How to write a poem

Joseph Sparks


Composition I

How to write a poem

By: Joseph Sparks

A recipe of words mixed and simmered over a period of time, tasted and basted, ingredients added to make a work everyone savors. Like cooking, writing poems is a job that takes all the right ingredients, spices, and over-all flavor. The soul of an idea; poetry gives words new meaning, but how do you create soul?

The first step is a place to write and the customary materials are needed. Paper and a writing utensil are the tools, but one of the hard things is finding a place to write. Some writers have a special place, their thinking place, like under the oak tree in the back yard, or in a certain chair on a specific side of the table. While other could care less, writing on their bed, in the car, anywhere!

Next, you have to pick the subject and genre. What do you want to write about? Love is the most popular known subject, but emotions are only half of the package. You can write like a sonnet or nursery rhyme or a story meant to have a meaning to teach a lesson, or just to be funny! Haikus, couplets, triplets, quatrains; free verse, poetry is the expression of anything. Think bold, big; but most of all be creative.

After that, what about a repeated line/stanza? Using a repetitive line/stanza is not a necessity to a poem, but it gives it a little bit of guidance; if you're moving a little off track, it puts you back on it. A certain structure can be used like glue holding together the poem in an order of balance. If a repetitive poem is written, make sure the line/stanza is repeated at a regular interval, such as every two to three stanzas. It can't be one here, one there, oh, and one here just cause I feel like it; the line/stanza is there to give balance to the poem. A clear, clean rhyme scheme is the key to an effective poem with a dynamic impact on the views the reader will get from the poem. Rhyme schemes differ from poem to poem; if fact, here are a few rhyme schemes:


A or A or A





If you decide to do a broken-stanza poem, then make sure there is at least two of the same rhyme schemes in a row; you can not have it making no sense the whole way because it needs some form of structured neatness like a group of bookshelves. All the books are in one place (the shelves), but you might have to look everywhere for a book that might not even be on that particular shelf.

A proper rhyme scheme is just an as important as the placement of repetitive lines because it can not be a jumble of chaos. In case you do not know how to create a rhyme scheme, here is how it works. Below we have a stanza from a poem called Nothing Gold can Stay, by Robert Frost.

(A) Then leaf subsides to leaf,

(A) And Eden sank to grief.

(B) So dawn goes down today,

(B) Nothing gold can stay.

Notice how this stanza has a clear description of the rhyme scheme; A rhymes with A and B rhymes with B and so on. This can go on until you reach Z, then you go to AA. Also, syllables/meters are a key in writing a poem. For this, you have to follow the scale of the iamb. That is; the "measurement" of the poem. Counting the syllables, they should come out equally among what you are writing. They could go 1-2-1-2-1-2, as they do for the stanza above except in the last line they go 2-1-2-1-2-1. These numbers represent the syllables, just like a word may have two or more syllables. A poem can be written without using this method, but two factors play to this. One, you might be using this method but not yet realize what you're doing. Two, the poem may become a success, but it will not have the strength it would have if it was a poem written in meter.

With that all cleared up, we move on to the central focus. What do you want to do with your poem? Do you want to talk of love, war, nature, the river of time, space; what is it that you see fit to write a poem about. If you choose a tree, are you going to describe the trees descent into the ancient age it has now grown into, or the maybe the battles the tree has watched from atop its hill. If you choose love, are you going to tell a tragic love tale (Romeo and Juliet) or of a love growing strong and embracing the world of tomorrow with a strong bond no force can destroy. Dedicating your poem to one cause is a way to focus it without having to use repetitive lines, and it may even make the poem better.

Next, everybody's favorite part, reviewing-going over the poem and checking for wording, rhyme scheme, length, line length, and consistency. Using the right words can make or break a poem. Do not use complexities such as "sepulcher" then use "tomb" (Annabelle Lee, Edgar Allen Poe). Both mean a place to bury a person, but one that can confuse the reader, even if the words like sepulcher and tomb mean the same thing. Make sure the rhyme scheme goes on as it should (not sticking out like a sour thumb). Length can hurt your poem, so make sure it is not really short but not really long. If you do not pull a Emily Dickenson (a poet who writes poems the size of a babies hand) or pull a Mahabharata (the longest poem known to the world, made up of 220,000 lines divided into 18 sections), then you will be fine. Next, if you have a poem with line lengths that are way different, you need to change it.

9 Athe waves of a crashing ocean is upon us,

4 Bcoming from the sea.

7 Ca monster of blue-green intensities,

10 Bas far as the eye can be accountable to see.

First off, 9-4-7-10 are the number of words per line in this stanza. 9-4, 7-10, 7-4, and 4-10 are all far off on the word value.

5 Athe waves of the ocean,

4 Bcoming from the sea.

4 Ca monster of blue,

7 Bas far as the eye can see.

Revised, this stanza looks fine except the 4-7 is a three word difference. A quick poem-writing skill; pay attention to the syllables and the meter. This stanza, revised, flows, even with the three word difference.

Almost done, the next step is explanation. Can you tell me what this stanza means?

As soft and gentle,

As a warm summer day.

With a slight wind,

Flowing over the bay.

First, it represents a day soft and gentle, a Saturday with the remnants of clouds flowing from the atmosphere. With a slight wind to carry you to your destination, flowing over the bay means you are probably at the beach, having fun and what-not. As long as you can describe what you wrote, then you should do fine.

Now that that the poem is written, what are you going to do with it? Sometimes it is for fun, but some people put them into books, on a website or give them to a friend. Fictionpress, poemhunter, helium, or youngwriterssociety (with www in the front and .com in the back of all of these) are all good places to post poems on. First you post them. Then people read them, critique or praise them. Then you can glow with pride or change it if you want to!

Here is a poem and the steps I have just described to you:

Four Season Maidens

The maidens of time,

Who keep peace and order.

To protect us,

Along each border.

The child of Spring,

Coaxes things to grow,

As all of life's secrets,

Her essence knows.

She's the seed of beginnings,

The wonder of start.

As she is the first,

Her heart soft, yet tart.

The maiden summer takes over,

As she lifts the soul.

Teaching us patience,

Will complete all that's whole.

Summer is calculated,

Teaching us to wait.

As life's blessings,

Rest in her, innate.

Then lady Fall,

The woman of change.

As your thoughts,

Fall and rearrange.

The mistress of moving,

On with your life.

She teaches us, to carry on,

Even through perils and strife.

Then comes, the Winter Crone,

Her heart ice and cold.

As she is life's problems,

Cruel and bold.

Pale blue skin,

And piercing eyes.

Corporate and cold,

But very wise.

As all the maidens,

Teach us life's reasons.

As, four in one,

They're simply seasons.

First off, identify the subject, genre, and central focus. The subject is the seasons, represented as people and a force of nature. Quatrain, a four-line-per-stanza poem, would be the genre. The central focus is how the seasons can be reflected as people, mirroring the emotions of people as well. This poem has no repetitive line or stanza. Instead of repetition, this poem is held together by the season's cycle that is the main subject. The explanation is, in part, the central focus, but the rest is how the seasons start with spring, then summer, then fall, then winter. Spring being young and Winter being old. This being so, that is why the spring person is a child and the winter person is a crone. After this, where could this poem be published? Well, unless you are reading this on the internet (/u/601257/jrsparkus), it is on pages 101-103 in The Book of Poems III, by Joseph Sparks.

Poetry can be fun or a vent, a way to pass some time or burn some anger. Words make up the foundation of the poem, and the placement and rhyme scheme keep the poem hurtling toward success. Subject and genre can make it inspiring and fast-paced, or painfully slow but like a flower billowing in a soft summer breeze. It is all about description, my dear Watson, all about description.