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How to Write a Quick Poem


“You will find poetry nowhere unless you take some of it with you,” wrote 18th- and 19th-century French essayist and moralist Joseph Joubert. Poets see the world differently than many other individuals do. They transform people, places and emotions into rhythmic stories filled with images, metaphors and similes. They express their desires, fears, frustrations and glee in melodic verse. Often they make readers laugh out loud with clever lines and whimsical turns of phrase. Writing a good poem quickly isn’t as daunting as you might think. It simply involves plotting out your ideas and getting them on paper.

Determine the goal of your poem. You might want to tell a story; express your beliefs, observations or feelings; entertain readers or make them laugh; or just practice your poetry skills. Write down any messages or themes you want to get across in your poem.

Choose a tone or feel for your poem. Your poem can be romantic, cute, funny, serious, sad, scary or uplifting or a combination of any of these.

Select a form or rhyme scheme. Traditional poetic forms include sonnet, haiku, rhyming couplets, ballad, acrostic, limerick and blank verse, which is free form and includes little to no rhyming.

Make a list of imagery to incorporate in your poem. Use images that help you express your poem’s theme or message. If you’re writing a love poem, list words that come to mind when you think of your romantic partner, such as “loving,” “soft,” “sweet,” “gentle,” or “kind.” Then list images these words evoke in any of the five senses (sight, sound, smell, touch, taste). For example, you might compare your beloved to a cloud that passes in the sky or a cool desert evening.

Choose a style. American author William Carlos Williams wrote minimalist verse that used simple words and phrases to evoke strong emotions in the reader. Sylvia Plath and Anne Sexton pioneered 20th-century American confessional poetry, in which they bluntly expressed their terror, anger, joy, sadness and battles with mental illness. Walt Whitman penned long romantic ballads that explored mankind’s relationship with nature and the universe. Theodore Geisel (aka Dr. Seuss) and Shel Silverstein published light-hearted children’s verse that often belied deeper social messages. Select a style and maintain it throughout your verses to help make your poem more powerful, moving or entertaining.

Set a timer for 30 minutes and write your poem. Don’t overthink it and don’t self-edit as you go along. Don’t judge your writing, either. This is a first draft, a chance to get your thoughts and ideas on paper.

Let your poem sit for a day or two and come back to it with fresh eyes. Remove any overwrought or maudlin lines. It’s not uncommon for poets to get sappy in their first drafts. Take out any unnecessary words or phrases to make your poem as concise and to the point as possible.

Give your poem a title. Use a few words or a phrase from your poem or come up with a title on your own. Try to keep the title from one to six words in length.

Tips
  • Don’t mix your metaphors. For instance, if most of your images revolve around nature, don’t suddenly start writing about industry or technology, unless you’re comparing and contrasting two concepts.
  • Read plenty of contemporary and classic American and world poetry to help you get a feel for different forms, styles and phrasing.
  • Write your poem by hand or use a typewriter. Word processing programs can bring out the self critic in authors, as they quickly can delete and rewrite phrases and sentences. Write on paper to help slow down your thinking and silence your inner critic.
About the Author

Angela Brown has been a book editor since 1997. She has written for various websites, as well as National Public Radio, Pacifica Radio and more than 20 fiction anthologies. Brown earned a Bachelor of Arts in theater and English from the University of Wisconsin.

Photo Credits
  • journal and fountain pen image by jimcox40 from Fotolia.com