10 Best Writing Tips for Poetry To Inspire You

Writing compelling poems is about much more than just knowing how to rhyme. Discover our 10 writing tips for poetry to help you.

Poetry is a powerful, highly personal type of writing. Many people think they can write compelling poetry because they know how to rhyme, but this isn’t the best way to craft poems. Poetry is about more than just rhyming words. It involves concepts, themes, meter, and much more. If you’re looking to become a poet and want to write compelling poetry, these tips will help you get started. You might want to reference the best inspirational poems to start your poetry journey.

1. Read Poetry First

Read poetry first
Read classical poets as well as famous modern poets, and learn how poets express their thoughts and emotions through poetic verse

Before writing poetry, learn to read poetry. The more poetry you take in from great poets, the better able you will be to create your own. Read classical poets as well as famous modern poets, and learn how poets express their thoughts and emotions through poetic verse. This will help you see the various ways poets use rhyme and meter to craft poetry. Fill your bookshelf with collections from well-known, well-read poets who write in various styles, and then use those as a source of inspiration for your writing.

Looking for more? Check out our guide on how to write a haiku.

2. Find Your Inspiration

Before you write a poem, you will need a theme or idea. Finding inspiration can be one of the most challenging parts of the writing process for a poet. One idea to help you keep ideas present is to keep a journal. This will help you capture thoughts when they come to mind, even if you are not in a place to sit down and write your poem. When you are ready to write, pull out your journal and see what ideas you have to use.

3. Choose a Poetic Form

What Is A Sonnet In Poetry?
Haiku is a Japanese poem that has three lines of five, seven, and five syllables

Before you start your poem, decide what poetic form you want to use. While it is possible to be a bit fluid in this, as poetry will not always follow the rules, you do want to know the basic form you will use.

  • Blank verse – This type of poem has a precise meter but does not rhyme.
  • Free verse – The most flexible type of poem, free verse does not have a meter or rhyme scheme.
  • Rhymed poetry – These are your typical poems that have a rhyming pattern.
  • Epic poem – A long poem that tells a narrative story
  • Haiku – This Japanese poem has three lines of five, seven, and five syllables.
  • Pastoral poem – A pastoral poem talks about nature or landscapes.
  • Sonnet – A 14-line poem often talking about love and following a specific rhyming pattern.
  • Limerick – A five-line poem with an AABBA rhyme scheme and a pithy meaning.
  • Elegies or odes – These poems are tributes to a person, with elegies being for a person who has died.
  • Ballad – A poetic narrative verse that tells a story.

4. Add Literary Devices

Most poetry is enhanced with literary devices, such as metaphor or allegory. Decide if one of these fits your poem and its topic or style. Some common literary devices used in poetic writing include:

  • Metaphor and simile – Compare two different things with a simile using the words “like” or “as” in the comparison.
  • Synecdoche – Using a large item or entity to refer to a small part of it, or using a small part of something to refer to the whole.
  • Allegory –  A narrative or story element with a hidden, more abstract meaning.
  • Anthropomorphism – Giving human characteristics to a non-human item.
  • Alliteration – Using the same beginning letter for several words in a poem or sentence.
  • Onomatopoeia – Using words that sound like the sounds they name, such as “sizzle.”
  • Irony – Using words to say something other than what is meant, often with the opposite meaning.
  • Assonance – Repeating the vowel sound inside the words rather than the ending rhyming sound.

5. Avoid Being Too Flowery

One mistake new poets often make is assuming they need to have flowery, abstract wording to make an effective poem. Some poems use this type of word choice, but the most compelling poems use concrete words and simple language. They then incorporate literary devices, meter, and rhyme to make people think about what they are saying. For this tip, however, avoid the temptation to go too far in the opposite direction. You may need to use your thesaurus to remove boring words, like “vary” or “said,” from your writing, but that doesn’t mean you need words the reader won’t know.

6. Use Imagery

Effective poets will create poetry with a deeper meaning than the primary meaning of the words in the poem. The audience can infer something from the poem that is not directly stated. Your journalism is key to this because you will have ideas to add deeper meaning to your poem. Imagery is a key to writing effective poetry with this more profound meaning. You want to use words and sounds that appeal to the five senses and make the reader feel what you feel when they read your poem. The more imagery you add to your poem, the more readers can connect with and understand your poetic writing.

7. Don’t Focus Too Strongly on First Line

Many new poets find their first line to be challenging to write. Thus, they never start writing because they get stuck here. If you are struggling with your first line, write something that will get you by, then come back and adjust it later. The first line is important, but you shouldn’t let it keep you from getting your words on paper. You might also be interested in our guide on how to poetry slam.

8. Punctuate Your Poem Appropriately

Punctuation is part of the poetic form. You can choose to punctuate according to grammar rules or use punctuation to add style to your poem, telling the reader when to pause or forcing the reader to push through where pauses would normally occur. Regardless of your choice, the key is to use punctuation as part of your overall plan, not just as an afterthought. It should serve a purpose for your poem.

9. Guide Your Writing with a Goal

Guide your writing with a goal
When writing a poem you have to make sure you have a goal before you sit down to write it

Finally, make sure you have a goal for your poem before you sit down to write it. Ask yourself:

  • Do you want the audience to feel something?
  • Are you trying to make your audience think or simply to entertain?
  • Are you trying to express a personal emotion?
  • Will your audience walk away with a new idea or feeling?

10. Revise and Edit Your Poem

Great poetry will need some refining. Getting your ideas on paper is important, but you will want to revisit it and see if there are places where you can refine what you’ve written. The best way to do this is to wait a few days or even a week before looking at the poem again. Your editing will be more effective if you give the poem time to rest. As you revise, look for cliches and necessary abstractions, such as concepts or feelings that aren’t concrete. See if you can revise the poem to use something concrete to replace that abstraction without changing the meaning or to add a metaphor to add something concrete to the meaning.

If you’re looking for inspiration, check out our round-up of metaphor poems!