What Are the Best Tips for Writing Poetry?

Dan Cavallari

Many people struggle with writing poetry because they are intimidated by all the rules and fancy language often used in poems, but one thing to remember is that poetry is an expression of one's thoughts, which means rules do not always need to apply. If a writer wants to begin writing poetry in a certain style — writing quatrains or sonnets, for example — the best thing he or she can do is study the style of such poems. If a person simply wants to express thoughts in poem form, however, the best place to start is with a pen and paper.

Clichés should be avoided when writing poetry.
Clichés should be avoided when writing poetry.

A poem can focus on just about any topic, and while some types of poetry focus on specific topics, much of poetry can be written on any topic the poet chooses. He or she should therefore decide what idea needs to be captured when writing poetry and begin formulating ideas for capturing that idea. Some poems rhyme, though many do not, so if the poet is interested in writing poetry about a specific topic, a rhyme scheme may only get in the way. Try writing about the topic without a rhyme, then perhaps play with different rhyme schemes in a subsequent draft of the poem.

Studying the works of other poets may help writers develop a sense of style.
Studying the works of other poets may help writers develop a sense of style.

One of the pitfalls of writing poetry, for many writers at least, is the cliché. Clichés are words or phrases that are overused to the point of becoming almost meaningless. Phrases like, "It was a dark and stormy night" have been used so often that they often elicit eye rolls from readers. Try to avoid clichés; they are often associated with melodrama and a lack of creativity; many writing teachers will tell students that if a phrase comes to the writer exceptionally easily, it is probably a cliché.

Perhaps the most important tip for writing poetry is to read a lot of poetry. Reading poetry will help the potential poet understand the conventions and trends in poetry, and it will help the new poet learn clichés so he or she can avoid them. Reading poetry will also help the new poet develop a style of his or her own, since the poet is likely to identify other poets he or she enjoys reading. A poet often starts by mimicking the style of an established poet and then modifying that style according to his or her own writing talents; this is a good way to start, and one's talents will continue to develop over time.

Study poems that have style and rhythm that you would like to emulate in your own writing.
Study poems that have style and rhythm that you would like to emulate in your own writing.

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Discussion Comments


I am not a very literary person but my girlfriend loves to read and write.

One day we were having a picnic in park on a beautiful sunny day. We had eaten and were kind of talking about whatever popped into our heads and my girlfriend asked if I would like to try writing a poem. I have tried in the past with pretty weak results and was kind of reluctant. "What would I write about" I asked her.

She told me "Write about what you imagine the clouds are thinking." I know it sounds a little cheesy out of context but at the time that idea sent my mind reeling. And I actually did write a poem. I can't say it's a masterpiece, but I liked it and so did my girlfriend.

Having a prompt can be a great way to get started. Sometimes feeding off the creative energy of someone else is the best way to find your own.


I think the best tip for poetry writing is to remember that poetry has no bounds. It doesn't have to look a certain way, sound a certain way, use certain words or be about certain subjects.

More people fall into the trap of boundaries than you would expect, even people who have read or written a lot of poetry. Too many people think that a poem has to be extremely serious and abstract to have any value. But some of my favorite poems are just plain silly, and they are as valid as anything Keats wrote.

A poem starts with a blank page. From there it can go anywhere. Write abut a cowboy, use the phrase dog doo, tell a secret but don't let anyone in on it, change your name, make a picture with your words. What I'm saying is, do whatever you want. It's your poem and it can be anything.

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