How to Write Good Poetry

Federico Andreotti - The PoemJust like music, poetry is the language of the soul, an expression of the poet's sentiments, impression, outlook or just voice.  While most may consider poetry to be subjective, it can still stand out as appealing and impressive to a vast majority just as Shakespeare's, Wordsworth's, Byron's and many great poets' poems have. What makes these poems different?  What makes poetry really good that they are worth reading over and over again? Perhaps some of these points can help you understand how you may improve your mediocre poems to make a difference.





Grammar rules 

Poetry is just like literature.  Proper grammar and spelling rules have to be followed.  Just because it is poetry, doesn't mean that grammar can be ignored and phrases of words are more than enough.  On the contrary, while nouns may be highlighted with added adjectives, articles and prepositions may at times be ignored, provided the meaning of the context doesn't change.  Tenses have to be maintained throughout the poem, just as with literature, and it would be incorrect to assume that while the poem begins with the present tense, it is allowed to conclude with a past tense.  Make sure that what you write balances out grammatically correct.  Abbreviations are frowned upon, unless it has relevance. Shortened versions of words are acceptable and are often seen more in poetry than in prose.  


Style and structure

Every poem has a distinct style.  What is your style and what do you build your poem upon? Is your poem free verse or is it a rhyming poem?  If it is a rhyming poem, what syle does it follow, or what rhyming pattern does it follow? Is it a sonnet or a ballad, or a simple 4 lined, quatrain rhyme scheme?   

If your poem is a free verse, does it follow any free-verse styles as in just an unstructured display of poetic skill?  Or does it follow the rigid formats of Haikus, Acrostics, Tanka, Narrative Poems, Nonets, Blank Verses, etc. which are non-rhyming forms?  

Bring character, style and identity to your poem by building it upon good poetic structure.  



Poetry, unlike prose, is very emphatic and to the point.  While prose may give lengthy descriptions of events or of the object of the theme, poetry on the other hand, is crisp, succinct, and cut and dry.  Imagery is poignant in poetry, where the use of a few words makes their mark upon the reader.  The use of synonyms of the ‘object of the theme’, along with adjectives to support them, makes for good, word-starved, yet descriptive poetry. 



Good poetry flows the way a good sentence is constructed, that is, its sounds and accents in poetry fall in line with the way words are spoken and sounds stressed in regular speech. Off beats, wrong stresses and forced sounds make reading poetry aloud more a pain than a pleasure. 



One very important aspect to consider is 'emotion'.  Good poetry always has an emotional setting or evokes emotions in the reader.  It may be a love poem or one that depicts anger, rage, disappointment, wonder, nature or any other setting.  Ensure that whatever emotions you portray in the poem; it does not topple the balance of the poem.  



Tips & Warning:  


  • Do not be very descriptive with long sentences and unnecessary filler words
  • Keep the theme and imagery of the poem consistent throughout the poem, that is, do not deviate from one setting to another.
  • Poetry in sentence form is short and sweet. Make sure the shortened version of normal sentences for poetry is grammatically correct.
  • Be consistent with the language style used. If it is an archaic form, do not mix it with modern versions.



Other Guides

How to Write a Shakespearean Sonnet


Image Credit: Federico Andreotti - The Poem at Wikimedia Commons