Writing poetry is quite a daunting task. It sounds easy at the outset, but when one gets down to it, it becomes more and more complicated. Some of us can go ahead and create a magical flow with words quite easily, while it is a long-winded and onerous task for others. Needless to say, when one contemplates writing poetry, one must be up to the challenge.
There are several things that one must consider while wondering how to write poetry. Here is a list of things to think about that, hopefully, will make the process easier for you.
Commonly known as the ‘Theme’ of the poem, this is the important starting point and central point of your work. What is the poem all about? What are you trying to get across to the world at large, via your poem? Is it a story, an experience, a description of events, or a description of a place?
An interesting way to take the jump from this point is writing down the words, phrases or sentences that come to your mind when you are thinking about the subject or the theme of your poem. Don’t worry if nothing sounds or feels right, just write it down for now.
A poem, no matter how descriptive it may be, is not to be used to state the obvious. We all know that the grass is green, for example. What you need to express in your poem is what you felt when you saw the green grass. What emotions did it evoke within you? What were you going through at the time and how did seeing the green grass change or enhance your feelings at that moment of time? With your words, you have to convey what you feel or felt. The readers have to understand the depth of what you were going through. A poem is essentially about the emotions of the poet.
A way to get past the barrier of writing about emotions is to take ordinary things from your daily life and write down whatever ‘feeling’ words come to your mind when you see the object. Such a list will come in handy and is a good way to practice.
How do you want to portray your thoughts, ideas and feelings via this poem? Do you want to make it a serious poem, or a funny one, a sarcastic one or an irreverent one? The mood can often help you convey the feelings more effectively.
Once you have your feeling words in place, you can choose different moods of the poem and try to write a sentence or two that contains the theme and the feeling in these various moods. Which mood do you like the best? Which mood conveys what you feel about the subject more effectively?
Choose a style of writing the poem from among several – from classical to the modern contemporary styles of writing poetry, there are many to choose from. Pick a style which is easier for you to work with. Most modern poets often use the free verse style of poetry. Although, to the beginner, this style may not have a formal structure and sound easy to write in, look closely at the work of popular free verse poets and you will find a basic form lurking somewhere.
An exercise to try out at this juncture is to write down your thoughts about something or someone in free verse and then trying to see if you can put those lines into another well-known structure or style of writing poetry. Perhaps a few changes here and there and it might do the trick. Try doing that with two or three styles and find one which you are more comfortable with. This process will help you revise your work and find your style at the same time.
Who are you writing for? The audience of the poem can help you choose the language, the style and the words to be used in your piece. Experiment with forms and words to find your unique ‘Voice’ as a poet.
Read out your poem to a few of your friends, relatives, and neighbors etc who fit in with your description of your target audience. Ask for their feedback and what they felt about the poem. Don’t take negative feedback or criticism to heart – it is in fact a learning experience all the way. Try and try till you get it just right.