Poetry Tutorial: A Concise Guide to Writing Poetry

Today I thought I'd give myself a break from the typical writing of poetry and instead do something entirely different. It's not really much of a break when you think about it, because I'm still writing. In fact, I'm making more work for myself, there's even more words in this than in the typical poem.

I have very little to say too, so I have to do just as much thinking to come up with things to write as I would when sculpting some poetry. I suppose, in hindsight, it's not a great idea. At least there should be less time consuming musing involved.

Did you know I've written 810 poems? That's a lot of poems for one poet. 810 ideas, splatted directly onto internet paper for anyone to read. There's a few bonus things that aren't poems scattered about in there too, a bit like this.

Now that engaging introduction is over, how about some poetry writing tips?

When you're a poet, like me, and you've written 810 poems, like me, there are frequently concerns that you've written exactly the same thing before. I say that's fine. I never used to, but when I had to search through several hundred poems, I sort of gave up on keeping track and decided to hope for the best instead. If I'm covering a topic I've already given the once over, I suspect giving it the old twice over probably leads to an improved, or at the very least different, perspective.

Step two: Thinking of things to write about. If you're struggling for ideas, just think of any old thing. If it's a thing you have some experience with then that's a bonus. For example, I currently have no ideas, but what I have been doing is eating far too much chocolate. I can put that into action like so:

Sandra ate her stash of Easter eggs.
Her teeth ached.
She pulled them out.
Put them under her pillow and waited for the tooth fairy to pay up.
She needed the funds for more chocolate.
And now the damn teeth won't ruin it for her.

There you go. That's a poem in this article I'm writing to take a break from writing poems. What an idiot. You know what, I'm going to put that up on it's own, pretend you didn't read it.

As you put pen to paper try to give yourself time to muse over your creation. Don’t always just write the first word that comes into your head, try using the second or third word you think of instead, if one of those sounds good. If you can’t think of any other words, then the first was probably fine. And try to avoid words that are too fancy, they just make you sound a bit pretentious. It’s all a battle of words, really. Poetry doesn’t demand an expansive vocabulary, a clever use of the words you do know is fine.

Another good topic for poetry is, of course, love. As I’m sure you’re aware, just a quick glance at Instagram poetry will make it abundantly clear that most poets give love an incredibly wide berth. This is understandable, it’s a very challenging subject. Everyone thinks they know best when it comes to love, but really, only an experienced poet is capable of telling you what love truly is.

If you need a few more ideas for poetry beyond love, well, I don’t know, try car stereos or something.

Jeremy twiddled the knobs on his car stereo.
It crunched into action.
He was in love.
He zipped down the motorway.
Guitar in his lap.
Noodling to the latest tunes.

Two poems in one day.

If all else fails, give looking at some incredibly attractive naked people a go. Any gender you want, just ensure they’re beautiful. They say beauty is in the eye of the beholder. The eye of a good poet requires perfection.

In summary, think about some things, write some things, and if neither of those work out, look at someone attractive. But for god's sake, don't objectify people.

To polish things off I’ll do a brief paragraph on tools of the trade. Poets absolutely love clacking away on typewriters. They’re drawn to them, like spiders to baths, or moths to lights. Honestly, they’re a bad input device. It’s best to just write with any old thing you have in front of you. Like a pen and paper, or a phone, or a computer. A typewriter is cumbersome. You can’t take it anywhere without looking like an absolute pillock either. The single benefit of a classic typewriter is that it gives you time to engage your muse while you grapple with the heavy keys and stumble through sentences.

I suspect in 100 years or so poets will probably be buying up old MacBook Pros, sitting on their local sludge banks, and thinking that’s the only way poems should be written. For now though, feel free to pretend you own a typewriter, it does make you seem more authentic.

That about wraps things up for a quick poetry writing tutorial. I hope these tips helped you knock out some creations of your own. Oh, and it's always a good idea to read things out loud after you write them for some reason. I don't know why, I just pretend I've done that step.