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How to Write a Historical Poem


Though many people believe poetry is composed quickly and ex nihilo, according to John Drury, author of "Creating Poetry," the process of creating poetry is as challenging and demanding, if not more so, than the process of drafting and writing an essay. This is particularly true for historical poems, which often rely upon historical facts that are recast in a narrative, poetic form. As with essay writing, historical poems require you to carefully plan and draft before actually starting the composition of the poem itself.

Identify the historical figure, event, place or idea about which you would like to write a poem.

Gather information about your historical figure, event, place or idea that can be utilized to build the narrative structure of your poem. This includes information on the origin, birth or beginning of your poem's focus, the information on the development or life of the focus and any relevant information on the conclusion, ending or death of the focus.

Choose the form your poem will take. Poetic forms range from the highly structured, longer forms (villanelle, sestina, sonnet) to shorter, structured poems (haiku, limerick) to freer, loosely structured poems (free verse).

Compile a list of words and phrases that apply to your poem's topic which can be linked according to their aural quality. For example, words can be grouped according to assonance (neighbor, weigh), consonance (project, eject), alliteration (wonderful, wild), perfect rhyme (cat, hat), slant rhyme (soul, fall) and so on.

Outline your poem. Though they often appear more haphazard and less structured than other writings, poems require careful consideration of what ideas will appear and in what order.

Draft your poem based upon your outline. During this part of the process, you should focus on the components of your poem, such as stanzas and line groupings (couplets, tercets, quatrains).

Revise your first draft, making sure the different components work together such as rhyming words, rhythm or meter and structure.

Share your poem with other writers and revise and edit it many times before finalizing it.

Tip
  • Often the poetic form you choose will dictate the language of the poem, particularly structured poems with repeated endings such as sestinas and sonnets.
References
  • "Creating Poetry"; John Drury; 2006
About the Author

Samuel Hamilton has been writing since 2002. His work has appeared in “The Penn,” “The Antithesis,” “New Growth Arts Review" and “Deek” magazine. Hamilton holds a Master of Arts in English education from the University of Pittsburgh, and a Master of Arts in composition from the University of Florida.

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