high academic or literary standard. Others appreciate the fact that poetry writing provides a creative and healthy form of self-expression.
I believe that all poetry is good in the sense that anything that comes from the heart or anything that speaks truth is good. The poem itself may not win any awards, but the act of writing it can be mood-altering, healing, and maybe even life-changing.
Many poets pursue the craft with a clear goal: they want to get published. Others write poetry because they find solace in the work. They don’t care about readers, publication, or awards. And plenty of writers fall in between; they write for the joy of it but also with a desire to continually write better poetry with hopes of getting published one day.
Writing for Yourself
There’s nothing wrong with writing poetry for yourself. Poetry writing has tremendous therapeutic and creative value. However, many young poets think they can get published and earn recognition without ever truly applying themselves. They don’t read poetry, they don’t study the craft, they are not knowledgeable about poetic forms or literary devices. They make a lot of arguments:
- I don’t read poetry because I don’t want other poems to influence mine. I want my poetry to be raw.
- I write from my heart. It’s a form of self-expression.
- Poetry is an art form, so there are no rules.
- It’s my style (I’ve heard this about poems written in all-caps, for example).
- My mom/friend/teacher said I have talent, and that’s all I need.
There’s nothing inherently wrong with any of these arguments. But if you want to get published — if you want your work taken seriously by the literary world — you’re going to have to step up your game. You’ll have to stop making excuses and learn how to write better poetry.
Tips for Writing Better Poetry
When we first start writing poetry, our work is amateurish and awkward. We might make poems that are cute or silly, poems that don’t make much sense, or poems that are murky, excessive, or verbose. We express ourselves but fail to generate poems that compel readers. But with practice and by putting a little effort into our poetry writing, our poems can blossom and become riveting — for us and for our readers.
Here are five tips to help you write better poetry, which, if taken seriously and practiced regularly, will help you improve your writing:
- Read poetry. Too many young and new poets don’t read poetry. I get it. A lot of the poems you come across just don’t capture your attention. The stuff you read in school was unwieldy. But if you look hard enough, you will discover good poetry that you will fall in love with. Go on a personal quest to find it. In order to grow as a writer, and especially as a poet, it’s imperative to familiarize yourself with the canon, which has already proven to resonate with readers. By seeking out established poets whose work you admire, you will build a roster of mentors. Try reading poems aloud. Keep a notebook or journal in which you can write your thoughts and responses to various works, and jot down your favorite excerpts. Bonus tip: you can also watch or listen to recorded or live poetry.
- Write regularly: Beginning poets have a tendency to take up the pen only when the mood strikes. By engaging your creativity on a daily basis, the very practice of poetry writing will become habitual and ingrained as part of your daily routine, and it is through daily practice that our work improves.
- Allow yourself to write badly: Allowing yourself a large margin for writing poorly or below your own standards will give you a freedom in your writing and room to explore your poetry on broader and deeper levels.
- Study and learn to speak in poetics. Poets have their own language. When they mention couplets and iambic pentameter, you should know what they’re talking about. Study literary devices and learn how to use them in your own poetry. That alone will kick your work up a few notches.There are many books available that will help you understand poetry intricately and will familiarize you with terms and definitions, such as alliteration or trochee. Such books will provide detailed analyses and teach you new ways to read and write poetry. To get started, look for A Poetry Handbook by Mary Oliver or try The Practice of Poetry by Robin Behn and Chase Twichell.
- Do poetry writing exercises. It’s easy to sit down and just write a poem. Writing exercises present challenges and provide new ways of thinking and being creative within an established framework. Some poetry exercises will produce your best work but also teach you to approach poetry writing in an innovative and more imaginative manner.
- Embrace best practices and techniques. It’s true that there are no rules in poetry, but there are a few best practices, like eliminate any unnecessary words, don’t arrange words awkwardly to fit a rhyme scheme, and use imagery. When it comes to poetry, you really want to follow the old adage: show, don’t tell.
- Seek feedback from objective, well-read people who are familiar with poetry. When something in your poem isn’t working for one of them, don’t say “Oh, that’s my style.” And if it is your style, then consider that your “style” isn’t working.
- Revise. Revising your work goes hand in hand with allowing yourself to write badly. You can always go back and make changes. Some new writers insist that once they write a poem, that’s it. They believe the art is in the original creation and it should never be altered in any way. While this is certainly one way of looking at poetry as art, there is another philosophy that believes revision is necessary for true creative freedom. In knowing that you can go back and make changes later, you will give yourself more liberty in your initial writing, opening creative channels to greater possibilities.
Poetry Writing is an Adventure
Poetry teaches us how to access rich language and produce vivid images in our writing. It is one of the best ways to develop comprehensive and creative writing skills, even if poetry writing isn’t really your thing. Fiction and creative nonfiction writers often work with poetry for the sole purpose of expanding their language skills. They may not like poetry or have no intentions of publishing poetry. They just want to be better writers.
Poetry writing will take you on an exciting adventure through language if you let it, and the very act of working to improve your poetry is a journey that many writers find exhilarating.
Do you have any tips for writing better poetry? Share your thoughts by leaving a comment.
And keep writing (poetry)!
Poetry is the most under-appreciated form of writing in the world today. Yet poems are ever-present in our lives. As children, we learn rhythm and language from nursery rhymes, and poems are read aloud at most major life events: baptisms, graduations, weddings, presidential inaugurations, and funerals, to name a few.
Today’s writing prompts are inspired by poetry but that doesn’t mean they have to inspire a poem. Use them to write anything you want: a short story, a blog post, a journal entry, or a freewrite. You might even try writing a song, keeping in mind that song lyrics are a type of poetry in their own right.
Some of these writing prompts require that you use an existing poem. Your poem choice can be a nursery rhyme, a Dr. Seuss story, or song lyrics. Be open and creative, and have fun!
- The hallmark of great poetry is its imagery. A truly compelling poem paints a picture and invites the reader into a vivid and realistic scene. Choose an image or scene from one of your favorite poems and start writing.
- One of the most famous poems in the English language is “‘Twas the Night Before Christmas,” a lengthy ode to a favorite holiday. What’s your favorite holiday and why?
- Not all poems rhyme, but many do. And song lyrics often rhyme too. Other types of writing may incorporate less obvious rhymes. Give rhyming a shot.
- Some poems are more than just poems. They tell stories. “‘Twas the Night Before Christmas” is one example. Shakespeare’s plays are another. Try writing a poem that is also a story, play, or essay. Or try writing a story or essay that is also a poem.
- Read your favorite poem and take a few minutes to contemplate it. Then, write something about the poem. Why do you love it? How does it make you feel? What makes this poem so special to you?
Choose whichever writing prompts speak to you the most. Once you’re done, come back and tell us how it worked out. And keep writing!
Do you ever use writing prompts to inspire a writing session? Have you found them helpful? Got any writing prompts of your own to share? Leave a comment!
“Poetry is when an emotion has found its thought and the thought has found words.”
― Robert Frost
Emotions are fickle beasts. Sometimes they’re clear and brilliant: we’re happy, sad, frustrated, or angry. But emotions can also be complicated, layered, and conflicting. Sure, we’re happy but we’re also kind of annoyed about something. We’re sad but we also have something to be glad about. When emotions are textured and gritty, they are difficult to describe.
I believe music is the single best expression of human emotion, but poetry is a close second. Capturing complex feelings in words without the support of music is a marvelous feat. Only the deftest poets do it well.
Four-time Pulitzer Prize winner Robert Frost is one of the most well known and beloved poets in the American literary canon. He knew how to convey emotions through language.
I’d like to share an excerpt from my favorite Frost poem, “The Road Not Taken.”
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I–
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.
By definition, poets take the road that is less traveled by. Some poets gently steer away from the mainstream; others rail in the face of convention.
According to Wikipedia, “In 1894 [Frost] sold his first poem, ‘My Butterfly. An Elegy’ …for $15 ($398 today).” These days, getting $15 for a poem would be an incredible feat. Getting $398 would be impossible. But there was a time when there was a market for poetry, when ordinary people (who were not writers, artists, or poets) bought and read poetry. Maybe back then people understood that poetry had the unique ability to interpret and explain emotions. Where do we turn for those interpretations and explanations today?
Quotes on Writing: source
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!
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).
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.
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.
Today’s post features an exercise from my book, 101 Creative Writing Exercises, which is filled with exercises from various forms of writing, including fiction, poetry, and creative nonfiction. It will inspire you while imparting useful writing techniques that are fun and practical.
This exercise comes from “Chapter Eight: Free Verse.” The creative writing exercises in this chapter focus on free-form poetry writing.
I chose this exercise because it’s fun and inspiring. It asks you to use a song as a foundation for writing a poem. Many song lyrics are poems in their own right. This exercise focuses on rhyming but it also shows you how to look at your writing’s musicality and encourages you to think about rhythm and meter in your work.
Give it a try, then come back and tell us what you learned. Feel free to share the poems or lyrics that you write from this exercise in the comments section.
Rock and Rhyme Poetry Writing Exercise
Rhyming poetry goes in and out of vogue all the time, except when it comes to children’s poetry, which is almost always packed with fun and clever rhymes.
Some poets take to rhyming rather easily, and sound-a-like words roll off their tongues like butter. Other poets struggle, dancing through the alphabet and flipping through rhyming dictionaries just to find a rhyme as simple as bat and cat.
Poems that rhyme may be a challenge for some, but they’re still fun to write and a blast to read (they are especially fun to read out loud). Rhyming is good practice for exploring musicality in language and experimenting with word play.
All you need is a song. A rhythmic and rhyme-y song without a lot of fancy runs. You’ll want a relatively simple tune. A short pop song will work well. Forget about classical music because most of it doesn’t have lyrics, and what we’re doing requires words. We’re writers, right?
Rewrite the lyrics but keep the rhythm and rhyme scheme intact. You don’t have to replace the rhyme ring and sing with a rhyme like thing and bling. But you do need to find another rhyming pair (like dance and pants). Your rhymes can be as strict or as loose as you want.
If you do just a few of these, rhyming will start to come more naturally to you, and your rhymes will flow with greater ease.
Try to rewrite the song on your own, but if you’re really struggling, hit up a rhyming dictionary or a thesaurus.
Tips: You might want to start with a short, three-chord pop song. Then, graduate yourself to longer and more complex tunes. If you know all the lyrics to your song, that will be immensely helpful. If not, do an online search to find the lyrics to the song you want to work with.
Variations: Here are a few variations that you can use for this exercise:
- Try it with nursery rhymes: Hey diddle diddle.
- Try it with a famous poem: Shakespeare anyone?
- Try it using a song without lyrics: You’re on your own!
Applications: Working with rhyme helps you think more carefully about word choice and points your focus to the sound and rhythm of a piece of writing. This is also an excellent exercise for anyone who has thought about writing song lyrics or children’s poems and stories.
I Rocked Some Poetry
Here’s my attempt with the first chorus from 80s one-hit wonder 99 Red Balloons by Nena.
The Original Verse
You and I in a little toy shop
Buy a bag of balloons with the money we’ve got
Set them free at the break of dawn
Till one by one they were gone
Back at base, bugs in the software
Flash the message: something’s out there
Floating in the summer sky
Ninety-nine red balloons go by
My Attempt to Catch the Rhyme
Shoes untied at a little bus stop
Sigh and whistle a tune ’cause it’s all you’ve got
Set your feet on the tired green lawn
Tie your shoe, stretch and yawn
Five o’clock, the bus should be here
Time is precious, the deadline is near
Waiting till the bus comes by
Ninety-nine cents just for a ride
Are You Ready to Get Down?
Try it for yourself and post a verse or a chorus in the comments! If you’re looking for a song lyric resource, then check out 99 Red Balloons and 100 Other All-Time Great One-Hit Wonders, which is packed with awesome song lyrics that are ideal for this exercise.
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?
Good Grammar in Poetry Writing
I’m often asked by writers and poets how they should handle grammar, capitalization, and punctuation in poetry. When it comes to grammar rules, is poetry writing the exception?
Many poets demonstrate grammatical expertise, neatly parking periods and commas in their designated spaces and paying homage to proper capitalization.
Consider the following poem and how it follows the rules of grammar. Note that in poetry writing, the traditional rule is that the first letter of each line is capitalized regardless of whether or not it starts a new sentence.
Aunt Jennifer’s Tigers
By Adrienne Rich
Aunt Jennifer’s tigers prance across a screen,
Bright topaz denizens of a world of green.
They do not fear the men beneath the tree;
They pace in sleek chivalric certainty.
Aunt Jennifer’s finger fluttering through her wool
Find even the ivory needle hard to pull.
The massive weight of Uncle’s wedding band
Sits heavily upon Aunt Jennifer’s hand.
When Aunt is dead, her terrified hands will lie
Still ringed with ordeals she was mastered by.
The tigers in the panel that she made
Will go on prancing, proud and unafraid.
Writing Poetry Without Grammar Rules
Poets don’t always follow the rules, which is why poetry is attractive to writers who are especially creative, rebellious, and enjoy coloring outside the lines.
Grammar rules, particularly spelling and punctuation, are nothing more than a creative tool for many poets who choose to dismiss these rules altogether or use the them to decorate and add aesthetic elements to a poem.
Many poets have skirted grammar with great success. Many more have failed. E.E. Cummings is well known for giving grammar the proverbial finger, but he takes his anarchy one step further and actually alters basic sentence structure, and manages to do so quite effectively.
anyone lived in a pretty how town
By ee cummings
anyone lived in a pretty how town
(with up so floating many bells down)
spring summer autumn winter
he sang his didn’t he danced his did.
Women and men (both little and small)
cared for anyone not at all
they sowed their isn’t they reaped their same
sun moon stars rain
children guessed (but only a few
and down they forgot as up they grew
autumn winter spring summer)
that noone loved him more by more
when by now and tree by leaf
she laughed his joy she cried his grief
bird by snow and stir by still
anyone’s any was all to her
someones married their everyones
laughed their cryings and did their dance
(sleep wake hope and then)they
said their nevers they slept their dream
stars rain sun moon
(and only the snow can begin to explain
how children are apt to forget to remember
with up so floating many bells down)
one day anyone died i guess
(and noone stooped to kiss his face)
busy folk buried them side by side
little by little and was by was
all by all and deep by deep
and more by more they dream their sleep
noone and anyone earth by april
with by spirit and if by yes.
Women and men (both dong and ding)
summer autumn winter spring
reaped their sowing and went their came
sun moon stars rain
Cummings has dismissed capital letters altogether and he uses punctuation seemingly at random. Yet the poem works. Imagine it with the proper grammar rules applied and you’ll quickly realize that his way is more effective for this piece and what he’s trying to accomplish with language.
Poetry Writing – Where Rules and Creativity Cooperate or Collide
As the poetry canon grows beyond measure, poets increasingly reach for creative devices to make their work stand out.
Toying with grammar rules is one such device, but it is not something that can be approached carelessly. If you choose to forgo the rules because you don’t know them rather than as a creative technique, your lack of knowledge will show and the poem will present as amateurish. Of course, that’s true for all types of writing: learn the rules, and only after you have learned them, go ahead and break them.
I salute anyone who breaks the rules in the interest of art and great poetry writing just as much as I admire poets who craft meter and verse within the confines of grammar. So for this language-loving poet, either way is the right way. Walk the tight rope or jump from it and see if you can fly.
What are your thoughts on applying grammar rules to poetry writing? Are you a stickler for good grammar, even in your creative or experimental work, or do you like to bend and break the rules? Share your thoughts in the comments.
Poetry is one of the most magical forms of self-expression. You can express thoughts, ideas, and feelings in a poem that are otherwise difficult, or even impossible, to say in any other form of communication.
And poetry has long been the language of lovers. Millions of writers have used poetry to declare their affections, obsessions, and heartbreaks.
Today’s poetry prompts celebrate lovers and the poems they write.
But Love Poems Are SO Cheesy
It’s easy to scoff at a love poem. Many love poems use the same words, present overly familiar images, and convey similar sentiments. That’s what makes them SO cheesy.
Writing a unique and compelling love poem is always a challenge. After all, the more something’s been done, the more difficult it becomes for anyone to do it well.
Luckily, poetry prompts can help.
The exercise is simple and straightforward. Choose one of the lists below and then write a poem using all the words in the list. If you’re feeling up to the challenge, try to write a single poem using all the words from all the lists, or mix and match words from the lists at will.
I’ve even included some cliché terms for those of you who are fans of cheesy love poems.
See if these poetry prompts don’t bring out the lover in you.
|Cheese Please||Erotica||Obsession||Heartbreak||Moving On|
Spread the Love
Once you write your little ode to the one you cherish, go ahead and send it–if you dare. You can also post the pieces you write based on these poetry prompts in the comments.
If you have any poetry prompts to share, feel free to post them in the comments!
A poem can come out of nowhere and land on the page fully-formed in just a few minutes. A poem can also be the result of hours (or weeks) of laboring over line breaks, word choices, images, and rhythm.
Poems are funny little things, appearing out of nowhere and disappearing for no apparent reason. Poets have to be diligent: be prepared when a poem arrives and if it doesn’t, go out and chase it down.
There are many ways to write a poem, and not all of them involve sitting at a desk staring at a glaring screen or curled up in a chair with a pen and notebook. Instead of waiting for poems to fall out of the sky, try some of these poetry writing ideas and activities, and go catch them!
Poetry Writing Ideas & Activities
Below are some poetry writing ideas mixed with activities to get poetry flowing.
- Take a poetry walk. Grab a recorder or a notebook and then set out on foot. You can use a timer and stop every five minutes to jot down a line, or take a break whenever you see something interesting or inspiring and note it. When you get home, work it all into a poem.
- Take a snapshot. Write a descriptive poem, choosing a simple subject or scene. The idea is to write a poem that feels like a picture.
- Cut and paste. Grab some old magazines, pamphlets, and junk mail and cut out the most interesting words and phrases, then tape or paste them together to make a poem.
- Get personal. Your deepest secrets, innermost desires, regrets, dreams, and fantasies are all excellent sources of inspiration.
- Write a response poem. Choose a poem that you admire or that confounds you — perhaps one that disturbs you or contains some element you disagree with. Then, write a poem in response to it.
- State your positions. Write a political poem, a philosophical poem, or just explore your ideals through image-rich language.
- Translate a poem into modern language. Many modern readers don’t care to read poetry that was written hundreds of years ago because the language has changed so much since then. So take one of those poems and update it into a more contemporary vernacular. Or, if you’re bilingual, translate a poem between two languages.
- Explore your beliefs. What do you value? Which morals do you hold dear? Share your beliefs and express your spirituality through a poem.
- Write to music. You can use a song with or without lyrics: give it words or give it new words!
- Pay tribute. Write an ode to someone you admire, respect, or love. For a more interesting twist and a challenge, write a tribute poem to someone you’re not that crazy about.
- Go big. Get large sheets of paper or use chalk on the driveway and draft a poem in huge, sweeping letters.
- Get in form. Many of today’s poets don’t experiment in form. Surprisingly, it tends to open rather than stifle creativity. It’s definitely worth a try.
- Make temporary art. Chalk and whiteboards are great for temporary poems. The idea is to create something, and then let it go. You can also write on paper and burn it, shred it, or black it out but it’s not quite the same.
- Use doodles. Get a blank piece of paper and allow yourself to doodle on it as you write a poem. See if your doodles give your poem a new angle, either as part of the piece or by giving you new ideas.
- Get in shape. Choose a shape in silhouette form, and then fill the shape with words to build a poem into the shape: hearts, animals, people, and symbols (anything recognizable in outline form) work well.
What do you do when your poetry isn’t flowing? Do you have any poetry writing ideas or activities to share? If so, leave a comment, and keep on writing.
It’s easy to think of poetry as soft, flowery, and convoluted. It’s the stuff of Shakespeare, greeting cards, and children’s books. It’s precious, sweet, and erudite.
But some of the most exciting modern poetry defies all those stereotypes, and you need look no further than the slam poetry and spoken word communities to see how poetry can be infused with rage, passion, and humor.
These poets have mastered the art of ranting and raving via performance poetry. It’s no wonder that during live recordings of some of their most impassioned poems, the crowd can be heard hooting and hollering.
Today’s poetry prompts encourage you to write a poem ranting and raving about something that really chaps your hide.
You can use these poetry prompts to write any kind of poem you want. But for some reason, poems that rant and rave work exceptionally well in performance. These pieces have luster on the page, but they explode when the poet reads them aloud, so I recommend working on a poem that is meant to be performed. There is a list of links to some excellent recordings of rant poems at the end of this post.
How to use these poetry prompts:
Choose one of the lists below and write a poem using all of the words in the list. You can also write a poem mixing and matching words from these lists or using all of the words from all of the lists.
|Social Consciousness||Personal Affronts||Road Rage & Pet Peeves|
Once you’ve finished your poem, feel free to come back here and share it with us.
Need some ideas to help you get started with these poetry prompts? Below are links to a few examples of rant poems that are beautifully executed–well written and brilliantly performed. Once you follow the link, you’ll need to click the pod icon to listen to the performances.
WARNING: some of these poems may contain offensive language. But they show the breadth of subject matter that a rant poem can tackle. Some are full of anger, others are imbibed with grace, and a couple are sprinkled with humor. Enjoy!
- How to Write a Political Poem – Taylor Mali
- Lit; or To The Scientist I Am Not Speaking To Anymore - Cristin O’Keefe Aptowicz
- A Modest Proposal - Jack McCarthy
- Anti-War Rant - Jamie Kilstein
- Advice to Rihanna - Mahogany Browne
All these poems and many more can be found on IndieFeed Performance Poetry, which is one of my favorite podcasts. I highly recommend checking it out (you can also subscribe via iTunes).
Some academics argue that poetry is an intellectual pursuit, but that’s only partially true. Poetry is also artistic and emotional. Anyone can enjoy poetry, but studying it closely can help you better appreciate its nuances.
Learning various poetry writing techniques and literary devices (which are often taught in the context of poetry) can bring your writing to a more sophisticated level.
Whether you write fiction, memoir, or blog posts, reading and writing poetry will equip you with language skills that make your writing stronger, more vivid, and more compelling.
The Practice of Poetry
The Practice of Poetry was required for a poetry class I took when I was at university. Although it was one of my college textbooks, I have always found it incredibly accessible for writers at any level of experience.
The Practice of Poetry is jam-packed with some of the best poetry writing exercises ever conceived. In fact, this book is a compilation of writing exercises that were contributed by many different writers, poets, and teachers. The subtitle is “Writing Exercises from Poets Who Teach,” and many of the contributors are published poets who are also instructors in the craft of poetry writing.
The book is well organized and carefully walks you through various approaches to poetry writing. It begins with a chapter titled “Ladders to the Dark,” which focuses on creativity and generating ideas. Next, it moves into more concrete concepts like imagery and metaphor, voice and subject, structure, and musicality. The book closes with the chapter “Major and Minor Surgery,” which examines revision and writer’s block.
I appreciate a well annotated book. The Practice of Poetry includes appendices that point to further reading and works referenced throughout the text. There is also a section that lists short bios of all of the contributors. Finally, there’s a detailed index for easy reference.
The book definitely fulfills its promise: lots of practice in writing poetry. It doesn’t teach much in terms of form, concept, and literary devices, and it only includes a handful of poems for study, but it does give you plenty of action in terms of writing.
Poetry Writing Resources
Many writers think poetry is too artistic or too convoluted. But poetry is magical and can be quite accessible. It will open your mind to new possibilities. All writers will benefit from a little poetry.
This book will stretch and flex your writing muscles and open many new doors that you never knew existed. If you want to write poetry but are at a loss for where to begin, this book will set you in motion.