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A Beginner’s Guide To Poetry

By Yann, published on 30/08/2018 Blog > Arts and Hobbies > Poetry > How To Write Poetry

Poetry is difficult, mesmerising, challenging, and rewarding, all at once. So it’s no wonder that many are drawn to the world of poetry and would like to learn more about it.

How To Write Poetry For Beginners

Poetry can be a wonderful creative outlet, as it allows writers to express themselves in a less conventional way than a work of short fiction would allow.

It can be difficult though to know where to start if you’re new to writing poetry.

First things first, try to read as widely as possible. This means reading as many poems by as many different poets as possible, whether they are:

  • Contemporary works by a Poet Laureate;
  • Classic poets, like Shakespeare; or
  • Up-and-coming poets.

This will help to broaden your understanding of common and effective poetic techniques, keep you up-to-date with the world of poetry, and may also give you some inspiration when writing poems.

The other main issue that new poets face is how to start a poem. If you’re struggling to put your first few words to paper, try and draw from personal experience to get started. For example:

  • Think of a childhood memory that you vividly remember and describe that;
  • Try to describe what you’ve done today, or describe something eventful that has happened in the past few weeks; or
  • Pick up an object close to you and describe that.

Although these are just a few techniques, helping to focus your thoughts on something personal can often help to open up your writing and get your initial thoughts down. From there, you can revise, edit, or change topic as you would like.

A colourful mural of Shakespeare. Reading some of Shakespeare's sonnets can be informative for poets. Reading Shakespeare can be really useful when boosting your knowledge of poetry. (Image: CC BY 2.0, Ungry Young Man, Flickr)

Poetry Devices And Techniques

One of the first things that a would-be poet should master is poetic or literary devices. The joy of poetic devices is the fact that they can be used within a poem to great effect, as they can enhance a poem in a number of ways. For example, poetic devices can:

  • Add to the imagery of a poem;
  • Create additional sounds that impact a poem; or
  • Shape the overall form and tone of the poem.

Although there is a wide range of poetic devices out there, committing to learning one or two new devices each week can be a great way to improve your skills as a poet, which should, in turn, improve the quality of your writing.

Some common poetic devices include simile, metaphor, alliteration, and onomatopoeia, although as stated above there are many more out there.

The important thing to remember is that, while poetic devices are a fantastic tool when writing poetry, their use is not obligatory. As such, you shouldn’t feel pressured to cram as many poetic devices as possible into your works. If you don’t want to use iambic pentameter in your poem – then you don’t have to!

Indeed, some poetic devices, such as the use of rhyme or rhyming couplets, aren’t as popular as they once were, so rhyming words may not be appropriate for your poem.

When deciding which poetic devices to use, think about what you want to achieve with your poem, what the overall meaning of your poem is, and what emotion or feelings you want to convey to the reader. This should then help direct your thoughts and let you select the most appropriate techniques to use for that piece of work.

If you want to learn more about poetic techniques and devices, you could also look to hire a poetry or English tutor to help expand your knowledge. Superprof has a wide range of English and poetry tutors available that will be able to guide you through common literary devices and offer feedback on any poems you have written.

A microphone and microphone stand in a smokey room. Poetry recital and performance poetry can be great creative outlets. Reciting poetry can be a daunting experience. (Image: CC0 1.0, Free-Photos, Pixabay)

Tips For Reciting Poetry

Reading and reciting poetry is difficult – it takes a lot of confidence to stand up on stage and convey the meaning of a poem to an audience.

However, there are a few tactics that you can employ to improve your poetry recitals, whether you’re:

  • Looking for pointers on how to do well at an upcoming poetry recital;
  • Are interested in finding out more about the art of poetry recital; or
  • Want to get into or improve your performance poetry.

Firstly, if you’re looking to improve your poetry recital, it’s important to go straight to the source – the poem itself.

Having a deep understanding of the poem you need to recite will not only make the recital go much better, but it will also improve your ability to analyse and critique poetry. When reading through a poem, make a note of any words that are unfamiliar to you, and make sure to find their definition in a dictionary so you can understand the poem fully.

It’s also worthwhile looking at the poem’s structure, including whether punctuation is placed, what poetic devices have been employed, and ultimately what kind of poem it is – a haiku will naturally read very differently to a sonnet, ballad, Limerick, or a work of free verse.

It may be difficult to determine the meaning of a poem at first, but hopefully, with a few read-throughs and by reading the poem out loud, the meaning will become clearer as you unlock the secrets of the poem’s form, voice, and structure.

Equally, when it comes to reading the poem aloud, the key is practice. Make sure that you’ve practised reading the poem, even if only to yourself, a few times before putting on your final show in front of an audience.

When the time does come to stand on stage, there are a few other tips you can employ to help calm your nerves and improve your performance:

  • Try to relax – this should help calm your nerves, and also help to pace your breathing, which will help you deliver a well-paced poetry recital;
  • Embrace good posture – standing up straight and maintaining eye contact with your audience is key to grabbing their attention; and
  • Memorise your poem – this will help remove any excess nerves around whether you may forget a line, and will also let you truly express the poem and its true meaning.

These tips also apply if you’re looking for ways to improve your performance poetry. Performance poetry, unlike traditional poetry recital, is spoken word poetry that was created with performance in mind. As a result, a good performance is a key part of any performance artist’s repertoire.

A man writing the word "publish" in a blue pen. Publishing poetry can be difficult. There are a few ways to learn how to publish poetry. (Image: CC BY-SA 3.0, Nick Youngson, Alpha Stock Images)

How To Publish Poetry

It’s no secret that it can be difficult to get written works published and out in the world for the public to see. It’s widely known that writing can be a tough gig.

While it may be difficult to get published, there are certainly ways you can get your works out there, whether that’s through a more traditional route of finding a publishing house, or whether you go down the self-publishing route.

Traditional publishing

If you’d prefer to try and have your works published by a publishing house, then one of the first steps to achieving your dream is to build up your reputation and ideally have a strong portfolio of work behind you to show the publishing house or university press just how good your work is.

Take your time and conduct research to find out which online or print magazines allow prospective submissions, and see what poetry competitions are available for you to enter. Having your poem featured in a literary magazine or a more specialised poetry magazine is a wonderful way to build up a publication history and to hopefully gain some fans of your work.

Whenever you do enter a competition or submit a piece of work, make sure that you follow the submission guidelines. Often, competition is fierce, and submissions that aren’t in the correct format, sent in late, or omit a core piece of information may risk being passed over in favour of poets who could follow the submission criteria.

Self-publishing

Self-publishing has really taken off over the past few years, thanks in part to the growing number of people who are happy to buy self-published books online through online retailers such as Amazon.

Indeed, if you do decide to self-publish, then you’re in good company. There are a number of famous poets, from Edgar Allan Poe to Margaret Atwood, who have self-published works, and there are even some modern day success stories such as Rupi Kaur.

When preparing your poems for publishing, make sure that you have edited, proofread, and copyedited your work and that it is formatted correctly for print. As you’re publishing on your own, any spelling mistakes or formatting errors will sadly end up in the final book if they were missed during your review process.

As a result, try to have someone look over your work if possible, and offer advice on where edits or tweaks may be needed. If in doubt, you could also ask a Superprof tutor for help proofreading your work – it’s just a case of searching for a poetry specialist and then selecting a tutor that’s local to you or available remotely to help you finalise your manuscript.

As ever, when you’re trying to get your piece of creative writing published, put your best foot forward and select your very best poems when submitting entries to competitions, or when you’re self-publishing works.

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