3 Steps for Writing a Poem

Poetry: a mellifluous word all by itself. Does it sound so beautiful the first time it’s written down, though? Or is there a process for writing poetry? That’s a hard question to answer. Some poets will say no. Others will say yes. The answer, however, depends on you and the purpose of your poem.

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For me, poetry is a process. I have to have somewhere to start and somewhere to end. I can write a micropoem on Twitter, but it’s not always a quick process. It takes a few drafts before I can make it sound right or fit into the 140-character limit.

How does that transfer to longer poems or poems that follow a specific format? Is the writing process necessary for poetry? For me, the answer is yes. Let’s take a peek into what that process looks like for me with three different poems…

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1. I need to research.

The type of research varies depending on the poem I want to write.

Example 1: A poem that doesn’t follow a format

My friend Veronica asked me if I could write her a poem because her current life circumstances were making her feel helpless. I asked her one question: What is your favorite animal?

A hippopotamus. I didn’t know much about hippos, so I searched for information about them through National Geographic. I now had details I could use in my poem.

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Example 2: A poem that does follow a format

I like the challenge of learning new poetic formats, so I’ll often learn about different ones. I don’t know how many poetic formats are out there, but there’s such a variety that poets will never lack for challenges.

Two such formats I’ve tried were the Pleiades format and Huitain format. I started by researching how each of these formats worked.

2. I write a rough draft (or two); then, I revised and edit it.

I know this step actually combines several steps of the writing process, but I didn’t think you’d want to see each individual step. I also don’t have pictures for each step, either, so it’s okay. Poetry is shorter, which means you can fix a bit more of it in one step anyway.

The most important thing, though, is getting your idea on paper before adding imagery, figurative language, and other poetic techniques. If you keep a writer’s notebook, then you’ll have a plethora of ideas at your disposal.

Example 1: The hippo poem was a bit easier to start since I already had a topic. However, it took the most drafts. I had to decide which parts of the research to include, what the theme would be, and if I wanted it to rhyme or have a rhythm.

Example 2: Topics for the formatted poems weren’t as easy to discover. The trick with poetry, if you’re interested, is similar to the Robert Frost quote above: use your emotions.

The Pleiades poem was inspired by the emotion I felt for a close family member, one who suffers from mental illness. I chose the letter ‘A’ to use with the format because it worked with the title, which I had first.

Family seems to always play on my emotions because the Huitain poem was inspired by a different member of my family, one who had recently went back to an abusive relationship.

With both of these poems, you can see that the idea, or rough draft, is written before I start changing the rhythm to match the pattern of the format. It’s incredibly hard to count out syllables while you’re writing, so my suggestion is to always write out your idea first — then fix it up how you like.

3. I write the final copy.

This last step can include publishing, too.

Example 1: Since Veronica, who goes by Roni, was going through a hard time, I decided to illustrate her poem. I am not the greatest at drawing, but I can do a decent job if I take my time. After I finished up her poem and drawing, I sent her a copy: published.

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Example 2: I chose not to illustrate my other poems. (It truly takes a long time for me, and I almost always have to have a point of reference.) I think it’s important to have a legible final copy for whatever you choose to do with it next (blog post anyone?).

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That’s it.

That’s my process when writing a poem, but it’s not everybody’s process. How do you write a poem? Do you plan it out? Do you research? Do you go through a process? Feel free to share with me in the comments.

Resources:

What is micropoetry?

List of poetic formats I use for my students

List of more advanced poetic formats

 

2 thoughts on “3 Steps for Writing a Poem

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