How To Write a Poem For The First Time

Most people have thought of writing a poem at least once. It is an excellent outlet in times when you feel too much or experience a sudden strike of inspiration. And it is also an awesome way to add a fun twist to your journaling routine.

Students are sometimes assigned poems in writing classes as well. The skills required for a poem are not the same one needed for a good essay or another typical academic paper. And while it is always an option to write my paper, poetry is something personal. It will turn out much better if you try to overcome creative anxiety and write it yourself.

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#1 Read the poetry you like to get inspired

One of the main rules of great writing is to become a reader first. Poetry is not the same as prose, not to mention imagery-less academic texts that students typically see in textbooks. Someone who does not read often may find it difficult to get “in the right tone” to write a poem.

No need to read the authors that everyone says you must read. Find the ones you genuinely enjoy, no matter how obscure they are. 

Poetry Foundation is a great online platform for this. It offers some 40,000 poems, including both classic and contemporary works. And it also has a lovely “Poem of the Day” section. So you are guaranteed to find at least a couple of authors you enjoy reading.

#2 Learn about poetry conventions and techniques

The conventions and techniques used in poetry are distinct. Even an avid prose reader might not be familiar with them without research. Some of the things to begin with include:

  • Meter. Meter refers to the combination of stressed and unstressed syllables that give poetry its rhythmic structure. The most common meter patterns are iambic, trochaic, and spondaic, but there are a lot of others to fall in love with. Choose the one that sounds the most organic to you and matches the topic of your poem.

  • Rhyme. Rhyme is actually optional in contemporary poetry. But it is still a good idea to learn about its conventions (such as perfect rhyme vs. half-rhyme) before breaking them.

  • Rhythm. Unlike rhyme, rhythm is what every poem must have. A poet creates it using syllables, accents, and breaks. Practice a little—it is fun.

  • Poetic genres. Again, your first poem does not have to be very traditional, so it is perfectly fine if it does not fit the rules of any poetic genre. Still, learn a little about the elegy, ode, and sonnet to know what your options are.

#3 Decide what your poem is going to be about

Now, it is time to choose the subject for your poem. If you are assigned it in a writing class, you likely already have at least a broad topic. But poetry is so metaphorical and imagery-driven that an author can typically come up with their own subject even when they have a topic to follow.

Think of the things, people, or phenomena you find inspiring and have something to say about. Even if they are not something that most classical poems focus on (love, betrayal, inspiration, you name it), they still can be the subject of a great poem.

Anyone who has browsed through the Poetry Foundation long enough knows that even such trial stuff as a coffee break or a glass of water can be the subjects of fantastic poetry.

#4 Brainstorm for poetic devices and imagery

Poetry is all about poetic devices and imagery. Unlike prose, it rarely has a clear storyline or compelling characters. Instead, the beauty of a unique simile or unconventional visual imagery is what makes poetry great and keeps readers coming for more.

Consider creating a mindmap the same way you would do for a research paper or a short story. Come up with visual, auditory, olfactory, gustatory, and tactile imagery that suits the subject. Then think of interesting poetic devices. Start with similes, metaphors, enjambments, and repetitions.

#5 Conquer black page anxiety

The most difficult step that a writer and a poet alike have to take is writing the first line. Anyone who has ever tried to write something new to them knows how challenging and terrifying it is. It is called a “comfort zone” for a reason. Anything outside it (in this case, poetry) requires courage and effort.

The good news is it gets easier once the first line is there. You will no longer have to stare at a blank page, which is every author’s worst nightmare. Even if you end up changing the first line later, no problem. But something has to be there for you to keep writing.

#6 Write, edit, and proofread the poem

The truth is, you will probably rewrite your poem, or at least parts of it, a few times. So do not be afraid to write even if a line or two does not sit right with you or seems out of place. Once the poem is complete, it will be much easier to see what belongs and what does not.

Also, a person who struggles with self-organization and tends to procrastinate a lot might want to write a poem in one sitting. This way, you will not have to go out of your way to get yourself in the right mood every time you want to add a verse.

Finally, when the poem is done and you have proofread and edited it properly, read it out loud. Most poetry is meant to be spoken. Reading it out loud will help you catch any problems, including questionable imagery and breaks in rhythm.

Is it difficult to write a poem?

Even if the names of imagery and meters sound intimidating, a wannabe poetry writer should not be discouraged by them. In reality, there is nothing difficult about poetry. You might not become the next Langston Hughes overnight, but even the first poem you write can turn out beautiful as long as you find something that genuinely inspires you and put in the work.