Writing poetry has been a popular pastime during various points in history – from the Romantics to the Beats – and today poetry is experiencing a resurgence with the rise of social media. Now more people have a platform for their poetry. Perhaps you’ve seen other people sharing their work on social media and you’ve wondered how to get started? If you’re not sure how to begin, this article will answer all your questions about writing poetry as a beginner.
Why is Writing Poetry Important?
Poetry is important for a number of reasons. First of all, it’s surprisingly fun to put words together and make something new from a blank page. Secondly, it can be a great creative outlet and a way to relax. Putting your thoughts on paper can give you more insight into your own personality. The process of writing itself awakens the senses and the ability to notice telling details. Writing poetry can put you in touch with a greater artistic community; you might make friends online or offline through a shared interest in poetry. Poetry is also the most concentrated form of writing in that every word must earn its place in the poem. All extraneous words must be cut in service to creating a better poem.
How I began writing poetry…
I began writing poetry when I was studying overseas at Edinburgh University. One of my subjects was about writing poetry and I felt naturally drawn the this short form of writing. While I was overseas got involved with someone romantically, and as it was a international thing and quite dramatic, I had plenty of material to write about. Some of my early poems were quite weak, but that’s okay. Writing weak poems is part of learning how to write. As you progress your poems get better and better, and so did mine.
I could call that romance my apprenticeship in poetry, as it inspired my first poems and over the years I became better at writing about that relationship as it changed. I never did get the guy, but poetry has remained faithful to me the whole time. One of the great things about writing poetry is that you end up documenting your own life, you become your own biographer and you decide that you matter. Your opinion matters. This decisive act is essential for a writer, but especially a poet.
What is Poetry?
There are a few different kinds of poetry floating about these days. But first, let’s take a broad view of what poetry is. According to the Oxford Dictionary, poetry is: a literary work in which the expression of feelings and ideas is given intensity by the use of distinctive style and rhythm. Say what? let’s break this down mofos. A literary work -okay, so we’re in the realm of literature, pen on paper, blinking expectant line on blank document. Blatantly, art with words.
Next – the expression of feelings and ideas – okay, makes sense. Is given intensity – so it’s pumped up and given a bit of dramatic flare. By the use of distinctive style and rhythm. Hmmm? Style and rhythm are just the bells and whistles of poetry that help it get its meaning across more effectively. So what is poetry? it’s a written art made up of feelings and ideas amped up by stylistic bells as whistles. There you have it.
But there’s more… these days there are terms such as ‘page poetry’ or ‘slam poetry’. We’ll cover those below so don’t you worry!
But now, a few misconceptions we need to put to bed,
- is not always hard to read.
- is not all about naff topics.
- is not all boring.
If these 3 things bother you about poetry, you’re probably not reading the right stuff. Some people love Australian Bush poetry. But it makes me die a little inside when I hear that stuff, let alone read it. Not everything is for everyone. So you will need to seek out the kind of poetry that sets your soul on fire. And it is out there! Also, if you happen to like Australian bush poetry, that is okay, we can still be friends.
How to get started with Writing Poetry
Poetry is largely about noticing things in your everyday life and then linking those things to a deeper theme or meaning that is relatable to other people. Readers like poems that they can relate to as it creates a bond between reader and poet. But different people will relate to different things. This is great because it means that there is most likely an audience for most subject matters. If you are interested in a certain topic, then it’s likely someone else will be too.
To get started writing poetry, open your eyes to the things and people around you. Do they point to a deeper meaning? You might like to start with a topic and brainstorm all your ideas of what you have to say about it. Or you might just try to find a good starting line and use that like a fishing line to hook the rest of the poem with, bringing it up from the depths of your mind with patience.
The most important thing with poetry, is just to start writing something. It doesn’t have to be good. Just write down your thoughts. You can always redraft and improve your poem later on.
Tips for Success for Beginner Poets
Here are some tips to help you find success as a poet, when you are starting from the beginning:
- Be prolific; write as much as you can
- Don’t worry about being published straight away
- Learn more techniques on how to write poetry
- Ask experienced poets for feedback
- Join a writing group for feedback
- If you’re serious, get yourself a poetry mentor
- When your work is ready, seek publication in literary journals
- Read lots of other poets’ books; they will become your influences
- Learn about poetry devices & forms
- Experiment with writing different kinds of poetry
Common Questions About Writing Poetry
Q1. How Do I Get My Poems Published?
First you need to be sure you writing is ready, and of a publishable standard. To do that, join a writing work shopping group to get feedback and revise your poems based on the constructive criticism you receive. After that, seek calls for submission in literary journals and anthologies. One of the easiest ways to do that is to sign up to Submittable. Or you can just Google poetry journals your country.
Q2. How do I make writing poems my career?
It is rare that a poet derives all their income from writing poetry. Usually they might publish work part-time while doing a supplementary job part of the time. Poets sometimes pursue careers in academic fields as researchers and lecturers in poetry and writing more generally. Throughout history, poets have held all kinds of jobs to supplement their writing income – including Charles Bukowski who worked in a mail room for the postal service. Typically, it is only later in life that a poet might be able to live on proceeds from their writing, if they get to that stage at all.
Q3. How can I tell if my poetry is meaningless?
This is quite a subjective question, but by definition, if it means something to you, then it has meaning. Whether a poem has meaning to someone else is another question. If you are writing about someone you love or an experience you hold dear, that can get in the way of writing a good poem, as you are not being objective about the poem’s use or value to a reader. The best way of testing a reader’s response to your poem, and to see if it has meaning for them, is to take your poem to a writing group and get feedback.
Q4. How do I manage time between work and poetry?
The short and boring answer to this is that work must take precedence. It’s hard to think about poems when the wolves are at your door, you nothing to eat, and you can’t pay your rent or mortgage. So get some money flowing to you, keep it flowing, then write in your down time. Writing poetry actually doesn’t take a lot of time, and if you are excited about it, you will find the time because you enjoy doing it so much.
Q5. How do I choose a good title for a poem?
Choose a good title for a poem by using an image for the title, or add a title that conveys the context of a poem, including where it was written or what it depicts, or add a title that sheds new light on the subject of the poem or that contrasts with it.
The Last Thing You Need to Know about Writing Poetry
- Writing poetry is fun. Don’t put all your energy in the publication process. Stay present with the act of creation, and write work that you are honestly proud of. That will hold you in good stead for a long love affair with poetry.
- If you liked this article, please share it on social media or take my FREE 5 Day How to Show Don’t Tell in Your Poetry Email Course.
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