How Do You Write Poetry?

Personal tips on how to write and publish poetry.

So you fancy yourself a writer and want to try your hand at poetry. It can seem to be a daunting task, but it doesn't have to be. It has been my personal experience that actually making yourself sit down and write the thing is the hardest part of the whole process. For those of you who have never actually tried to write a poem, it may feel like the beginning of what may seem to be an intimidating task. Relax!! It is only has hard as you make it out to be. Without sounding like I am bragging, I have not had too many problems writing poems. Ever since the eighth grade, I have had little difficulty in sitting down and writing a poem. In some respects, I look at it as a gift. I have never actually sat down and tried to figure out exactly how I write my poems. I will try to figure it out for you.

I guess the first thing I can tell you to do is read some poetry. Lots of poetry. I must confess that I have not read as much poetry as I would like. No reason other then laziness. And I know what you are thinking, how can I tell someone to do this when I don't follow this advice myself? Good question!! Well the reason that I can in good conscience tell you this, is that it can't steer you wrong. The more you read about a subject, any subject, the more you learn. And the more you learn, the more adept you will become. And the more adept you become, the more confidence you will have. And that confidence will show itself in your writings.

The next thing you can do is to write. It doesn't matter what. Write about anything. I find it easier to write about something that I feel strongly about. It doesn't matter what the topic is about, just so long as you care deeply about it. A lot of my poetry is about nature and the beauty of it. I also have had some success at writing about my life experiences. My life to this point has not been a bed of roses. I lost custody of my two little girls to my ex husband. One of my favorite poems is about the pain of loosing them as a central part of my life. I also have to deal with chronic pain on a daily basis. Writing about this has helped me to cope with the uncertainty of my life and my place in it.



There is a common myth that all poetry must rhyme. I tried to write my poems this way the first few times I sat down to write. The only thing it did was give me a headache. It's not to say that your poetry can't rhyme. But there is no law that says it must. If your poetry flows and you like the end result then by all means rhyme to your hearts content. I try to get in touch with my feelings while I write. Sometimes this is an easy task, sometimes it tears me apart inside and out. But I get such a feeling of satisfaction when I look at my finished product and can feel like a giant weight has been lifted from my soul.

Once you have sat down and have written your poem, you will take one look at it and want to rip it up in a million pieces and burn it. Somehow it won't seem right to you. And you will think that you are not destined to be a poet. Well don't give in to your disgust and give up. Learning to write poetry will take lots and lots of practice and time. You did not learn how to read and write in one day and you will not get the hang of writing poetry in one day either. I recommend that you put what you will surely view as trash away somewhere for some time. I still have my first attempts that I wrote for eighth grade English in a folder. I like to go back periodically and read them. It shows me just how far I have come and some of them give me a laugh or two!! What ever you do, DO NOT give up on yourself. Keep trying. You will never get anything published if you give up on yourself.

After you have written something that you feel you can live with have someone you trust read it and give you an honest opinion on it. And I know that can be a pretty scary feeling. You have spent hours and hours pouring your heart and soul into this poem and now someone may just shoot down all your hard work. It takes a lot of courage to stand up and face the fear of rejection. If you feel you are not ready for this big step, then set your poem aside for a while. It wasn't until my first poem was published that I allowed my best friend to read it. It was her encouragement that prompted me to submit three more that were published at a later date.

Now that you have finished your "masterpiece" you will have to decide if you want to submit it for publication. There are several avenues you can take. You can pay to have it published yourself. That can get a bit expensive. So unless you are married to Bill Gates this may not be much of an option for you. I have had lots of success submitting my poems to poetry contests.

You can surf the net to find web sights that are running contests. Check the guidelines carefully. Some of the contests require you to pay an "entrance" or reading fee. It can run anywhere from two to five dollars a line or page, with a limit of the number of lines you can submit. While there is nothing wrong or illegal about this practice, I personally have a problem paying someone to read my poem only to say thanks but no thanks. Considering all the contests that I have entered in the past ten years alone it would have cost me several hundred dollars just to have my poems read with no guarantee that they will be accepted. The term "starving writer" applies to me, so I cannot afford to pay for a reading fee. If you have the spare change laying around then by all means go for it. Who knows maybe you will get lucky and receive an acceptance letter.

You will also want to be sure that you retain all rights to your poem. While I personally have never had it happen to me, I have heard horror stories of poems that have be plagiarized and the original author left out in the cold. So bottom line is read the guidelines CAREFULLY!!!!!!!!

You might want to purchase The Writer's Handbook. A lot of writers consider it to be their bible. It is chalk full of advise on writing techniques and genres. It also tells where you can market your finished product. Its not limited to poetry, so if you wanted to try your hand at fiction or screen writing, this book will help you there also. You might also consider subscribing to Writer's Digest. It has interesting and pertinent information and articles. At the back of the magazine it has a listing of various poetry contests, writing contests and miscellaneous ads you can answer. Just be sure to read the fine print in the ad and any correspondence you may get before you sign anything. I have had lots of success with Poetry.com and Iliad Press. They have published several of my poems at no cost to me. I have also posted on Mocha Memoirs. This is not a contest per se, but they will publish your poem on their web sight.

In conclusion, writing, whether it be poetry, plays, fiction, screen writing, whatever, all comes down to basically one thing. Perseverance. Making yourself sit down and write everyday no matter what. Doesn't matter if it is five minutes or five hours, just keep writing. If you stick with it, sooner or later you will be published.

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