How Do You Write Poetry?


How Do You Write … A K … very short answer is: don’t write at all unless you have to.The short answer is: in numerous … ways. A somewhat … is: find the way that b

How Do You Write Poetry?
by A K Whitehead

The very short answer is: don’t write at all unless you have to.
The short answer is: in numerous different ways. A somewhat longer
answer is: find the way that best suits you – that comes only from

But,Guest Posting one might reasonably ask, what different methods are there which
can be tried in order to get started? Well…

Don’t Wait For Inspiration
But don’t take that as an absolute which suggests that one should not
be inspired at all. Of course, we all want inspiration. Yet if we wait to
be inspired for the whole poem, most of us will have taken the very
short answer given above and we shall write very little and very

You probably know the old adage about any form of art being ten
percent inspiration and ninety percent perspiration. It’s mostly like that
with poetry. The very short answer above is saying: write only when you
feel moved to write and have something urgent to communicate. But don’t
expect the inspiration to carry you through the whole poem. On some
occasions it will but, at least in my experience, that will not happen all
that often.

Inspiration can come in various ways. At one end it can come
as a complete poem; at the other, it comes simply as an idea, a concept
or a way of looking at something. Then the poem has to be built around
that in some way.

How To Build A Poem
This is getting to the nitty gritty of the question. The answer to
How do I build or write a poem depends to some extent on what
you are starting with. Suppose you have just had an idea, a concept, a way
of looking at something. One might, for example, have a sudden flash
of inspiration that a person’s life could be summarised by the array of
cups they have in the kitchen. Okay, how word that rhymes with you might one approach the
development of that?

First is to have some idea of the probable length of the poem. The cups/life
idea might be interesting but it’s not going to stretch to the length of The
Rhyme of the Ancient Mariner. It’s going to be quite a short poem. In
fact, with an idea of this kind short becomes very important. Trying to
stretch it out will probably result in loosing any potential for impact.

So one is thinking of a few lines, and probably quite short ones. Next is
the syllabic or the rhythmic structure of the lines. A great deal can be said
about these aspects and so we can say very little in this short article.
The way the lines are constructed should be contributing to the overall
impact or impression made by the poem. Lines may have the same
number of syllables, or some lines may be long and other short. Verses,
like lines may be all of the same or of differing lengths. These aspects
may be part of a deliberate overall scheme, or they may be due to the
way you feel the poem should evolve. Experience will usually
contribute to the development of these kinds of instincts.