Category Archives: Poetry

How to Compose a Poem

There are many who still believe that poetry is reserved for the talented. I say that poetry is for all. In fact, anyone who knows to use a language to write has the potential of writing a simple poem. After all, we are not asking you to write the way Shakespeare or Wordsworth has written. Each of us have our own style. Furthermore, you have the poetic license to break grammar rules. You love that don’t you? ūüôā Let’s look at some tips on writing a poem.

  1. Step 1

    Be inspired. Inspiration may come at any time very unexpectedly. It may be a specific person, place or situation that invokes your emotion.  You could be sitting alone at the patio and suddenly a colourful little bird flew past, perched on a tree and it made you wonder of the beauty of nature.

  2. Step 2

    You’ve found the inspiration. Now, brainstorm. Write down everything that comes to mind. Don’t think much; let instinct take over. Be uninhibited in what is written down and let all feelings pour out. Remember everything can be thrown out later.

  3. Step 3

    Think about form and begin to organise thoughts. Since you’re mostly likely not write it for performance at a theatre, opt for the free verse where there are no restrictions. You’re free as a bird to write as many lines as you want in a stanza, or merely one stanza.

  4. Step 4

    Remember rhythm and metre. There is a difference between the two, and both are equally important in poetry. Metre is the established pattern of the poem, that is, the arrangement of syllables, while rhythm refers to the sound when it is spoken. Take both into consideration while writing a poem.

  5. Step 5

    Use a lot of descriptive words. These words arouse all the senses. Use symbolism, and metaphors. To add more life and interest into your poem, use alliteration, the repeating of similar sounds in a sentence or phrase.

Compare these two poems, and see which one gives more impact. Why?

Poem 1

Poem 2

Love is blind
It sounds like the thunder before the storm
It feels like the earth after the first rain
It smells like red roses
It tastes like saccharine strawberries
It lives everywhere
Love is blind
Rumbling thunder before the storm
Fresh like the earth after morning rain
Smells like roses
Tastes sweetness of strawberries
Love is blind, surrounds the heart

Need more information? Read up on poetry. There are many books in the library and the bookstore. The more you read, the more ideas you’d get.

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Literary Elements in Poetry

All poems have at least a few of the following literary elements.

Alliteration: Alliteration means two or more words which have the same initial sound.

Examples:

  • big bad boy
  • pretty piece of painting
  • sun shall shine

Assonance: Assonance is a partial rhyme which has the same internal vowel sounds amongst different words.

Examples:

  • He is the cool dude.
  • eating freshly mashed potatoes

Metaphor: A comparison which does not use the words “like” or “as” is called a metaphor.

Examples:

  • He is the fire of my life.
  • a¬†mountain of love
  • Here is home.

Onomatopoeia: An onomatopoeia is a word that sound like their meaning.

Examples:

  • the midnight wind whispers
  • skin sizzles in the sun
  • my growling tummy

Repetitions: The repetition of the same word throughout the poem is done to emphasize significance. To illustrate this element, here’s an abstract from “The Rime of the Ancient Mariner” by¬†Samuel T. Coleridge.

I looked upon the rotting sea,
And drew my eyes away;
I looked upon the rotting deck,
And there the dead men lay.

Rhyme: A rhyme refers to the repetition of sounds within different words, either end sound, middle or beginning.¬†The ability to pronounce correctly is vital so that you’re able to detect the rhyming words. In fact, it could be used as a tool to teach pronunciation. An abstract of the¬†poem written by¬†Theodore Roethke¬†entited “My Papa’s Waltz” has this element as shown below:

The whiskey on your breath
Could make a small boy dizzy;
But I hung on like death:
Such waltzing was not easy.

Rhythm: The rhythm can be measured in terms of heavily stressed to less stressed syllables. That is why in order to enjoy a poem and feel its mood, you need to recite or read it aloud. Here’s an instance of rhythm taken from “Hiawatha’s Departure” by Henry W. Longfellow. Each line in the stanza consists of eight syllables.

By the shore of Gitchie Gumee,
By the shining Big-Sea-Water,
At the doorway of his wigwam,
In the pleasant Summer morning,
Hiawatha stood and waited.

Simile: A simile is a comparison using the words “like” or “as”. It is the opposite of a metaphor.

Examples:

  • eyes¬†like dagger
  • roar loud as a lion
  • words like the tip of a knife

Style: Style refers to the way the poem is written. Free-style, ballad, haiku, etc. Includes length of meters, number of stanzas along with rhyme techniques and rhythm.

Symbol: Something that represents something else through association, resemblance or convention is called a symbol. Symbols associate two things, but their meaning is both literal and figurative.

Examples:

  • You’re a hydrant that¬†extinguishes the fire in me.
  • His life was an oak tree that had just lost its leaves.

Theme: The theme of a poem means the message, point of view and idea of the poem. The theme is derived from the reason you want to write the poem.