Her Heart is committed to assisting new poets to develop their craft. Through our Poetry 101 Series we will bring you the best of the poetry web, with articles and guides to improve your writing.
The following is an excerpt from Poetry Writing: 10 Tips on How to Write a Poem, one of the best articles we have read for novice poets. This has been published with the permission of the author, Associate Professor, Dennis G. Jerz. We have also provided links to the relevant sections of the article.
If you are writing a poem because you want to capture a feeling that you experienced, then you don’t need these tips. Just write whatever feels right. Only you experienced the feeling that you want to express, so only you will know whether your poem succeeds.
If, however, your goal is to communicate with a reader — drawing on the established conventions of a literary genre (conventions that will be familiar to the experienced reader) to generate an emotional response in your reader — then simply writing what feels right to you won’t be enough. (See also Poetry is for the Ear and When Backwards Newbie Poets Write)
These tips will help you make an important transition:
- away from writing poetry to celebrate, commemorate, or capture your own feelings (in which case you, the poet, are the center of the poem’s universe)
- towards writing poetry in order to generate feelings in your reader (in which case the poem exists entirely to serve the reader).
Select from the tips below, or read them all here.
1. Know Your Goal
2. Avoid Clichés
3. Avoid Sentimentality
4. Use Images
5. Use Metaphor and Simile
6. Use Concrete Words Instead of Abstract Words
7. Communicate Theme
8. Subvert the Ordinary
9. Rhyme with Extreme Caution
10. Revise, Revise, Revise
This article was originally written in May, 2000; initially submitted by Kara Ziehl, UWEC Junior
Expanded and maintained by Dennis G. Jerz.
Dennis G. Jerz ǀ @dennis.jerz
Dennis is the Associate Professor of English–New Media Journalism at Seton Hill University. He is widely published on a variety of topics including: new media, technology, technical writing and the craft of writing. His literacy weblog has a wealth of information to help improve your craft.