Too often, new writers associate poetry with some of the most complicated and foreign poetic movements. No longer is poetry just Whitman, Blake, or Keats. Poetry has evolved in many ways, making it more accessible than ever to beginners. This is writing poetry for beginners.
Common Types of Poetry
There are various types of poetry, but that doesn’t mean you have to only write one or that you must follow all of the “rules.” Here are a few different types of poetry that you should become familiar with, especially when you’re a beginner.
Prose poetry has steadily been rising in popularity, and is perhaps one of the most accessible forms for beginner poets. This type of poetry is written in prose sentences, but can adopt many of the common attributes of poetry. For example, prose poems might focus on sound, tone, symbolism, metaphor, or a specific theme.
List of Famous Hats, by James Tate is an excellent example of a prose poem.
Napoleon’s hat is an obvious choice I guess to list as a famous hat, but that’s not the hat I have in mind. That was his hat for show. I am thinking of his private bathing cap, which in all honesty wasn’t much different than the one any jerk might buy at a corner drugstore now, except for two minor eccentricities. The first one isn’t even funny: Simply it was a white rubber bathing cap, but too small. Napoleon led such a hectic life ever since his childhood, even farther back than that, that he never had a chance to buy a new bathing cap and still as a grown-up--well, he didn’t really grow that much, but his head did: He was a pinhead at birth, and he used, until his death really, the same little tiny bathing cap that he was born in, and this meant that later it was very painful to him and gave him many headaches, as if he needed more. So, he had to vaseline his skull like crazy to even get the thing on. The second eccentricity was that it was a tricorn bathing cap. Scholars like to make a lot out of this, and it would be easy to do. My theory is simple-minded to be sure: that beneath his public head there was another head and it was a pyramid or something.
If you read poetry, you’ve definitely read narrative poetry. This type of poetry, generally has an arch, a strong narrative voice, and a plot regardless of the length.
These poems can range in form and length. While they may “sound” like more complicated forms of poetry, they tend to be easier to follow.
Ever heard of William Shakespeare? Well, he’s the King of Sonnets. This type of poetry follows a specific form. Made up of 14 lines, iambic meter, and a ending rhyme scheme, sonnets are a more traditional type of poetry.
Enjoy Sonnet XXII, by Shakespeare
My glass shall not persuade me I am old,
So long as youth and thou are of one date;
But when in thee time's furrows I behold,
Then look I death my days should expiate.
For all that beauty that doth cover thee
Is but the seemly raiment of my heart,
Which in thy breast doth live, as thine in me:
How can I then be elder than thou art?
O, therefore, love, be of thyself so wary
As I, not for myself, but for thee will;
Bearing thy heart, which I will keep so chary
As tender nurse her babe from faring ill.
Presume not on thy heart when mine is slain;
Thou gavest me thine, not to give back again.
The hero’s journey is encapsulated in epic poetry. Epic poems are longer, and follow the trials and tribulations of a heroine. Many epics are rooted in mythology - this is why you may be familiar with some of them.
Homer’s The Odyssey is an example of an epic poem.
Free Verse Poetry
Ready to throw rules out the window? Free verse poetry follows no particular format, rhyme scheme, tone, or pattern. As a beginner, free verse is a fun way to start writing poetry because it does not place any limitations on the writer.
How to Start A Poem
Many people want to write poetry, but they don’t know where to start. Luckily, it’s pretty easy to start a poem.
Do you write in other genres? If so, what themes and topics do you usually explore?
For example, if you tend to write fantasy, use fantastical elements, like hidden forests, magic spells, and an evil-doer to inspire your poetry.
Start writing poetry using what you already know. Using this technique makes it much easier to start a poem.
Additionally, examine and be present in your surroundings. Describe what you see, feel, smell. Use your senses to brainstorm possible poetry topics.
Poetry Writing Exercises
Still scratching your head when it comes to writing poetry? Try one or all of these poetry writing exercises. Writing exercises are a great way to get your creative juices flowing.
1.) Look at an old photo. Write about everything not in the picture. Feel free to move to and from reality.
2.) Describe a place you’ve never been to. Be as realistic as possible. The catch? It has to be a single word list.
3.) What’s the last dream you remember? Using colors and smells to describe it.
4.) Finishing the sentence and continue the story… “When my head hits the pillow…”
5.) In 13 words, describe your oasis.
These poetry writing exercises can be recycled. Get creative, and exploratory. Write what comes to mind. These prompts are meant to help you begin your poetry writing journey. There are no right or wrong ways to approach them. And remember, revision always comes later on.
What Makes a Good Poem
This is an age-old question, and one that writers now and into the future will keep asking.
But, honestly, what makes a good poem?
If someone reads your poem, and feels something - anything - then you’ve written a good poem.
Yes, some of the common types of poetry follow a set of “rules,” but you’re the writer, and when you’re the writer, you get to write whatever kind of poetry you want.
No matter which forms you find yourself writing, all poetry elicits a response in readers. As a beginner, if you can stick to that rule of thumb, chances are you’re moving in the right poetic direction.
Poetry isn’t an inaccessible form of writing, but it can come across that way when you’re a beginner. Instead, writing poetry for beginners is pretty simple. Hopefully, this brief guide has made poetry feel more approachable. Now, it’s time to write poetry!