How to Write a Poem

Four Parts:Sample PoemsGetting CreativeLetting the Creativity FlowBringing It to Life

Writing a poem is all about observing the world within or around you. A poem can be about anything, from love to the rusty gate at the old farm. Writing poetry can help you become more eloquent and improve your linguistic style. However, it's hard to know where you should start. Although poetry writing is definitely a skill that improves with practice (just like any other type of writing), wikiHow will get you on the right track.

Sample Poems

Sample Limerick

Sample Tanka

Sample Cinquain

Part 1
Getting Creative

  1. Image titled Write a Poem Step 1
    Find a spark. A poem might start as a snippet of a verse, maybe just a line or two that seems to come out of nowhere, and the remainder of the poem need only be written around it. Here are a few ways to generate sparks:
    • Play "Grand Theft Poetry." Gather a variety of books of poetry by different authors, or print 10 random poems off from the Internet. Then randomly pick a line out of each poem, trying to focus only on the first line you see instead of picking the "best" one. Write all these different lines down on a separate piece of paper, and try to arrange them into a coherent poem. The juxtaposition of two entirely different lines of poetry might give you an idea for your own poem.
    • Write down all the words and phrases that come to mind when you think of that idea. Allow yourself to put all your ideas into words.
    • It may sound difficult, but do not be afraid to voice your exact feelings in the poem. Emotions are what make poems, and if you lie about your emotions it can be easily sensed in the poem. Write them down as quickly as possible, and when you're done, go through the list and look for connections or certain items that get your creative juices flowing.
    • Try to fit into a particular scene you want to write about. For example, if you want to write about nature, try to visit a park or a small forest nearby. The natural scenery may inspire a few lines, even if they're not perfect.
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    Read and listen to poetry. Get inspired by seeking out the work of poets you admire. Explore a wide range of works, from poems that are widely regarded as classics to popular song lyrics. As you interact with more poetry, you'll find your aesthetic becoming more shaped and refined.
    • To train your ear and meet like-minded people, attend poetry readings (check your local college or bookstore's calendar for these, or look for events you can stream online).
    • Find some of your favorite song lyrics and read them like poetry. You might be surprised at how it reads on the page, instead of being spoken or sung aloud.
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    Think about what you want to achieve with your poem. Perhaps you want to write a poem to express your love for your boyfriend or girlfriend; perhaps you want to commemorate a tragic event; or perhaps you just want to get an "A" in your poetry or English class. Think about why you are writing your poem and who your intended audience is, and then proceed in your writing accordingly.
  4. Image titled Write a Poem Step 4
    Decide which poetry style suits your subject. There are a ton of different poetic styles. [1]. As a poet, you have a wide variety of set forms to choose from: limericks, sonnets, villanelles, sestinas, haiku ... the list goes on and on.
    • You may also choose to abandon form altogether and write your poem in free verse. While the choice may not always be as obvious as the example above, the best form for the poem will usually manifest itself during the writing process.

Part 2
Letting the Creativity Flow

  1. Image titled Write a Poem Step 5
    Choose the right words. It's been said that if a novel is "words in the best order," then a poem is "the best words in the best order."
    • Think of the words you use as building blocks of different sizes and shapes. Some words will fit together perfectly, and some won't. You want to keep working at your poem until you have built a strong structure of words.
    • Use only those words that are necessary, and those that enhance the meaning of the poem. Choose your words carefully. The differences between similar sounding words or synonyms can lead to interesting word play.
    • A computer spreadsheet such as Calc, is very efficient for rearranging words and checking rhythm through columns' alignment. Put one syllable in each cell. You can transfer the text to a word processor for fancier printing when you're done.
    • If you're aiming to create a rhyming poem, do some brainstorming for your word choices. After picking a topic, write a line about it. If the next line doesn't rhyme with the line above, think of words that rhyme with the line's last word and form a sentence around it. The trick is in the formation of the sentence. If you need to, twist your words around so that they still make sense but you end each line with a rhyme.
  2. Image titled Write a Poem Step 6
    Use concrete imagery and vivid descriptions. Most poetry appeals to the senses (yes, plural) in some way, in order to help the reader become more fully immersed in the text. Here are some things to consider when you're constructing descriptions.
    • Love, hate, happiness: these are all abstract concepts. Many (perhaps all) poems are, deep down, about emotions and other abstractions. Nevertheless, it's hard to build a strong poem using only abstractions — it's just not interesting. The key, then, is to replace or enhance abstractions with concrete images, things that you can appreciate with your senses: a rose, a shark, or a crackling fire, for example. The concept of the objective correlative may be useful. An objective correlative is an object, several objects, or a series of events (all concrete things) that evoke the emotion or idea of the poem.
    • Really powerful poetry not only uses concrete images; it also describes them vividly. Show your readers and listeners what you're talking about — help them to experience the imagery of the poem. Put in some "sensory" handles. These are words that describe the things that you hear, see, taste, touch, and smell, so that the reader can identify with their own experience.
    • Give some examples rather than purely mental/intellectual descriptions. As a silly example, consider "He made a loud sound", versus "He made a loud sound like a hippo eating 100 stale pecan pies with metal teeth."
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    Use poetic devices to enhance your poem's beauty and meaning. The most well known poetic device is rhyme. Rhyme can add suspense to your lines, enhance your meaning, or make the poem more cohesive. It can also make it prettier. Don't overuse rhyme. It's a crime.
    • If you are opting for the rhyming route, there are three basic types to choose from: the couplet, tercet, and ballad stanza.
      • The couplet is two phrases that each rhyme at their end.
        This will be a couplet when the final word is penned.
        • Did you catch that meter?!
      • The tercet has three lines. 1 and 2 rhyme, as do 4 and 5, 3 and 6. As in,

        "My dog has a toy,
        it resembles a boy.
        A boy with the dark colored glasses.

        His lightning scar
        can be seen from afar
        and gee, does he love molasses."
      • A ballad stanza's second and fourth lines rhyme. For example:

        Hey, I just met you
        And this is crazy
        But here's my number
        So, call me maybe?[2]
    • Other poetic devices include meter, metaphor, assonance, alliteration, and repetition. If you don't know what these are, you may want to look in a poetry book or search the Internet. Poetic devices can establish a poem, or, if they bring too much attention to themselves, can ruin it.
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    Add a "turn" to the end of the poem. Save your most powerful message or insight for the end of your poem. The last line is to a poem what a punch line is to a joke — something that evokes an emotional response. Give the reader something to think about, something to dwell on after reading your poem.
    • Resist the urge to explain it; let the reader become engaged with the poem in developing an understanding of your experience or message.
    • Avoid the sense that you're stopping there just because you're short of ideas. End with a powerful point, and leave your reader thinking.

Part 3
Bringing It to Life

  1. Image titled Write a Poem Step 9
    Listen to your poem. While many people today have been exposed to poetry only in written form, poetry was predominantly an oral art for thousands of years, and the sound of a poem is still important. As you write and edit your poem, read it aloud and listen to how it sounds.
    • A poem's internal structure commonly focuses on rhythm, rhyme, or both. Consider classic styles like sonnets and Greek epics for inspiration.
    • A lot of spoken English is based on iambic pentameter, in which speech follows an alternating pattern of stressed and unstressed syllables for a total of 10 syllables. A lot of poetry written in iambic pentameter, such as that of Shakespeare, begins with an unstressed, one-syllable word such as "an" or "the" to start the alternating pattern.
    • This is where poems can become songs. It is easier to find a tune for regular meter, so maybe you want to cut words out or put some in to get the same number of syllables in each line. Memorize it. If you believe it, then maybe someone else will learn it and love it before it is a song.
  2. Image titled Write a Poem Step 10
    Edit your poem. When the basic poem is written, set it aside for awhile and then read the poem out loud to yourself. Go through it and balance the choice of words with the rhythm. Take out unnecessary words and replace imagery that isn't working.
    • Some people edit a poem all at once, while others come back to it again and again over time.
    • Don't be afraid to rewrite if some part of the poem is not working. Some poems have lines that simply don't convey an element well, and can be replaced.
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    Share your work. It can be hard to critique your own work, so after you've done an initial edit, try to get some friends or a poetry group (there are plenty online) to look at your poem for you. You may not like all their suggestions, and you don't have to take any of them, but you might find some insight that will make your poem better.
    • Feedback is good. Pass your poem around, and ask your friends to critique your work. Tell them to be honest, even if it's painful.
    • Never apologize for your work as it's being critiqued, and focus instead on listening to the opinions of your readers. Filter their responses, heeding and ignoring, then edit as you see fit.
    • Offer to critique the work of others, as well. Offering someone else feedback on their work can help you develop a critical eye, which you can apply to your own work.


  • Don't frustrate yourself by too persistently sharing your work with people who do not appreciate poetry. This is a mistake that can discourage you from being a poet. It is often difficult to explain that you are just trying your hand at something new. The best thing to do is ask someone supportive (who also happens to appreciate the art of the written word) to kindly critique you.
  • Try to take a break once in a while. It is helpful just to go for a walk and collect your thoughts. Don't write for too long! Give yourself a break, as it will rest your mind.
  • Be relaxed when writing. Try to start getting ideas when you get a sudden surge of emotion. Many times, this will help you get started.
  • Avoid cliches or overused images. "The world is your oyster" is neither a brilliant nor an original observation.
  • Write poems only when you feel like it. Forced poetry is often not as fluid or well-written as ones you put your heart into. However, if you're going to wait for inspiration to come, know that it doesn't always come at the best times, so be prepared to record all your inspiration for possible use later.
  • Solve poet's block by carrying a notebook (some people call them Living Books) with you everywhere, in which you can jot down poem ideas as they come to you. Then, when you're ready to write, get out the notebook and find an idea that catches your fancy.
  • Do not block your feelings when writing — try to write down whatever comes to your mind and then put it together.
  • Emotion is a big part of poetry. If some sort of emotion isn't intertwined with the poem, it's as though you threatened your muse at gunpoint. Your reader will probably see through your forced effort. Pick an emotion to explain throughout your poem or even have a thought or feeling you want to get through the reader's head.
  • When you start writing poems, it may help to write a single "subject-word" in the middle of a sheet ("Love," for instance), and begin to think of words matching with the "subject-word" ("friendship" or "happiness"). When you do this before you write your poem, you already have a foundation of words you can use. This is of real value to beginners.
  • If you want others to read your poetry, ask yourself "If somebody else showed me this, would I like it?" If the answer is "no," continue editing the poem.
  • Your poems need not rhyme all the time. Even a blank verse poem can be moving and beautiful.
  • Always be confident in your poem because you made the effort to write it.
  • Take your time to think about what you are writing your poem about. Don't rush your ideas.
  • Don't take constructive criticism the wrong way.
  • Write about life or other things.
  • Rhymezone is a great website to help you find words to Rhyme with your poem.

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