How to Write a Poem

(Updated on June 6, 2018 by Michelle Williams)


When it comes to writing poetry, there are literally dozens of different styles from which to choose.  Many of these styles have a rigid format, such as the haiku that requires writing three lines with the first line containing five syllables, the second line containing seven syllables, and the last line containing five syllables, as well.

If you aren't completing a poem paper that follows a very specific format, you're most likely writing what is referred to as "free verse" poetry.  With free verse poetry, you're free to write about any topic you desire and in any style or format you desire.  Although free verse poetry doesn't require following a stringent format, there are still several things you should keep in mind in order to develop a though provoking or emotion stirring poem.

The first step to writing free verse poem essays is to start off with an idea, a thought, or an emotion that you wish about which to write.  Keep in mind that poems can be happy or sad, humorous or melancholy, strange or thought-provoking.  Therefore, you can let your imagination and your creativity go wild.

How to Write a PoemAfter determining your topic, you should begin to write down any thoughts that come to mind about that topic.  Then, start putting your thoughts down into lines.  When doing this step, you shouldn't worry about punctuation and grammar.  Rather, simply allow the thoughts to flow from you as you write.  

Once your thoughts are all down on paper, you can begin to organize your poem.  Remember, you don't have to include an entire sentence on one line.  In fact, one sentence can take up multiple lines in a poem.  The places where you break off your sentences in order to start a new line, however, are quite important.  In addition, varying the lengths of your lines has an impact on the message sent by the poem, as well.  For example, a particularly short sentence set amidst several longer sentences will draw more attention the words that are on the shorter sentence.  As a result, those words will have more of an impact on the reader.

Just as with a song, a poem should have a rhythm.  One mistaken assumption that many people make is that a poem should rhyme, but this isn't necessarily true.  In fact, free verse poetry generally doesn't rhyme, though you may purposely choose to add a few rhyming words in order to help with the rhythm or sound of the poem.  In addition, you might use several rhyming words within one line, though you may not actually use end rhyme at all.

There are a number of poetic devices that you may choose to use in your poetry as well, such as alliteration, consonance, and assonance.  Each of these poetic devices is quite similar, will alliteration being the purposeful repetition of a sound at the beginning of a word and consonance and assonance referring to repeating sounds within words without necessarily rhyming.

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