What’s a simple poem? Some would say it’s one that’s easy to understand because it’s free of overly complex language. Others would argue that it’s the one that has a succinct message with a clear structure. Whatever definition works best for you, you can’t deny that this literary work is a delight to read. Below are tips to help you craft your first simple poem.
- 1 1. Admire master poets.
- 2 2. Choose a topic that you’re familiar with.
- 3 3. Get into free writing.
- 4 4. Try making prose.
- 5 5. Plot your poems on a story framework.
- 6 6. Come up with a title.
- 7 7. Apply word substitutions.
- 8 8. Avoid cliches.
- 9 9. Tap common yet vivid verbs and nouns.
- 10 10. Consider employing alliteration.
- 11 11. Use minimal punctuation.
- 12 12. Don’t try to rhyme all the time.
- 13 13. Experiment with syllable count.
- 14 14. Contemplate on the stanzas.
- 15 15. Pause and reflect on your last verse.
- 16 16. Polish and edit.
- 17 17. Practice every day.
- 18 Join the Commaful Storytelling Community
1. Admire master poets.
Read a lot of poetry to find out what makes good poems. Make sure you cover classics and translated works of non-English poets. You can also read those widely shared poems on social media platforms and writing sites like Commaful. Copy down the structure, the intonations of the words, and the rhymes. Study the styles of your masters, and then do your own take on them. These sorts of exercises can help get your mind ready to write poetry.
2. Choose a topic that you’re familiar with.
You have undoubtedly heard the old adage “write what you know.” This is the basis of all writing, and it’s even more important for poetry. You have less time to tell the story of a poem, so make sure you know what you’re talking about.
If you’re unsure about what to write about, think of the topics that already interest you. You can also go outside, look around, and write down any subject that catches your eye.
As you’re doing this, keep in mind that writing doesn’t have to be limited to your everyday experiences. Use your time outside to open your imagination. Later on, new worlds of possibility will begin to arise. Contemplate on how you process your experiences and what you could learn about the information that you gathered. Put them into verses afterwards.
3. Get into free writing.
The most difficult part of writing a poem is getting everything out in order. When you’re trying to write about a wide range of thoughts, it can be difficult to choose your topic.
This is where free writing comes in. Just start writing. Jot down your thoughts without worrying about what it is you’re pouring out. You’ll be amazed at the things that will draw themselves out for you to write down.
There’ll be times that your ideas fizzle. In response, say “to be determined” and keep on writing something else. Soon, you’ll have a nice collection of ideas and drafts for your simple poems.
4. Try making prose.
Poems don’t have to be defined by more formal qualities like meter and rhyme. There’s prose poetry and it’s totally legitimate. However, it’s much more difficult to define as there’s no formal model guiding the structure. If you want to know how to make one, just write as if you were telling a story. It may appear as a paragraph or two, and it’s okay. Later on, you can just polish it into a simpler and more preferable format or structure.
5. Plot your poems on a story framework.
A storytelling framework has three parts namely beginning, rising action, and resolution. Understanding them will help remind you of where your poetical work needs to be.
On a practical level, the said three parts describe major advancements in the story. These events, not a glossary of settings and senses, need to be explored in your poems. Therefore, your effort toward writing a simple poem should target development and sense. This may take a fair amount of work, but it will earn you marks.
Here’s how you can plot your poem: The beginning environment in which your poem is embedded will be straightforward. The background characters might be scarce, but it will still guide the flow of the narrative. At the same time, the primary character must also get introduced right away. Then, there will be a proper rising action designed to make your primary character advance. This advancement may take the form of resolution, but it may also be a temporary resting phase.
6. Come up with a title.
One of the initial steps in writing a poem is choosing a title. While there are circumstances where a poem also carries a longer title used in its first publication, the title almost always should convey the meaning of the poem as succinctly as possible. Ultimately, a poem is a work meant to be read, not heard, so make sure the title captures the idea of the poem without hinting at any keys to understanding.
For a simple poem, a one-word title should suffice. It could be the name of the poem’s narrator. It could be the main object described or the theme explored in the literary piece.
7. Apply word substitutions.
Did you know that adding a few descriptive names in a poem can actually help grab a reader and make them take your piece more seriously? In a small poem, you probably won’t need as many metaphors than you would need in a novel. However, having a few descriptive words can make all the difference, especially when you want your poem to stand out.
8. Avoid cliches.
Your poem can be simple, or it can be a complex series of interconnected ideas, but it should never be predictable. Avoid using phrases or metaphors that are so overused they’re trite. Think of “like the moon,” or “my love”. If it seems like a cliche, it’s probably already been overused to the point of banality.
Know that you can be as spare or as ornate as you like, depending on the poem, but don’t let sophomoric sentimentality sneak into your work. A great test for this is to read your poetry aloud and imagine a straight-faced monotone voice delivering the words. If it’s too verbose, take the trouble to prune out the extra wording.
9. Tap common yet vivid verbs and nouns.
Poetry doesn’t have to be complex to be great. It can be as simple as using inclusive nouns and verbs. Sometimes, things or people can become abstractions, and what makes a poem good is that readers can untwist those abstractions.
Brevity is possible, too, even in narrations. Sometimes the best version of a good feeling comes not from elaborate scenarios or the details of the perfect sunset, but from a strip down image of that moment of grace, like a water droplet landing on soft skin.
This doesn’t mean that poems must be too plain. What it does mean is that your reader can look at a single word and have multiple interpretations and insights.
Due to the simplicity of the words and the ability to apply them in new and unexpected ways, readers can take the time to place those words where they want, actually slowing down as they read to see the beauty between the words. Finding this space makes readers invest more into the poem.
10. Consider employing alliteration.
Alliteration refers to the repetition of beginning consonant sounds. Maybe you’re thinking that this could make your poem difficult to grasp, but that depends entirely on how you use it. If you want to impart information in an unusual way, this old poetic device may work well for you.
To write a simple poem using alliteration, think of the things you want to talk about. Ask yourself if you could bring them together.
Take the phrase “fairytale of love” as an example. The very title suggests that the speaker of this poem has been deceived by a grand love story—one that seems less realistic the more he thinks about it. By employing alliteration, you can create a stream of thought that emphasizes where a poem is headed. “Meager memories” are thinner and more trite than “the promises that were made”. This is a simpler way to express “burned by his brush” feelings that the speaker can still “bother” to “bury.” Did you see how each description relates to the next?
11. Use minimal punctuation.
Poetry is fascinated by language in general, and consequently with variants of how words and phrases are arranged. Particularly closely related to the idea of a poem is punctuation. In conventional poetry, the poet makes an attempt to use as little of that punctuation as possible This is a way to showcase the idea of the poem on the surface level, without complicating the symbolic, conceptual subtext.
Practice using minimal punctuation at first. Next, you can start varying the shapes of your punctuation marks and their arrangement. You may use dashes for materialization of homogeneous parenthetical phrases, semicolons for separation of logical argumentation, and all-out absence of all those marks for elegant, modest, and poignant tone.
12. Don’t try to rhyme all the time.
Rhyming verse is the most common poetic style. However, there’s no need to be dependent on rhyme to write a simple poem. Use it if you like it, put it aside if you don’t, and make your poem as long or as short as you want. This tip is especially helpful if you’re making prose.
13. Experiment with syllable count.
If you’re trying to write a sonnet, tanka, or other traditional type of poem, you’ll need to keep a specific number of syllables in mind. But don’t be so caught up in this number that you completely ignore the meaning behind your lines. One of the best ways to figure out how to write a poem is to brainstorm, then experiment, especially with the syllable count.
14. Contemplate on the stanzas.
One of your biggest decisions is about line length. This means exactly what it sounds like—it’s the amount of space on the page that is taken up by a line of text.
When written in iambic pentameter, or “common meter,” lines are usually between four and five stanzas long. To make your poems more visually interesting, you can intermingle regular lines with shorter lines in order to add cadence and variety—like a drummer’s beat or a long-distance runner’s accelerating gait.
In general, shorter lines tend to create stronger, more impactful images and a sense of urgency. These lines tend to instigate a more intimate and powerful connection between the poet and the reader—more of the emotions you feel getting out through the poem itself, instead of being distilled into an impressionistic interpretation. When written, shorter lines also flow more easily, allowing for a greater separation between your thoughts and the flow of the reader’s voice.
Lines of longer stanzas, on the other hand, feel more languid, sensual or wistful. They also give the impression of the way that light plays through a vaulted ceiling in a cathedral, or over the shimmering surface of a lake.
Aside from length, other important choices are the way that the different stanzas are organized and how much each stanza accomplishes. Do you want a steady pace, like a long walk from start to finish? Or a sudden burst of feeling that tapers off again?
15. Pause and reflect on your last verse.
The final stanza is where the rhyme scheme reaches its most pleasurable proportions. The last line of the poem is ideally the most sonorous as it offers a relaxing suspension of thought as the reader processes what they just heard and feels the lingering richness of the language in their spirit.
However, you may find to your surprise that your opening punning couplet sets the mood of your poem. Thus, while the last line might be the most memorable, it’s often the ones that precede it that have the most say in the direction your poem takes. Thus, you should mull over your opening couplets as you craft and perfect your last verse.
16. Polish and edit.
To polish your work, read it aloud. It helps if you use both monotone and dramatic intonation so you can hear your own mistaken rhythms.
It also pays to read it in front of someone else. If they understand what you’re saying—not just the meaning on the page, but the literal words that create an image—then you’re on the right track.
Make all your edits at once, not one at a time. Close your eyes, so that you can really hear your poem and feel it as you read. If you don’t like one part, consider cutting it, instead of editing it. Once you have an idea of what to keep, then you can begin to consider recurring phrases or words that aren’t effective. Try rewriting the same section with a different word or phrase, or a different rhythm that matches the cadence in your head.
17. Practice every day.
The key to successfully writing poetry is consistency. It takes time to find your voice, your subjects, and your style. You’ll want to dedicate at least an hour a day to this work.
You may need to practice to find out how much your mind can process in one day. If you find that after a short amount of writing that you lose focus or feel overwhelmed, start by writing for 5 minutes. Then work up to 10 minutes, then eventually 15 and so on. Once you’re doing an hour a day consistently, you’ll be able to move faster and farther if you want. You’ll also have great input for drafting.
It’s not easy to make time for this practice, especially when the rest of your life is busy. But if you want to publish poetry and be sure you have enough time to dedicate to it, you’ll need to learn to discipline yourself.
No poem is ever perfect, and writing one will feel imperfect until your final editing. As such, don’t worry too much about making mistakes. Everyone does it, and it’s not a sign of failure. What matters is that every time you write a poem, you get a little better.
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