Writing Mini-Lessons: Some Additional Poetic Forms
What Is Poetry?
According to poet Marianne Moore, poems are “imaginary gardens with real toads in them.” It takes imagination just to describe poetry. A poem is an “imaginary garden” because it is a creation of the poet’s imagination, and because it also comes from the poet’s experiences in real life, it has “real toads,” too.
Poetry is all around you. It’s the jingles of jump rope chants, television commercials, and the words of songs you like. Poetry is popular because it is fun, interesting, and it’s a different way to communicate ideas and feelings. Nearly any topic, mood, or feeling can be expressed in a poem.
Poetry comes in all shapes and sizes. Specific poetic forms have been developed by many cultures. There are myriad forms from haiku to sonnet to free verse. As a poet, you will be experimenting with writing many different types of poems. You have spent considerable time mastering free verse so now it is time to see what else is possible for your poems, effects beyond those of free verse and other ways to support the meaning of your poetry. Once you have written many different forms of poems, you will choose your best poems to include in a book of poetry.
How to Write a Poem
To write a poem, follow these basic steps:
1. Choose a Subject
Just about any subject or idea will work. As you read more poetry, you will discover that poems have been written on just about every topic imaginable. It’s a good idea to choose a subject that is familiar to you. Good subjects might be your pet, a family member, how you felt about an experience or event, a dream you had, or even what you see from your window.
Here are a few ideas to get your imagination in gear:
Think about a subject that is very important to you. Maybe it’s baseball, clean air, world peace, or new shoes. If it’s important to you, it will make a good poem because you will put energy and feeling into it. Think of some subjects that are often overlooked, such as a far corner of the garage, an old toy, or even your elbow. Things we don’t pay much attention to often make good poem subjects.
Think of an event in your life and write your feelings about it. It could be a death in the family, a broken arm, a flight on an airplane, or visiting a faraway relative. Remember your senses when you think of topics for poems. You could write a poem about the sound of a dripping faucet at night, the smell of your dog coming in from the rain, or the sight of the sky after a storm.
2. Prepare to Write
You may want to let your idea incubate. Incubation is a word many writers use for prewriting. During this time, think about your topic, add to it, and think of other things that are related to your topic and what it is that you want to say about it. Ask your self “what if…” questions such as “What if my elbow got stuck?” or “What if I had three elbows on each arm?” or “What if my old teddy bear started to talk? Would he tell me about everything I did as a baby?”
3. Write the Poem
Once you have lots of ideas and notes, it’s time to get your poem on paper. Some poets write their poems just once and never change this. This doesn’t often happen, though, and when it does, the poet has probably spent a lot of time thinking about the poem ahead of time. Usually, poems are written just like anything else that is written. There are scratch-outs, mess-ups, and changes made until it is finished. Polish it as much as you can, avoiding imitation of another person or poet. Some of the best things about poetry are that it is imperfect and individual. You can structure your poem any way you want. It can have stanzas (like paragraphs), rhyme, or it can be free verse. It’s up to you. Don’t be surprised, though, if your poem takes shape as you are writing it.