How to write poetry like Shakespeare in eleven simple steps
Come, break the paragon of pride,
Unleash the genius inside!
How to Write Poetry – Introduction
Many people can learn how to write a poem. The question is: why would they?
The soul is overwhelmed with emotion, the feelings are stirring inside, looking for an easy way out… Freeze, the moment, you are beautiful: here and now, a poem could be born. For poets, these are the most cherished moments of inspiration when thoughts storm onto paper on their own and rhymes come to mind effortlessly, and yet those moments are not reserved for poets alone!
Do you want to experience the miracle of poetry yourself? Did you already try something, or everything, all to no avail as words slip away still, the rhyme is not there, thoughts dissipate, and the final draft looks like anything except what you wanted to say? In that case, you also came to the right place!
It doesn’t matter how long you’ve been writing poems and how gifted you are as a poet. Writing poetry is a skill that can be learned, much like reading, and how well you do it depends on your perseverance more than anything else. And if you are still serious about embarking on a journey into the wondrous land of how to write poetry, here are 11 handy tips that can help you along the way.
How to Write Poetry – a Beginner’s Guide
We’ll touch on the following topics instrumental in learning how to write poetry:
- What you should know about the meter,
- How to enlarge your vocabulary,
- How to use your imagination,
- How to rhyme correctly,
- And so much more.
These tips are for aspiring poets intending both to learn how to write poetry better and how to write better poetry, too.
Master the poetic meters
The poetic meter, the cornerstone of rhymed poetry, is the alternation of stressed and unstressed syllables in stanzas. The meters are divided into disyllabic (gloriously repped by trochee and iamb: iambic pentameter is so popular that everybody talks about it) and trisyllabic (dactyl, amphibrach, and anapest: if you never heard about these, that’s a good sign you need to do some serious digging). Knowing and being able to use the correct poetic meter, be it dactyl, trochee, iamb, is a prerequisite to writing good poetry, and if anyone tells you otherwise tell them that the right to write in free verse has to be earned by showing that you can master the poetic meter first.
The most important thing about learning the poetic meeters is to follow the rhythm of the poem, its natural flow. Once you hear the melody of the verse, you should no longer need to think about the choice of words deliberately. On the contrary, your own spoken speech will suddenly start coming out in one meter or another, so you’ll just have to write them down and later insert them in the right places in the stanzas you are working on.
Use rhetorical devices
Think about it: how can someone learn how to write poetry if she doesn’t know what tools to use? Rhetorical devices (sometimes referred to as tropes) are these literary tools, and you should know all of them, not just such popular ones. Everyone knows about metaphor and simile, but will you be able to tell apart metanoia and hypophora, or notice when your favorite poet uses aporia?
It is best to study rhetorical devices directly from the best poets as you read their works. If you develop the habit of noticing the tropes and figures of speech they use, employing those in your own poetry will become your second nature. And the poems themselves will reach a whole new level of meaning and expressiveness, revealing to the audience the very notes and accents you wanted to convey.
Broaden your vocabulary
While rhetoric devices are necessary to make a dramatic impact and steer the reader in the right direction, words are your primary tool and the key weapon because it is through them that poets speak. And those who speak well also know a thing or two of how to write a good poem. The more shades of meaning you can distinguish and pin down with precision, the more ground is open to you, and opportunities to turn words into good poetry will occur seemingly on their own.
Reading more than you thought was possible will help enrich your vocabulary; you’ll also use better grammar in speech and writing. Try this trick: open a dictionary on a random page and make sure you know every word on it. And never hesitate to ask about the words you don’t get: a subtle colloquialism can be the best choice for the key moment.
Memorize your favorite poems
The more good poetry you read, the better turn your meters, and often you will speak in verse without even trying (the entire phrase before is in unrhymed iambic tetrameter). But you should take it up a notch still and learn the poems you like by heart, no matter how hard it will be at first. This exercise will expand your poetic horizons, making your work more varied and richer in connotations.
Just remember to read poets from different eras (from Ancient Greek odes to modern rap), to get acquainted with renowned masters and new authors alike. Your goal is to become so versatile in poetry that, no matter what creative task you are up against, your memory will already have examples of how other poets tackled it successfully. And, in addition to making it easier for you to write your own poetry, learning poems by heart furnishes you with some brilliant poetic quotes, which sometimes comes in handy, especially in fine society.
Summon all your deepest feelings
Without feelings, poems are dry foliage with little or no value to anybody but you (unless you are one of the commercial poets who get paid to write poetry). That’s why to write better poetry you need to elevate your feelings to an extreme. It’s not as extreme as it sounds, and for a daring heart learning how to write poetry this task is but a piece of cake.
Start with what you care about the most, even if that means writing a poem about love. If you try to restore a past picture or experience from memory, try to recreate everything as accurately as possible. Fill yourself with the gone anew, and the next poem will bear a magic touch of witty vividness.
Poetry first and foremost, always, everywhere!
This should be your motto because the more poetry you write, the easier it becomes, and the better you get. Don’t worry if not all the poems come out the way you want: remember, even bad poems sometimes have good parts that can be salvaged and reused more successfully. The key is to form and temper the discipline that will force you to grab the pen (or keyboard) in any situation propitious to writing poetry.
Challenge your literacy
In poems, it is very difficult to replace an inappropriate word with another one as this usually breaks the meter (and sometimes the rhyme). So, if you don’t know the right word, most likely you won’t be able to write what you want the way you conceptualized it. What you need to do in order to learn how to write poetry is bridge the literacy gap in the poetic veins you work, be it funny poetry or goodnight poems for her.
This means that, if your poem describes the interior of a submarine, you are as spot-on describing the details as any soldier or officer on that submarine would be, using arcane terms interchangeably with everyday ones for maximum effect. As you work on acquiring all that vocabulary, pay close attention to spelling, punctuation, and, above all, grammar. Strictly speaking, you should be able to turn any written text into a source of interest, especially if it belongs to the classics: then the works of contemporary authors and poets will turn into a playground while your own poems blossom with the colors you didn’t expect they’d have.
Augment your poetic imagination
How will love at first sight strike? What associations does a thundercloud bring? Who is the owner of the car parked by the side of the road?
The more unusual stuff you’ll notice in the mundane (especially in the things no one pays attention to), the more high-quality, catchy, and unique imagery you can concentrate in your poems. This skill is often wanting in would-be poets, but if you take this challenge seriously you will learn how to write great poetry on the subtlest clues from the world around you.
Rhyme thee well
English is such an easy language to rhyme in, so why not do just that? Unless you believe that poetry is dead, make sure your rhymes are top-notch. If you find it difficult to find or come up with a good rhyme check out the rhyme dictionaries online.
A good tactic for beginners learning how to write poetry is to:
- Carefully look at all the possible rhymes for the keyword,
- Select the one that fits the poem best, and
- Invent a sentence that will meaningfully feature this rhyme.
Just keep in mind that writing poetry for rhyming alone is low taste, so always combine the phonetic musicality of rhyme with an appropriate semantic impact: that will make your poems truly unstoppable.
Write like nobody listens
Writing poetry is fantastic, but it becomes a daunting and impossible task for a poet undergoing depression, and if you follow far enough into the rabbit hole, this part could be about you, too. Seriously, why write poetry if you cannot find the courage to get out of bed? But remember: even when your heart turns inside out, and the love of your life leaves, and nothing seems to be going right, creativity helps to bounce off psychological lows better than anything.
Process even the hardest emotions through poetry and watch your life get better as your motivation improves. Many great poets prolonged their stay on Earth despite their numerous bad habits thanks to creativity, and we better thank them for that, too. After all, who else should we take an example from if not the best of the greatest?
Write a poem about yourself (or someone else)
How to write a poem about yourself should not even be a question. If you are (1) learning how to write poetry, and (2) yourself, adding up these two and writing a poem about yourself is the first and the most natural thing to think of and do.
Begin with anything you want, it doesn’t matter if it’s the clothes you wear or a fleeting feeling experienced once in a lifetime at an exotic location: you just need to establish a connection with the source that may or may not teach you how to write poetry, and when that happens you won’t need to read about it online anymore.
But it’s all right, I get it: you are taking a leave of absence from yourself: a temporary move, of course, that will eventually result in a happy reunion. In other words, you’re so unsure of who you are that you wouldn’t be able to feel your way even through a poem, even though that’s precisely what they were invented to do.
Well, if that is truly the case, write a poem about someone else, a person you know or don’t know, but absolutely do have a stronger-than-normal emotional reaction to. People are usually the easiest: other things just don’t bother us so much. Oh, and when you’re done, don’t forget to post your work in the comments section below.
How to Write Poetry – In Conclusion
How to write poetry is a question that is best answered by practice. If you want to get better at writing poetry, you’ll have to write a lot of it, so get comfortable: if you are serious about this thing, it’s for life! Millions of poems are born and done with daily, and it’s the poet’s job to go after them and make sure to pluck at least a few of them.
Things to write poems about & types of poems to write
When the skill of how to write poetry is already mastered, novice poets often wonder what to write poems about. That depends on your imagination: you can write song lyrics, passionate dedications, Birthday cards, etc. Don’t be afraid to pull yourself in different directions: there is always something nice, witty, and funny to say to friends and family, and even to a stranger if you so desire.
Furthermore, a beautiful poem of your own making is a precious gift to be remembered by those to whom you dedicated it. Just follow the how to write poetry tips above and your poetic muscle will begin to grow. Oh, by the way, if you haven’t already guessed, good topics to write poems about include the moon, the spring, and eternal love.