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.
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, and 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 idea that you disagree with. Write a poem in response to it.
- State your positions. Write a political poem, a philosophical poem, or 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.
- 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.
- 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 by influencing the content or by giving you interesting or fresh 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 writing.