How To Write Poetry - Beginner's Guide
Poetry has been one of the most ancient and potent parts of literature. The rhymes and the deep meanings hidden in them have always strung chords in the hearts of people for several millennia. Even in today’s modern world, it has not lost its charm, and still revered by the intelligentsia and common man alike. There is always a generation of established poets and that of a budding one.
Today, many poets think of poetry as something of an alien nature. They think that it does not belong here. In other instances, they just do not acknowledge the importance it carries and relates to the complicated play of words with little to offer in a practical sense. The problem is acuter in writers who are just starting out.
They do not understand that the trends and techniques set and propagated by Whitman, Keats, and Blake should be followed to the teeth. Poetry has made great progress since these giants have left. Now, poetry has room more than ever and is accessible to anyone.
In this article, we will discuss, at length, what is poetry and how you can work your way into it if you are a new writer.
We will start from the most accessible, popular, and probably the easiest form of poetry and then make our way from the other advanced types.
Remember, there are many types, but you should not limit yourself to one type. Also, the saying that “rules are meant to be broken” greatly applies when it comes to poetry. Just create something that is meaningful and cannot be counted as torture on the ears!
Types Of Poetry
Here is the list of some of the types of poetry:
• Prose Poetry
• Narrative Poetry
• Epic Poetry
• Free Verse Poetry
Now, we will discuss each one in detail and give you examples for better understanding.
For the beginning writers, prose poetry could be just the thing to get started. In recent times, it has experienced a tremendous surge in popularity and become everyone’s favorite form.
The nomenclature it takes comes from the fact that it is still written in prose sentences. It follows syntax structure and other rules of prose writing. By holding to its prose basis, it can still adopt many of the characteristics that are related to poetry. In a broader sense, it is a hybrid between prose and poetry and an excellent example of the evolution of literature.
There are many “advocates” in the ranks of poetry who would not consider it “real poetry” but the popular vote is in its favor.
Building on the main premise, most of the times, prose poems focus on the following elements in the piece:
• Specific Theme
For a novice writer, it is the best gateway into the realm of poetry. You can make great progress at advanced levels by learning ropes in this beginner-friendly but wildly popular poetry type.
Here are things to keep in mind while writing prose poetry:
• You will not break lines after sentences
• You can divide the piece into paragraphs. It can be of any length, from a sentence fragment to multiple paragraphs
• Try to match the natural rhythm of your thoughts with that of the prose
• You should use techniques that are employed in poetry in general, like rhyme, repetition, alliteration, etc.
• You should target something between prose and poetry
• Try to say more with less
James Tate and Garry Young are some of the masters in this field.
If you have ever read poetry in your life, there are healthy chances that you have read a piece of narrative poetry. It has a story to it, like the beginning of a character or thing. This is commonly referred to as arch. This story has a plot that is complemented by a strong narrative voice.
The main thing here is that poets do not shy away from using symbolism in this type of poetry. For instance, they would tell the story of a pencil in an unwavering, precise way, but when you read between the lines, you can draw other references and conclusions from the narration. The poet might be telling his story with a pencil or pen being the metaphor!
As far as the length and forms of these poems are concerned, there is a lot of variety to it. This is what shows that poetry is not synonymous with some uptight writing style with no room for the poet to define things for himself.
There is no way you speak English and you do not know who William Shakespeare is. He is said to be the King of the Drama. That is an apt title, but he is also the King of Sonnets. The dramatist has written a major portion of his work following this specific type of poetry. In the early period of English literature, Sonnet was considered to be the zenith of language and art.
This form follows a specific code. It is a traditional type of poetry that has these features:
• 14 Lines
• Iambic Meter
• Ending Rhyme Scheme
Traditionally, there are three types of sonnets found in the literature:
• The Petrarchan
• The Shakespearean
• The Spenserian
You can explore these types online and get to know them better with examples.
As the name suggests these days, epic poetry was used to be epic poetry during the times of the Romans and the Greeks. It was the most popular because it was directly related to the values of that time.
An epic poem would describe the hero’s journey. The best thing about an epic poem was that it was realistic and relatable at the time. The difficulties a hero faced and how he conquered his personal demons and those of the world were written in those epic poems.
In simpler terms, they were a long, detailed account of the trials that the hero faced on his way to glory and fame. There are many epic poems in the literature of every major language that find their roots in the mythology of the corresponding culture. This may be the reason they are still popular to some extent.
Following are some of the examples of epic poetry:
• The Odyssey by Homer
• The Faerie Queene by Edmund Spencer
• Paradise Lost by John Milton
Free Verse Poetry
Again, some traditionalists claim that free verse poetry is not a true form of poetry. But it exists and that should be enough for a novice writer like you to give it a try.
You can throw all the rules out the window if you feel like it. Read the works of some of the best poets in this category and then go your own way with no remorse at all!
You do not need to follow any set rules like format, rhyme scheme, tone, or pattern. As a beginner, it is perfect for you because it does not put any limitations on how you want to use your writing to achieve the title of poet.
How To Begin?
As we discussed earlier, many people want to be called poets. They want to take the literary world by storm and want to enjoy the statuses of the greats they have come to love. All great things aside, they do not get started, no matter how hard they try!
The problem starts with the question: How to begin?
What seems like a big problem is not much of a deal. When you start to see clearly, you will know that it is a pretty simple and straightforward process.
If you write prose, you surely have favorite themes and topics. You can explore them here in the poetry format. That could give you a jump start with great promise for progress as you go.
For example, if you love to write about war, love, and loss, you can aptly use the elements of these themes in your poetry. Highlight the plight and get it right!
Pro Tip: Start writing about things that you know. This will save you the burden of research while you are trying to learn a new writing format. Use what you already know and then diversify as you make progress.
In addition to that, try to develop a keen understanding of your surrounding through sensory and perceptive tools. Describe what you feel, smell, and anticipate. Use your imagination to create ideas and topics that could help you in writing poetry!
If you are still struggling with how to break into the fold, fret not. Try one of these exercises for a quick start. You will appreciate the beauty of simple things and that will be the moment you become a poet!
• Take a look at an old photo. If you are in it, try to remember what you were thinking and feeling at that day and time. Write it and compare it with your present self.
• Use colors and smells and describe the most pleasant dream of your life and the worst nightmare.
• Narrate your story, from past to the present, using anything for a metaphor. Try to relate your personal demons, your ambitions, and other things that developed your thinking of the world.
• Set a word limit and explain a difficult aspect of life or society.
Start from these and as you get better, you can invent your own exercises to ease your work into a complete collection of poems.
Get creative and recycle ideas from the past, both of your own and that of the legends that you come to love or hate in the art.
Remember, there is no right or wrong about how you start writing a poem. You can always edit later. What matters the most is how you get started on this incredible journey!
How To Know If A Poem Is Any Good?
This has always been a difficult question, that has poked the poets for ages.
How can you tell if any poem is good?
In a common qualitative or quantitative way, there is no gauge to measure the quality of a piece.
There are other ways!
A poem is good, just like any other form of writing, if it induces emotions and feelings in the readers. Of course, there are some rules to follow for certain types of poetry. But you are the writer, the poet, who gets to decide in what format you want to write.
Keep in mind that whatever the format you use, the primary function of any piece of writing is to elicit a response or emotion. There is a strong reason why poetry has always been synonymous with a strong expression and deep meanings. It has always shown what cannot be seen and changed the hearts of the listeners and readers. So, know the legacy you need to continue!
As a novice poet, if you can stick to some set rules, you know you are making progress. Just keep on going in that direction. There will come the time for experimentation!
As opposed to popular belief among the masses and writers, poetry is not an exclusive club where you can only get in through invites from the members. It can be hard, especially if you are a beginner, but you can master it with practice and perseverance.
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