1. Make sure that what you have to say is original – unless, of course, you are
writing entirely for therapeutic reasons. The birth of a baby, your favourite
pet, war and famine, the beauty of nature, unrequited/lost love are all themes
that people write about…again and again and again. So, try to think of something
different – or at least look for an original approach.
2. Use all the
tools at your disposal: a wide vocabulary, similes, metaphors and alliteration –
but try to make your imagery fresh and unusual. Avoid clichéd expressions such
as ‘white as snow’, ‘green with envy’, ‘hands as cold as ice’, ‘a heart of
stone’ and the many others that you must be familiar with.
3. If you are
using a rhyming scheme (abab or aabb) make sure that the words you use actually
do rhyme. For example the words ‘box’ and ‘flocks’ rhyme but if you used ‘box’
and ‘flock’ you lose this.
4. Don’t torture the natural word order to
get a rhyme. The following has a very odd feel to it:
You wanted some
new books, and so
you said, ‘Now to the library go’.
could re-write it more naturally as:
You wanted some new books, and said
‘Go to the library’. Off I sped
5. If your poem is supposed to be in
a particular form (ie a limerick or a sonnet) make sure that you not only use
the correct rhyming scheme but that you also use the correct metre. In
simplified terms this is the number of ‘beats’ in each line. For example, a
limerick has 5 lines and has the following rhyming scheme: aabba
1, 2 and 5 have 3 beats each while lines 3 and 4 have two beats each. If you tap
out the metre with your hand you’ll soon see what we mean:
A lady who
hoped to find fame
Made poetry writing her aim.
She wrote day after day
Till they took her away –
But nobody’s heard of her name.
Always give your poem a title – it focuses your reader’s attention.
Make sure you punctuate your poems. Some free verse poems make a point of not
using punctuation but the majority of both rhyming works and free verse need
punctuation. And your punctuation should do exactly the same job as in a piece
of prose – it should help your reader with the meaning and show when a pause is
8. Avoid archaic or overtly ‘poetic’ language. Use ‘you’ not
‘thee’, ‘over’ not ‘o’er’ and stay clear of ‘sylvan glades’ or ‘hosts of golden
9. Make sure your free verse is just that – not just a slab
of prose broken into shorter lines. Even if your work does not rhyme, it must
still have rhythm and metre.
10. Once the initial outpouring has
finished, put your work to one side and let it stand for a few days. Then go
back to it and read it again in the cold light of day. Alter any words that
don’t sound right, check your punctuation, the rhythm and the rhyme (if it is
not free verse). Also stand back and see if it still gives you the same pleasure
that it did when you were writing it. Finally, read it aloud to yourself –
that’s the best way of telling if it really works as a
Remember, you’re writing for you but it should be a matter of
pride to make every poem you compose original and worthwhile so that, hopefully,
it will give others as much pleasure when they read it as you got from writing