Ten Tips for Writing Poetry
I’d like to share some creative ‘practice prompts’ which should get you writing whether you’ve got writer’s block or simply need a new angle. Please comment and post your poems!
- Write a poem using the titles of books. See my tribute poem to Colin Wilson on my blog.
- Create a list poem. Using a food recipe as a model, list the ingredients which make up a fulfilling life; or the opposite. Or make a numerical list of instructions for attaining contentment and happiness. A variation is to list what your pet does during a typical day. Anthropomorphising animals is a long tradition and there have been some very eloquent dogs and cats lurking in literature!
- Write a poem from another point of view. A bit like number 2 but you could choose something inanimate. Traditionally the elements (wind, the sea, the sun) have been personified. Or how about a wild animal? Or a building?
- Write an eco-poem. Write about something in the environment you feel strongly about. It could include habitat loss, extinction or climate change. See my poem, Tread Lightly.
- Choose a painting you respond to. Write a poem bringing in all the senses and try and relate the painting to something happening in your life.
- Syntactical Repetition. This is when a poem repeats a certain sentence structure to emphasise meaning and feeling. My Tread Lightly poem is an example. You could use a familiar phrase or something you’ve overheard someone saying.
- Write a haiku. Traditionally this is a three-line poem consisting of 5-7-5 syllables but it’s fine to vary this. A haiku should portray a strong image and/or mood. One of the lines should be a ‘turning around’ line – a sort of realisation or surprise. See my efforts!
- Parody. Take a well-known song or verse and parody it. John Betjeman’s Harvest Hymn parodies the harvest hymn, changing the first lines from, We plough the fields and scatter/The good seed on the ground, to, We spray the fields and scatter/The poison on the ground, in a satirical poem about exploitation and greed.
- Erasure Poems. Find a text, say in a magazine, and randomly delete words until you have 30-60 words left. Can you make a poem just with these words? See www.thedailyerasure.com for examples. A found poem is similar where you use text from a printed source.
- Concrete poems/alphabet poems. A concrete poem is in the shape of its subject. (A poem about a cat would be in the shape of a cat.) With different software it should be possible to shape poems into a variety of shapes. An alphabet poem starts each line with a letter of the alphabet. An acrostic poem has the initial letters of each line spelling out a word.
A couple of books I’d recommend: The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Writing Poetry, by Nikki Moustaki, and, The Artist’s Way, by Julia Cameron. A good poetry website I’ve used is: www.poetrybusiness.co.uk Good luck!