How to, Photo, The Writing Life, Writing Exercises

How to Write a Poem (#1)

Try this image as a "Source"

Level of Difficulty = Easy!

1. Find a source. A source can be an object, a memory, a topic, a phrase in a book, a person, a feeling in your body…. Anything you can think of or perceive can be a source. (Example: “rain”)

2. Set a timer for 10 minutes or use your watch.

3. In your writing notebook, write as fast as you can, stream of consciousness, starting from your source. It doesn’t matter if you get far away from your first topic or stay close to it. If you get stuck, just go back to your source and continue writing again. Don’t worry about spelling, grammar, or sentence structure. These things will slow you down during this part. You can work on them later when you are revising and shaping.

4.  When 10 minutes are up stop writing. Or, don’t stop writing. Keep going if you are hot on the trail of something interesting. Go ’till you are “done”.

5. Take a pen or pencil of a different colour and read what you wrote. Reading out loud can be very effective. Underline any sentences or phrases that sound good or look interesting to you. Don’t worry about whether they make sense or not. Go with your intuition. What attracts and interests you?

6. Take all or some of these underlined sentences and write them on a new page. Put them in the shape of a poem. That is to say: arrange them on the page putting in line breaks and stanzas based on your intuition. You can add new words and phrases as you are doing this. Try not to get bogged down by wanting it to be “good” or “make sense”. You are exploring and beginning a poem.

7. Now you have draft #1 of your poem! Congratulations! Feel good because you have begun something that wasn’t there before you started writing. Give it a title.

8. Do some revising. My favourite and easiest way to begin revising is to write the entire poem again, changing lines and words, rearranging things, adding new ideas.

If you are doing this process on the computer, start your 2nd draft below your 1st draft and type the whole thing again. Similarly, type your 3rd draft below the 2nd. When you have come to a draft that you feel reasonably good about, save it as a separate file with the poem’s title. Save your earlier drafts with the title plus “drafts”. It is REALLY USEFUL to be able to refer to all of your drafts. I do my first drafts longhand and when I have a draft I like reasonably well, I put it on the computer.

9. Let it sit for a day or two (or a year or two) or get some feedback on it. You will probably go through other cycles of revision with it. No need to be mad at it for not being as beautiful as you want it to be—with more revision it will be. It’s good to feel satisfied with what you’ve created at the stage it’s at right now.

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One thought on “How to Write a Poem (#1)

  1. Anonymous says:

    Hey Beth, this is great. you make it seem much easier when you break it down like this. I’m gonna try this at some point. I like the idea of writing a poem, don’t have many.

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