Ten Tips for Writing Poetry

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!

  1. Write a poem using the titles of books. See my tribute poem to Colin Wilson on my blog.
  2. 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!
  3. 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?
  4. 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.
  5. 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.
  6. 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.
  7. 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!
  8. 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.
  9. 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.
  10. 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!


4 thoughts on “Ten Tips for Writing Poetry

  1. Can definitely recommend The Artist’s Way by Julia Cameron. I’ve always steered clear of self help or how to write books but this one, with its writing excercises and tasks has certainly got the creative juices flowing.

    Looking forward to the other tips you suggest Eric


  2. I hope these tips are relevant to writers new to writing poems and to more experienced writers. I have to come back to them myself to jump-start my writing! The most difficult kind of poetry writing I find is writing in a ‘set form’ whether that’s sonnet form or any of the others. Any suggestions?


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