Genre tips

15 Tips for Writing Poetry

poetry 2Poetry is not something I’m good at writing so I enjoy it vicariously through online friends like Audrey Dawn of Oldest Daughter and Red-headed Sister. I’ve been following her for several years and always find her poetry startlingly personal, quick peeks into a world ruled by emotion and heart. I’m way to structured for that so only enjoy it through someone else’s eyes.

To honor April’s National Poetry Month, here are fifteen tips from those who have no trouble delivering this concise-but-pithy form of writing:

  • avoid cliches. Too often, they are unoriginal thoughts on a subject. Instead of using these pre-packaged descriptions, create your own. For example: Instead of

Hard as nails


Hard as _____________________

  • rhyme with caution. It can become singsong. Beginners are (surprisingly) more likely to find success with free verse.
  • describe something or someone–no plot necessary. Unless you’re writing Narrative Poetry or an epic poem like Beowulf, poems are more about characters, setting, or theme.
  • make your poem a response to a line in someone else’s poem. This is a great way to get started (remember to credit the original poet).
  • tap into your own feelings. Research, so often critical in novels, will not rescue a poem. Focus more on your personal take, your unique voice.
  • use excited and exciting language, words that draw the reader in and keep them trapped in the world you’ve created.
  • use sensory details.
  • focus on the small–as in observations, events, activities, or consequences. Leave the big stuff (like War and Peace) for long long novels
  • read lots (and lots) of poetry, especially the type you want to write.
  • expand your vocabulary. Poetry is about using precise words that say a lot. In a novel, you get an entire scene to communicate an idea. Not true in a poem.
  • don’t be afraid to write a bad poem. You’ll write a better one later.
  • eliminate unnecessary words, phrases, and lines. Make every word count.
  • titles are important. Make yours substantive, maybe even the poem’s first line.
  • use your imagination. It’s your unique take on the world, why readers will fall in love with your poems.
  • let readers interpret your work as they wish. There’s no right or wrong, just how it resonates with them.

If you’re a poet, what is your top tip for an aspiring writer?  What made the biggest difference in your journey?

More tips about genres:

8 Tips for Horror Writers

13 Tips for Cozy Mystery Writers

10 Tips for Steampunk Writers

Jacqui Murray is the author of the popular Building a Midshipman, the story of her daughter’s journey from high school to United States Naval Academy. She is the author/editor of over a hundred books on integrating tech into education, adjunct professor of technology in education, webmaster for four blogs, an Amazon Vine Voice book reviewer,  a columnist for TeachHUB, Editorial Review Board member for Journal for Computing Teachers, monthly contributor to Today’s Author and a freelance journalist on tech ed topics. You can find her book at her publisher’s website, Structured Learning.

59 thoughts on “15 Tips for Writing Poetry

  1. Pingback: National Poetry Day | WordDreams...

  2. My primary goal in life is to write at least one killer poem – so far they’ve been very mediocre but I’m hopeful! These tips will be very useful on my little quest so thank you so much for sharing!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Pingback: The Weight of Clouds | Andrew's View of the Week

  4. I love to read poetry and write it. I find the economy of words refreshing and more to the point. My favorite poet is Kay Ryan. I love how her words start out in one place and emotionally carry you to another. It’s like a kid going down a slide at the park, so much fun you want to read again and again.

    Liked by 1 person

      • Yes, google her. There’s lots of her writing on the web, but I love to read my Kindle Version of “The Best of Kay Ryan.” Here’s her poem Patience (which I need):

        Patience is wider
        than one once envisioned,
        with ribbons of rivers
        and distant ranges
        and tasks undertaken
        and finished with modest
        relish by natives
        in their native dress.
        Who would have
        guessed it possible
        that waiting is
        sustainable— a place
        with its own harvests.
        Or that in time’s
        fullness the diamonds
        of patience couldn’t be
        distinguished from
        the genuine in
        brilliance or hardness.

        Liked by 2 people

  5. Hard as sails stretched full by the wind–that was the first thought that popped into my head. I was thinking of the sail’s reaction to the wind, but I don’t sail and have no idea if I’m off the mark or not. It follows with Andrew Reynolds’ line of thinking. The wind would make the sails stiff and unyielding.
    Interesting post. Now I have several more ideas for making a character unique.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. I heard a painter say yesterday that a painting is not a description; rather it is a feeling or expression. Don’t ask me what I have drawn. You decide what I have drawn. Each viewer is free to interpret it in a unique way. The same perhaps applies to poetry.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Of all your wonderful posts giving useful writing advice, this is one I wouldn’t have expected from you. I’m not sure I’ve ever read a poem of yours. And yet, Jacqui, your guide to making poetry is an excellent beginning. A special gift of yours.

    I write mostly from awe in reading others’ poems; my own is limited. Other folks provide better examples. However, I would add: write about what touches you deeply because your passion will show itself in your poem. The roses-are-red variety of poem came from needing a cheap rhyme. Leaves of Grass came from Walt Whitman’s ongoing observations and reflections of life.

    Good poetry is close to one’s heart – the writer’s and the reader’s.

    Liked by 2 people

  8. I don’t write poetry, so these tips are interesting to learn. Other than a humorous limerick here and there, I steer clear of it. I think I’m too concrete of a thinker to venture into the land of the poets.

    Liked by 1 person

  9. Reblogged this on Oldest Daughter & Red Headed Sister and commented:
    My friend, Jacqui, gives solid advice on writing every day on her site, Worddreams. Her tips, as an editor and accomplished author have often helped me strengthen my writing. I’m humbled with her mention of my poetry today and during April’s National Poetry Month. Her gift this morning brings a shine to my eyes and fuel to my journey. Thank you, Jacqui. ♡

    Liked by 1 person

  10. As a writer of poetry, I find inspiration from the unanswered questions I have during moments while thinking through an emotion I’m having.

    What has made the biggest difference in my journey? Sharing my poetry with the public, friends and family. Allowing my heart to be seen. Positive feedback, heck even constructive comments, have helped me become better at expressing myself. Readers of poetry allow me to feel more comfortable with who I am as a writer.

    Liked by 2 people

  11. You gave anyone interested in writing poetry such great advice. I learned right along with your readers. You’re a wealth of knowledge for any writer and I’m blessed to know you, Jacqui. Blushing. I’m honored to have been mentioned in your post. Thankful to have had your guidance and friendship.

    Don’t mind me, I’ll be over there taking notes…it’s really hard not to use a cliché, you know. Smiles.

    Liked by 1 person

  12. Good tips. In your first example the correct poetic phrase should be:

    Hard as a cloud

    As a poet I work to create an emotion or paint a scene. It’s more about metaphor than research. A good way to start is to work from a seemingly contradictory comparison. For example, why could a cloud be hard? Well not in the physical sense, but cloud can bring rain, snow or lighting. A cloud can hang over a conversation or relationship.

    Clouds can also be light, fluffy, beautiful and bringers of life (water, snow).

    Beginners should start with a feeling and just go from there. Don’t worry about form to start. You get to that in time.

    Liked by 4 people

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