Poetry Writing Ideas and Activities

poetry writing ideas

Try something new with these poetry writing ideas and activities.

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 a notebook. Instead of waiting for poems to fall out of the sky, try some of these poetry writing ideas and activities.  Read More

Poetry: Rhythm and Meter

rhythm and meter in poetry

Does your poetry have rhythm and meter?

Rhythm is everywhere: we hear it in the hum of vehicles and appliances. We feel it when we walk or run. We see it in the very rising and setting of the sun. Even our hearts beat to a rhythm. Rhythm is built into the way we experience and perceive the world.

Merriam-Webster’s Dictionary offers several definitions for rhythm:

  • an ordered recurrent alternation of strong and weak elements in the flow of sound and silence in speech
  • the aspect of music comprising all the elements (such as accent, meter, and tempo) that relate to forward movement
  • movement, fluctuation, or variation marked by the regular recurrence or natural flow of related elements 

Poetry encapsulates all of these definitions of rhythm. But what about meter?  Read More

Poetry: Making Music with Words

poetry making music with words

Do you make music with words?

Most writers are primarily concerned with the meaning of the words they choose. Is the language precise and accurate? Do the words provide the best connotation for what the writer is trying to communicate? Does the language show, rather than tell?

But poets take language a step further and push it into the realm of music. Poets care about meaning, precision, and accuracy as well as connotation and imagery. But they also care about how words sound, because musicality is a fundamental feature of poetry. Read More

How to Construe and Convey Tone in Poetry

tone in poetry

Are you paying attention to tone in poetry?

In literature, tone is the mood, attitude, or emotional sensibility of a written work. In poetry, tone expresses the narrator’s disposition toward the poem’s subject, the reader, or the narrative itself.

We might describe a poem’s tone as irreverent, relaxed, sarcastic, solemn, jubilant, or desperate. Tone can be any emotion or state of mind, and a single poem can include a combination of tones.

When we’re speaking, our tone is expressed through inflection. We use pitch and stress to communicate the attitude behind the words we’re saying. If I say, “Get out of here!” the tone of my voice will let you know whether I’m literally telling you to leave the room or whether I’m figuratively saying, “You’ve got to be kidding.”

In writing, we must approach tone with care, because it is often and easily misinterpreted. For example, sarcasm is commonly misread in text messaging and on social media. Someone types a sarcastic statement in jest, but the recipient takes it literally and may get offended or confused. Some people mark sarcastic remarks with <sarcasm> to ensure clarity for this reason.

If communicating tone is so difficult, how can we interpret and communicate it effectively in poetry? Read More

Finding Meaning in Poetry

meaning in poetry

Finding meaning in poetry.

We humans are programmed to find meaning in everything. We find patterns where none exist. We look for hidden messages in works of art. We yearn for meaning, especially when something doesn’t immediately make sense.

Of course, art is open to interpretation, and some of the best works of art have produced a fountain of ideas about what they mean. From the nonsensical children’s story Alice in Wonderland to the complex historical fantasy series A Song of Ice and Fire, we wonder what a story means, what it’s really about, at its core.

Poetry is no exception. When we come across an abstract or vague poem, we look for meaning in it. We might even impose meaning on it. Read More

Using Allusion in Poetry Writing

allusion in poetry writing

Using allusion in poetry writing.

An allusion is an indirect or explicit reference. In poetry, most allusions refer to other works of art and literature or to historical persons or events. Cultural references are also common. Although allusion is a literary device, it’s often used in casual conversation and other forms of communication, expression, and the arts.

A quick reference can encapsulate a broad idea; therefore, an allusion allows us to make a deep and meaningful statement with just a few words. This is especially useful in poetry, because poets often seek to use condensed language to communicate big ideas. However, allusion requires an understanding between the poet and the reader — a common and shared knowledge about the reference that is being made. Read More

Figurative Language in Poetry Writing

figurative language in poetry writing

Figurative language in poetry writing.

Figurative language says one thing but means another. However, figurative language does not intend to deceive. There is an expectation that figurative language will be understood and correctly interpreted by the listener or reader. We get the term “figure of speech” from figurative language.

In poetry, we frequently use figurative language, because it can be more meaningful, vivid, and expressive.

Let’s take a closer look at figurative language and how we can best use it in poetry writing. Read More

How to Analyze Poetry

poetry analysis

A guide to poetry analysis.

An expert is someone who has mastered their craft through a process of study and practice. Poets are no different. It takes years to become an expert poet.

An important part of studying poetry is analysis. Examining the form, content, and syntax of a poem helps us develop a better understanding and deeper appreciation — not just for a single work of poetry but for poetry in general.

There are plenty of means and reasons for analyzing poetry: we can isolate and examine various elements of the poem, and we can figure out how the poem achieves its effects. Through poetry analysis our comprehension increases; we may gain appreciation for a poem; and ultimately we gain deeper insight into poetry as an art form and a tool for self-expression. We learn what works and what doesn’t, and why. Poetry analysis helps us become better poets. Read More

Using Imagery in Poetry Writing

imagery poetry writing

How to use imagery effectively in poetry writing.

When we talk about imagery, we’re usually referring to visuals — whatever we can see with our eyes. In literary (and more specifically, poetry) terms, imagery is anything that represents a sensory experience, regardless of whether it’s experienced through the eyes, ears, nose, mouth, or hands.

There are various types of imagery that we can use in poetry writing, including visual imagery (sight), auditory imagery (sound), olfactory imagery (smell), gustatory imagery (taste), and tactile imagery (touch).

Poets use all types of imagery to make a poem come alive, so readers can feel it, and not just emotionally. Read More

How to Read Poetry

how to read poetry

Tips to enhance your poetry reading experience.

Have you ever fell in love with a song immediately upon hearing it? As soon as it’s over, you whip out your phone and purchase the song, and then you play it on repeat for the rest of the day until you know every note and lyric. It becomes your your current favorite, your latest obsession.

That probably doesn’t happen very often.

Usually when you hear a new song, you feel ambivalent about it. You don’t want to jump out of your chair and start dancing. The song doesn’t make you bang your head. You can’t sing along. You don’t care if you ever hear it again. But then you do hear it again. And on the second listen, you realize, this song isn’t so bad. Then you hear it again and notice an interesting lyric or riff. Then you hear it again and find something in the song that truly speaks to you. After listening to it a dozen times, the song has become one of your favorite pieces of music.

Sometimes we fall in love instantly and other times, things need to grow on us.

The same is true with poetry. If we’re lucky, we encounter a poem that immediately grabs us. But usually we need to spend a little time or make a little effort to truly admire or understand a poem. This isn’t the poem’s fault; in fact sometimes poetry that requires deeper reading offers the greatest payoff.

Anyone can open a book and read lines of poetry, letting the language drift in and out of their mind. When we put some effort into our reading practices, we can create a more enriching and rewarding reading experience for ourselves and become more skilled readers with a greater appreciation for what we’re consuming. Read More