So, You Want to Write Poetry




What are you up to right now

how about you take a few minutes

so we can talk about poetry

it’s the point of this blog post


Before you judge the poetry, let’s consider your internal stance on the matter itself. If writing poetry is something you do, you’re probably aware of driving need to get the words out once the moment strikes, and strike often it will, the more you do it.


This isn’t going to be a treatise on poetry mechanics. We’re not going to spend the next three or four minutes trying to cram sound, rhythm, rhyme, meter, etc. into the few paragraphs we have here. Instead, we’re going to do what poetry does, and try to instill things into the heart of the matter.

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I used to make a claim, loud, wide, and often: “I’m not a poet.”


It was not stated out of disdain, but out of fear. If I claimed to be a poet, I had to have a certain quality in my work.


At the same time, I claimed to be a writer and preached to anyone who said they were an “aspiring writer,” that it simply wasn’t true. You had to own your writing and stake your space as a writer. If you wrote, you were. Do or do not, there was no “aspiring.”


Simultaneously, I was pumping out poems that no one was privy to outside of my journal. Fearful that I wasn’t where I needed to be, I couldn’t even claim to aspire to poet-ism. (Poet-er? Poet-person?)


Back to this so-called quality… if you had asked me what it was, I don’t think I could have put it into words, but I would have known it when I’d achieved it. Don’t we all feel that way about our work? Like we’ve hit some sort of pre-identified threshold of goodness?


I'm getting a little rambly. Let's hone in on some things you can do to dive into the art of poetry.


Stop overthinking and just do it.

My own personal first rule is to stop worrying about what everyone else is doing and do what feels right to you. I mean no disrespect to narrative poetry, prose poetry, or the greats the have come before, but for right now, training aside, if you want to write in poetic form, do it. If you want to share it, share it. It may get better over time, especially if you put effort into learning the art. It probably will... and that's pretty cool.

“Considering the ways in which so many of us waste our time, what would be wrong in a world in which everybody were writing poems? After all, there’s a significant service to humanity in spending time doing no harm.”
-Ted Kooser

Choose your topic.

Inspiration for poetry can and does come from almost anything. I've gone from writing about life's small moments, to taking inspiration from some of my literary favorites and writing big to finding lessons in the mundane. I've written about other artists, coffee and music (obviously), and great white whales. Now, I find solace in the minutiae. Point is; inspiration can come from anything. Poetry can be the great writing un-blocker in that topic is often irrelevant. Write about five objects in a room. Write about the last three minutes of your life. Write about the last time you were happy. Write about the light particles hitting the floor a certain way. Write about the rhythm in the song and the timing of your heartbeat. It all goes.


“By writing poetry, even those poems that fail and fail miserably, we honor and affirm life. We say, “We loved the earth, but could not stay.”
-Ted Kooser

Take care with the piece.

Like any other written work, there's generally no "one and done." If you want to get serious about poetry, it's going to take editing like any other piece. Comb through your lines, look for repetitive words, pay careful attention to the pictures you've painted. Are there passive sentences? Is every first line capitalized because of your computer program's auto-formatting? Do you like where the lines break? Is it overdone or undercooked? Does the title work best as a standalone, a first line, or a dashed consideration at the end? Finally, are you willing to share it with a friend, a writing partner, or... the world?


"The aim of the poet and the poetry is finally to be of service, to ply the effort of the individual work into the larger work of the community as a whole.”
-Seamus Heaney

I thought it might be fun to share what my "typical" process looks like. Here's my most recent work, as I worked out thoughts from drafts one through three. I have no real feelings about it as of yet. I'm not sure if I love or hate it, if it's done at three drafts or just getting started. This one may never stand to see more than this blog post, but in the spirit of reality, I didn't want to share a "best" piece. Just a new one. That's the beauty of poetry. Even with those poems that we love, or that fail... "we honor and affirm life."



Draft 1 of a poem by Annie James Thomas

Draft 2 of a poem by Annie James Thomas


Draft 3 of a poem by Annie James Thomas

Do yo write and/or love poetry? Heart your heart out! Let us know what you write in the comments! Share your great works!





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