How to Write Poems – Chapter 1: Introduction
People write poems because it’s a fun and challenging way to be creative. If you already enjoy expressing yourself with words, then you are a good candidate for learning how to write poems, or for improving your ability to write them. It doesn’t hurt to also have a good grasp of grammar, to be familiar with many words, and to be good at solving word puzzles.
From the process of preparing and writing this book, my poetry writing skills have improved. Hopefully, you will also learn something from this book that will enhance your abilities to express your ideas in verse.
This book, with a few exceptions, will focus primarily on rhyming verse. In addition, some of the poems that we will work on together will follow a specific meter. However, once you learn how to make rhyming verse, and how to follow metrical patterns, you will be free to use your poetic license and break all of the rules. Even poets who use rhyme and meter structures deviate from those patterns to add variety and interest to their poems. This book does not tell you how you should write, but shows you some ways that you can write, if you so choose.
Fundamentals of Poetry
We can list three fundamentals of the craft of poetry:
1. The need to express an idea. This need is the motivator behind a good poem. Without this need to express oneself, one would not take the time and effort to write a poem.
2. The ability to paraphrase. This ability can be developed, although a good foundational vocabulary and a good knowledge of grammar don’t hurt.
3. The willingness to revise. You don’t have to settle for the first words that come through your pen or keyboard. Revision doesn’t have to be a tedious chore. It can be a fun creative process.
Negative Assumptions about Poetry
Some people have the impression that poetry is too sentimental, too formal, or too obscure. However, this doesn’t have to be the case. Poetry can be used to express almost anything that prose can express, including fiction, non-fiction, narration, emotion, instruction, exhortation, and so on. In addition, poems can be as obscure or as clear as the poet wants to make them. With a little time and effort, the poet can write his or her ideas in such a way that they are a pleasure to read.
Content and Form
Each poem contains its own combination of content and form. The content of a poem consists of the ideas that the writer wants to express and share. The form of a poem consists of the words, sounds, rhythms, and structures that make up the poem. Often, there is a compromise between the content and the form of a poem. Sometimes the content takes precedence, while, at other times, the form seems more important. However, occasionally something magical happens, and the form becomes an almost perfect vessel for the content.
Inspiration and Perspiration
Is the writing of poems based more on inspiration or perspiration? Inspiration is a great thing, but if our inspiration does not offer us a complete poem, given instantly and completely, then at least a little perspiration (i.e., effort) will be required. Often, I am inspired to write about a general idea, but rarely do I receive a poem in its entirety, as a free gift. However, working on a poem can be an enjoyable thing. It doesn’t have to be drudgery. If you have an idea that you want to express to the best of your ability, then writing a poem can be a creative and exciting process.
Tools of the Trade
When writing poems, I use a dictionary, a thesaurus, and a rhyming dictionary. If you have a superb vocabulary and/or an excellent memory, then you might not need these tools, but I find them very useful. These books can be in paper format, accessed online, or installed on your computer or smartphone. Online resources are generally faster to access than paper books, and installed programs are faster still. However, if speed is not important to you, or if you don’t have access to a computer or a smartphone, then paper books will definitely do the job.