Writing Poetry: How to Get Started by Katherine Hauswirth

How to Get Started
Writing poetry can be intimidating at first. This article introduces the basics of writing poetry and includes resources for instruction and ideas.

Despite the small number of words that can be involved in a poem, many people are intimidated by the prospect of writing one. It can actually be more difficult to convey an image, idea, or emotion with fewer words. In addition, there are so many forms a poem can take, and new poets are concerned that they might “break some rules”. Here are some tips for creating your first poems.

Get Acquainted with Poetry
It helps to get a feel for what is considered a poem. Fortunately, there are no hard and fast rules. Poetry can be quite free of any specified format or it can follow very specific rules. A sestina, for example, must contain six 6-line stanzas and wrap up with a 3-line set. At the opposite end of the spectrum, poet E.E. Cummings was known for avoiding any sort of traditional structure.


For a good overview, try a browse through Frances Mayes’ The Discovery of Poetry: A Field Guide to Reading and Writing Poems. Mayes provides examples of all types of poetry, and also includes exercises to help the poet find some new ideas and develop his or her skills.

It May Not Be Time to Rhyme
It is a common misconception that poetry must rhyme, but most poems published in modern journals and books are nonrhyming. New poets often strain to make the rhyming words fit simply because they rhyme. In these cases, poems can take on an overly “sing-song” quality that detracts from the meaning the poet wants to convey.


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(C) Katherine Hauswirth

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