How Do You Write a Poem?

You can write a poem using these steps:

1. Brainstorm Ideas

2. Consider Your Intentions

3. Define the Mood

4. Decide on the Structure

5. Figure Out the Speaker

6. Create Drafts

7. Read the Poem Out Loud

8. Take a Break

9. Share and Revise

How to Write a Poem in 9 Steps

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Last Updated on January 5, 2021, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 1253

Although it might seem complicated at first, writing a poem can be relatively straightforward if you follow these nine simple steps. Several of these overlap, and you’ll want to revisit some before you’re done, but before you know it, you'll be sharing work you're proud of with friends and family, and perhaps even getting it published!

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1. Brainstorm Ideas 

Before you write the first line of your poem, you're going to want to brainstorm the ideas you're interested in. This involves asking yourself questions like, “What do I want to write about?” and “What themes or subjects am I interested in?” It's helpful to write down anything that comes to mind, connecting one idea to the next through personal experience, similar imagery, or tone. Mind mapping, or writing down your ideas and connecting them with lines and other thoughts, is a technique that might be helpful at this stage. 

Another approach to consider is reading poems on themes that are similar to what you're thinking of writing about. For example, if you're going to write a poem about love, invest some time in reading the best love poems written throughout the ages. Find what speaks to you in poetry and remember those techniques when beginning your own work. If you need some ideas for themes to consider, check out some of the most popular themes used in poetry.

2. Consider Your Intentions 

This step is often overlooked, but if you’re going to write a successful poem, it is incredibly important. Whether or not you have a theme or subject in mind, but it's necessary to ask yourself what you want your poem to accomplish: 

  • When someone reads it, what will they walk away thinking? 
  • Should they have their opinion changed about something? 
  • Will they be happier or sadder after reading it? 
  • Are you trying to speak broadly about death, love, or something else that touches everyone universally? If so, what will the reader feel when they're done exploring your writing? 
  • Are you trying to speak specifically about your own experience? If so, how will you make your experience interesting and relevant to your readers?

3. Define the Mood

Similar to crafting your intentions for the poem, consider the mood you want your poem to convey. Beginning to write with an idea of the mood you want to convey allows you to select your language more effectively. Mood is created through the use of figurative language, descriptions, and word choice, as well as the lengths of lines and stanzas, and your writing style. Metaphors and similes, as well as techniques like enjambment and end-punctuation, can all affect how readers feel while and after reading your poem.  Check out more of these literary devices in the Poem Analysis Glossary.

4. Decide on the Structure

While deciding a structure for your poem might not be the most exciting aspect of writing, it is still important to consider what kind of structure you're going to use: 

  • Will the poem be structured with a consistent pattern of rhyme and rhythm? 
  • Will you use a traditional form like a haiku or a sestina? 
  • Will the poem be written in free verse? 

Contemporary poets more often write in free verse, meaning there is no rhyme scheme or metrical pattern, than in traditional patterns, such as those of a sonnet or villanelle. However, the confines of a traditional verse form can lead you to come up with creative—and impactful—language for your poem.

The structure of your poem is important because it determines how readers will approach your work and take in your words. If the poem is perfectly rhymed, and the lines are all the same length, with the same end-punctuation, it's going to have a different effect than if the lines are unrhymed, of various lengths, and use a lot of enjambment. 

For example, if your poem focuses on a subject like death or loss, you might want to make the lines feel slow and heavy, reflecting the emotions the piece is trying to convey. On the other hand, if you're writing an upbeat poem, perhaps one for a young reader, your lines might be shorter and rhymed. 

5. Figure Out the Speaker

Another thing you should consider before starting to write is your poem’s speaker: 

  • From whose perspective are the lines of your poem being told? 
  • Who is the speaker of the poem
  • Is it a narrator who is there to convey a story? 
  • Is it a character: a heartbroken lover, a mourning father, a scheming neighbor? Or is it some version of yourself? 

Often, readers assume that the "I" in a first-person poem refers to the poet, but that is not necessarily true. Most poets create personas, speakers who use the "I" pronoun, and tell their story in their words. 

6. Create Drafts 

With all forms of writing, from essays to plays, it's important to remember that your first draft is not your final draft. The first lines you write will likely be rearranged, rewritten, and perhaps removed by the time you're finished with the poem. Often, the first draft of a poem is too cluttered and tries to accomplish too much. 

Once you’ve written a first draft, take a step back and ask yourself a few questions: How much of this do I really need to convey my intentions? Can I remove the opening and closing lines of the poem? It's likely that they give too much away, especially in a first draft. Now is also an excellent time to consider the structure you're using. Is rhyme working to support the mood I want to create? Am I struggling to maintain a metrical pattern? If so, it might benefit your poem to change tactics and pick a new structure or to remove the structure altogether. 

7. Read the Poem Out Loud 

It might not occur to you, but reading your own writing out loud is incredibly beneficial. Often, writers get used to the words they've used and how they're arranged. This means they might miss grammatical errors or phrases that don't really make sense. By reading your poem out loud, you're able to get a fresh perspective. It's likely you'll come across words or phrases that don't sound as good out loud as they did in your head. Consider why that is, revise, and read them out loud again. This is a tactic that applies to all genres of writing. 

8. Take a Break

All the best writers suggest this very useful piece of advice: take a break! You don't need to finish your entire poem in one sitting, one day, one week, or one month. It's beneficial to set your writing aside—put it in a drawer, close the tab on your computer, whatever it takes—and put it out of your mind for a while. Then, when you do finally come back to it, you'll approach it with fresh eyes and a new perspective. Perhaps over the break, you've come up with some new ideas as well. 

9. Share and Revise 

The final step in writing a poem is to share your work and get someone else's opinion. It's helpful if this person is someone who cares about your writing but is also willing to speak truthfully about what they think. You want critical feedback that helps you improve the poem in the next set of revisions. Note that you’re not asking them for editing feedback; try asking them to tell you what they liked, what they found confusing, and what stood out—for any reason.

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