How To Write A Poem

By Kayla Baker

A few months ago, I had someone contact me via my Instagram page because I had recently posted a love poem. This man asked me to write a love poem that he could give to his girlfriend as a gift. I suggested to him that he should be the one to write the poem, that it would mean more to her coming from him then from a random stranger. While he agreed, he was doubtful of his ability to write a poem. He did not even know where to begin. This got me thinking:

How do we write poetry?

After all, there are over 50 different forms of poetry and those do not include obscure, region-based forms. There are haikus, free-verse, cinquains, epics, ballads, sonnets, odes, limericks, and many more. While some of these forms are easier to play with, others have strict rules and guidelines such as stressed and unstressed syllables that must be obeyed.

For any beginning poet, I believe that free verse is an excellent place to begin because for the most part, the poet is free to experiment with their form.

Now, this is not to say that free-verse is beneath the other formal structures and forms (Although some poetry snobs might argue that it is). Any poetical form can be done well or poorly, it depends on the poet not the structure.

Back to my story, I encouraged this man to write down a few sentences describing the elements of his girlfriend that he loved the best and then to start eliminating extraneous words. Here is my own example:

I love the way that he holds my hand in public. Or the way he plays with my hair at home. I miss the sound of his laughter whenever he leaves and I look forward to the safety of his hugs.

Now, that doesn’t sound much like a poem, but let me start playing with it, getting rid of extra words and re-formatting the lines.

I love the way that he holds my hand in public. Or the way he plays with my hair at home. I miss the sound of his laughter whenever he leaves and I look forward to the safety of his hugs.

Hands held in public

Hair tickled in private

Missing laughter

Craving company of

His arms.

While this is a very simplified first draft of a poem, it is most definitely a poem. Therefore, I think I will stick by this advice. Want to draft a poem but not sure where to start? Try simply writing down your thoughts first, then eliminating and re-arranging and adding where need be.

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