how to write poetry for beginners

Here’s our complete guide to how to write poetry for beginners.

What Is Poetry?

“Poetry is the intersection of literature and music.”

Alice Eaglefeather

The key elements that distinguish poetry from other kinds of literature include sound, rhythm, rhyme, and format. The first three of these are apparent when you hear poetry read aloud. The last is most obvious when you read poetry.

A poem’s rhythmic structure is known as its meter. Meter refers to:

  • The number of syllables in each line
  • The stressed and unstressed syllables in each line 

Click here to learn more about Types of rhyme!

One thing poetry has in common with other kinds of literature is its use of literary devices. Poems, like other kinds of creative writing, often make use of repetition, allegories and other kinds of figurative language to communicate themes. With this in mind, poets often create sound, whether to be pleasing, jarring, or simply highlight key phrases or images through words. See if you can spot the repetition of certain sounds and phrasal words in first verse of the famous poem The Raven.

The Raven

By Edgar Allan Poe

Once upon a midnight dreary, while I pondered, weak and weary,

Over many a quaint and curious volume of forgotten lore—

    While I nodded, nearly napping, suddenly there came a tapping,

As of some one gently rapping, rapping at my chamber door.

“’Tis some visitor,” I muttered, “tapping at my chamber door—

            Only this and nothing more.”

See more Literary Techniques of Repetition with examples!

Writing Styles

There are three main styles of writing poetry: narrative, dramatic and lyrical. It is not always possible to make distinction between them. For example, an epic poem can contain lyrical passages, or lyrical poem can contain narrative parts.

Lyric, poetry written from the first-person point of view of the poet. Originally poems intended to be recited or sung to the accompaniment of a lyre.

Narrative, epic poetry, poetry that tells a story in which a variety of characters speak and interact. What had been the stuff of narrative poetry has become the purview of novels and prose fiction more often now.

Dramatic, poetry told from the point of view of a character.

Defined Subject Or Tone

The ode is a longer poem, serious or meditative in nature, commonly about events of a public nature, written in formal language and usually having a strict stanzaic structure.

Elegy is about death. For the last several hundred years, however, the word has been used almost exclusively to signify mostly mournful poetry lamenting loss, usually through death, of a loved person.

Limericks are funny, and sometimes rude, poems. And the last line is often the punchline.

Everything else can categorized by its form and structure. Read about Types of Poems here!

Poetry does not have to rhyme. While there are many more concrete styles of rhyming poetry, poets sometimes feel that non-rhyming poetry can express ideas in ways that rhyming can’t. Neither rhyming or non-rhyming poetry is better than the other-it is a matter of personal preference. That being said, over the last decades non-rhyming poems have become more popular than classical formats.

See our non-rhyming prose poems here!

Poems can be structured, with rhyming lines and meter, the rhythm and emphasis of a line based on syllabic beats. Poems can also be freestyle, which follows no formal structure. The basic building block of a poem is a verse known as a stanza.

How long should a poem be?

Poets should consider limiting their poems to one page—two pages at the most—when possible. Unless you are writing an ode or epic poem which are by definition longer than other poetic forms.

Why do people find poetry difficult?

The main obstacle to understanding poetry, whether you are talking about Wilde, Dickinson, Shelley or even Sylvia Plath, is our innate tendency to be very literal in communication. In day to day life, in order to save time, we often speak and write in extremely literal terms, because we want to make sure we are understood.

burnt paper with text How To Write Poetry For Beginners
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