So You Want To Write A Poem

by LizMac67

I have written lots of poetry in the last five years and I want to help you to write too.

I want to show you how to get motivated to write poetry. How to find prompts to inspire you. You can even do without rhyme if you find it difficult. I will write examples in various forms and in free form. I will show you how to increase your vocabulary very easily. Words you have never heard of will be come your new found allies. Don't leave sonnets to Shakespeare, the world waits to hear yours too. Don't leave Haiku to the Japanese, especially as you don't need rhyme for these. Come along my easy path to fulfill your ambition to write poetry.


Imagine me in my apartment surrounded by all sorts of clutter.  I'm more interested in writing than having a pristine living room.  So here I am on an evening in August and darkness has fallen.  I have just tossed off two haiku.  I do have great facility to write which gets better the more I do this.  As to the quality I leave you to decide.  I tend to write the first thing that comes into my head and I rarely revise what I have written, may be I should.


  Haiku is small and does not rhyme, although it may.  It was for these two reasons that I chose it to start this page.  The only requirement is that you have 5 syllables in the first line,7 in the second and 5 in the last. Nature is a favorite topic.So here is the first:-


Rose petals falling

As summer turns to autumn,

Sweet smell no longer


And for the second I turn to winter:-


Winter comes with storm;

Snow in blizzard howling down,

Pull up the blankets.


This should give you the idea.  With the first one I wanted to say"as summer turns to fall,"  but then I was short of a syllable, so I used the more British "autumn."


These haiku are compact and say a lot in a few words.


I am not a genius, as you will see.  I just love to play with words.  Sometimes the result is trite; sometimes something I have enjoyed creating.

Free Form

My second example is free form poetry.  You do not need rhyme or a particular number of syllables.  I wrote this for a funeral to express the feelings of friends and family. I find it difficult to explain how this works.  I find free form works better, most times for funerals as rhyme can sound trite.


Where the wind is sighing through the beech trees

And the light flickers through the branches

And the young plum trees

Stand guard and lead you up the path

From the south, to my resting place.

Where the long grasses wave over me,

I lay me down in the paddock I loved.

For rest at last has come.


I loved my life and lived it well.

Loved and was loved

By friends and family.

You cannot now believe I have gone

But through all the bewilderment

You will keep me in memory.

The best of times bright and good;

The more painful times

Mellowed with my passing.

May those good memories inspire you to live your lives to the full,

Pressing on into the future and in no way held back by thoughts of me.

May my epitaph be

The fullness of life you each one continue to live.

Practice, Practice,Practice

To write you must write

To succeed at anything in life you need to practice. when you decide to play the piano you have to start at the beginning with a few faltering steps.  Gradually you will spend more time and get better results.


  I wrote a few poems at school.  I needed a reason and a deadline.  The school magazine provided these two things.I then wrote only the occasional poem until 2009 when I wrote a meditation on how great God is.  This kick started me into writing more.


  In 2010 I decided to write a poem a day for a year. I posted them on another site. This proved to be a wonderful exercise and I completed the year in March 2011.  Discipline is a wonderful thing. I don't believe any of those poems were dreadful and some were quite good.  If I had not done this exercise I feel some of the good ones would never have seen the light of day.



   Make up your mind to write and keep on writing until you discover you have something you can be pleased with. Every writer has their own style, be adventurous and discover yours. We are not expecting to be geniuses, but just to enjoy the process.


  I am someone who likes to feel other people are enjoying my work, but you may be a very private person and want to write for your eyes only. I like to have a reason outside of me to write.  I like to write poems especially for funerals.  I officiate at funerals.  I like to express the feelings of the mourners at a time when they cannot do so themselves. In the poem written in the section Free Form above the person was buried out in the countryside where she had lived.  The mourners told me some of the feelings they had and how they wanted to have the resting place described.  I did the rest.  It is a great privilege to write like this and it certainly seems to help those present.


   I am not a genius but my poems serve a purpose and touch people's hearts in a way a classical peace of poetry may not, because it is too difficult for the ordinary man to understand.  If you aspire to be a genius all power to your elbow; I will walk in less elevated pastures and you will soon move on to better things.


Another Free Form Poem

I am giving you examples from my own poetry.  I'm not sure how to help in any other way.  By all means criticize what I have written.  It may be helpful to see if you can improve my poem.  Free form is all about rhythm and descriptive words.  I'm rather pleased with the line "This sudden, laughing rain." I also like the juxtaposition of "maw" and "more." Look for any weak spots and see if you can think of something stronger.


The poem:-


Hitting the ground like bullets

Falls the Autumn rain.

Arrows to the ground,

Gushing from the hapless guttering

Unable to contain

This sudden, laughing rain.

Onto the ground it dashes

And jumps upwards by a foot.

The drains are gurgling,

Their hungry maws

Open for more.

And down the road it rushes

Intent on reaching the river no less

And then, suddenly it eases.

The sun comes out

And Summer is with us still.

A Larger Vocabulary

A Simple Method

Just take a dictionary and open it at random.  Put your finger on a word, look at its meaning and write it down. Do this until you have about eight words.  Now see if you can make a story from them.  Then write your poem in free form or with some rhyme.  I am going to get my dictionary and do this right now and show you my result. It is important that you don't feel constrained by these words.  It is fine to reject any as you are pleased to do.  This isn't a straight jacket but just an aid to help you expand your knowledge.


  Here are my words:-












  I changed prismatic to prism and horsy to horse and keratin to keratinous.  You do not have to keep to the order.  In fact you can change anything.  The purpose is simply to have a poem at the end of the process and expand your vocabulary.


Through the prism of the raindrops

The rainbow grew

The horse raised his keratinous hooves and galloped o'er the field.

Each detail of his frisky outline

Proclaimed his love of life.

Such fire was kindled in his eye

That he should be the successor

To his father's lead.

It seemed to him inexplicable

That he should hold that place

As lead stallion

Of the herd.


I hope you get the picture. Using this method you can coax yourself into writing a poem with no other inspiration.


The Sonnet

A sonnet is a fourteen line poem.  Each line has ten syllables.   These are weak,strong alternating along each line. I like to represent this as di da, di da, di da, di da, di da. You need to get this rhythm into your head and then the words of your subject will begin to fall into place.


  Line one must rhyme with line three.  Line two with line four.  Similarly for the next four lines and the four after that.  Then at the end you have line thirteen and fourteen which rhyme.  This nicely rounds off the sonnet and brings it gently to a halt.


Here is my latest sonnet:-


The sun still shines upon our sorrowed backs,

Nor pities us as deep in grief we mourn.

The day is bright and fair and nothing lacks

To please our eye were we not pierced with thorn.

How could the day conspire to be so fair

When I have lost my own true love this day?

When I am sad and filled with so much care,

And I must wend this lonely, desolate way.

Oh sun be darkened for my love is lost.

For shame behind a cloud now hide your face.

Bring on the cold and winter's bitter frost,

For she is gone, has run her final race.

Oh fie you sun, why will you burn so bright?

When my sweet love has journeyed into night.


Let me tell you a bit about my writing this.  Line 9 originally ended with "gone" but I had trouble with the rhyme.  "Shone" was a strong possibility but it was in the wrong tense.  so I changed it to "lost."  "Gone" appears in line twelve.  In line eight "desolate" would usually have the rhythm strong weak weak, but it is possible to say it as "des-late" and that gets rid of that problem of syllables...


  I find a firm structure to write in is actually very helpful and can lead you down different paths and expand your capabilities..



How to move from prose to verse

I caught sight of the sunset tonight and wanted to write a poem.  First I jotted down my thoughts and then used these to shape my poem.


  Here are the thoughts:-


The clouds are tinged with glory

As the sun dips below the horizon,

A last farewell to the evening,

As the clouds gather from the north

The trees grow darker

And the wind rocks the berries on the rowan tree.

The night will come soon.


So here is the poem:-


The clouds are tinged with glory,

As below the horizon the sun dips

A last farewell to the evening,

As the round Earth tips.


As the clouds gather from the north

The trees grow black

And the wind rocks the berries on the rowan tree.

The sun is on its track.


Taking the sunset to other climes

Across the western sea.

A continual show of glory.

A fair present you must agree.


So if you are new to poetry you might find it useful to write in prose first and then convert to poetry.

A Limerick

Some Light Relief

Limericks are fun.  Take a look at this one.


There was a young lady from York

Who liked each day to eat pork.

She gobbled it down

Then walked round the town,

That cuddly young lady from York.


Originally I had the third line as "She soon became fat."  But I couldn't find a next line to suit.  This is often the case with rhyme, you have to be flexible and get your meaning across by using different words, in order to find a rhyme that will work for you.

The Villanelle

The villanelle appears to be quite strict.  You need to choose your rhyming words first even before your subject.  In fact your rhymes will lead you to a subject.   I have highlighted in bold where the first refrain repeats and highlighted the second refrain in italics. This will show you the form more easily than any chart. Do write one yourself.

Singing  sweetly in my ear

Comes the music of the night.

Now I naught do fear.


From my eye there comes a tear

Dropping down a jewel bright;

Singing sweetly in my ear.


Though you lunge and leer

I will not take flight

Now I naught do fear.


You are no longer here

And now I know the right

Singing sweetly in my ear.




I do not want you near,

You go fly a kite.

Sings so sweetly in my ear

Now I naught do fear



Inspired by Anything

You might feel totally uninspired to write.  It is strange how the simplest thing can help with this. If I am stuck I will write a poem about anything in my room.  Maybe it is the T.V. or the printer.  Today it was the sight of scrap paper I had sorted out.  It's clean surface inspired this:-


A piece of paper greets me,

Pristine and white.

Shall I fill it with my thoughts

Before doth come the night?


Will I write of fields of barley,

Where worked Ruth of old?

Of how she cared for Naomi

With her love of gold?


This page will hold a world of dreams,

Where naught was writ before;

A message bringing to someone

Thoughts to make them soar.


I had a few revisions.  "Pristine and white" was originally "white and pristine," but I couldn't see how I could sensibly introduce "Christine" as a rhyme!!  So I just changed them around. This is just the sort of thing people have not looked at, who have tried to write poetry and have failed.  It can solve lots of similar problems to just see if you can swap things around.


"Love of gold" was originally "love like gold" The former is stronger being a metaphor rather than a simile.Enjoy and have a go.

Use a Picture as a Prompt

Use your Imagination

Every Picture Tells a Story

If you want to get some inspiration often a picture will help ignite your imagination.  Look at the picture above and imagine who lives here and what they do for a living.  Are they young or old? Who has peopled this simple little bungalow.  Everyone who writes about it would come up with a completely different story. Here is my offering.


The trees in their wintry filigree

Watch quietly beside the bungalow.

They know who lives there

And have watched him toil in the garden.

An old man growing sweet pea flowers to give to his womenfolk.

A gentle man

Helping his neighbors,

Putting out their refuse bins.

Always so kind and helpful.

Watching his grand children grow.

Then comes the time for him to go to his final home.

Full of years and remembered for his kindness.

And the bungalow remembers.


Now it's your turn.  Don't be shy, pick up your pen and write.

A Work in Progress

I shall add a poem most days

The nature of this page is that I will demonstrate various forms of poetry.  I am using all new material and cannot add more than one or two poems a day.  So rather than take an age to complete this page before publishing it I am going to treat it as a work in progress.  From my point of view this will be very good as I will be writing more poetry after a short barren period.  This is just the incentive I need to write more.  I hope you will find it useful too.

Updated: 08/29/2014, LizMac67
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Telesto on 08/27/2014

Hello, I like your work, keep it up.

frankbeswick on 08/24/2014

One quality that I find admirable in your poetry is that it is clear. Some writers baffle with excessive verbosity to create a superficial profundity. You don't. Your writing is clear and its power is in its clarity and the ideas expressed therein.

This reminds me of a time when I was at college and a colleague asked me to translate some Latin texts that the Vatican had sent him for his course work. Translating this Latin was hard, but one line came through as simple and profound, translating easily. It was a quote from Jesus. I paused my work, sat back and said to myself that I had learned a powerful lesson about language that day, and I had learned it from the master. Profundity is best expressed in simplicity and clarity. You are travelling on the right lines.

sheilamarie on 08/16/2014

Hello from one poet to another. I look forward to seeing how this page evolves. Good start.

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