Poetic Beginnings: Three Tips to Help You Start Writing Poetry Today

*This is an archived post from my last blog Smile, Sugar. I have lightly edited it, but it is mostly unchanged from it's original writing and posting in early summer, 2016.*

Let me state up front I'm not a poetry master. My poetry isn’t a godsend, and I only barely have my creative writing degree. I’m an average girl who likes to write poetry (take long walks on the beach, cuddle by the fire…) and think I'm decent enough to maybe help others out. Cool beans? Cool beans.

If you've been following my blog, you know I like to share first drafts of my poetry. I avoid posting final drafts so I don't ruin the potential of publishing them, but the first drafts give a healthy vibe of the poem. I take the time to comment on how I'd like to improve each piece to help out people like you, people who want to understand poetry but don't.

There are many dynamics to a poem, and some people – even proud writers – are afraid of poetry. Like, let's be real, even I was like ayyyyo... nah when it came to poetry. I decided to accept the challenge it presented and realized it was the writing I actually wanted to do. On my poem posts like Light and For You, I get comments from people saying they wish they could write poetry (or telling me they don't like it at all), so I thought I could share a few tips to help anyone who wants to give it a go dip their toes in the waters of poetry!

One
End Rhyme


This is bit is more of a warning than tip. We can’t really talk about the poetry 101’s without addressing end-rhyme. End-rhyming poetry is often referred to as beginner poetry because, well, when you think of poetry you think of end-rhymes. Myself and many other poets keep a distance from it because it's very hard to do well. You run a high risk of sounding childish or using cheap rhymes that are totally obvious. I don’t want to sound like a jerk here, but it’s how it is.

When you’re doing end-rhyme, you want your rhyme scheme to be so well executed that the reader doesn’t actually notice it rhymes. They should notice how wonderfully it flows, the musicality, the rhythm. Noticing the rhyme scheme is a disservice to your poem. The rhyme should work for poem, not the poem working for the rhyme. There are many poems and poetic structures that do end-rhyme fabulously; it’s a slippery slope.

Still want to play with rhyme? Try slant rhyme! Slant rhyme is word pairings like young and song. They don’t rhyme, but they have similar sounds that almost rhyme. I play with slant rhyme from time to time, and it helped me produce the first poem of mine I liked - June.

Two
Sound


I’ve just told you not to rhyme, so oh god, Bre, how do I get that beautiful poetic flow? This can be heavily influence by structure, your choices of punctuation, and so on, but let’s focus on a few simple techniques that can be inserted into the lines of your poem: alliteration, consonance, and internal rhyme.

Alliteration is where several words begin with the same letter/sound like Peter Piper picked a peck blah blah blah, you get what I mean. Alliteration can be nice little technique that naturally holds your words together and gets them to roll one after the other. This effect is also achieved with consonance, which is where that repeated letter/sound is in the middle or end of the words. When I think of consonance, I personally think of it as the sounds in the middle, because when it’s at the end, it easier to think of it as regular ol’ rhyme instead of consonance. But anyway, the natural insertion of these repeated sounds into your lines establishes a music many want to achieve with end-rhyme.

A poem with a repeated oo sound can create a serene tone to a poem, whereas a repeated K or G can make your poem violent and harsh in its sound. If you hold onto a particular sound for the entirety of your poem, it has as much power as the words themselves.

As for internal rhyme, let me give you an example, yeah?

Regular End Rhyme

The little fish
made a wish

Internal Rhyme

The little fish made a wish

The rhyme is within one line, clearly. It’s always a little tickle to have internal rhyme because even though I just dragged them a bit, rhymes are nice.

Three
Imagery


This is what I struggle with in my poetry the most because I am so heavy on only one aspect of it. In poetry, imagery is evoking the five sense: taste, touch, sight, smell, sound.

You can tell me about the different shades of green the leaves on a tree are and how the sunlight flits through them with consonance and perfectly executed rhyme, but your poem will go to the next level if you include how bumpy the bark feels against your back, how the smell is spicy and earthy, how even when the wind is still, you can hear twigs snapping from little creatures hidden in its tangles.


One of the beautiful things about poetry is how immersive it is. Imagery is your way of painting the picture, setting the scene. Writing a poem with only visuals is like drawing the rainbow and only using red. 


There is so much more to poetry than what I have said here, and even this isn't the gospel truth. These are just some tips I think could help guide you to writing better poetry. I'd love to to write more about helping people get into poetry (I even have a specialty post about Writing to an Obsession), so please let me know any and all of your poetry questions. Even if I can't answer, I'll get a poet friend to help me out.

What don't you understand about poetry?
Tell me in the comments! 💜



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