Coming off the back of yesterday’s World Poetry Day, we were struck with the wise idea to put together an article on how to approach writing poetry. That being said, that’s a very open-ended topic indeed, and is just as mysterious and vague as “How to write a novel” or “How to achieve spiritual enlightenment”. The point is, there’s no straight and narrow path when it comes to creativity, and the art of crafting literature or poetry is no different. You can certainly cut and paste pieces of advice from successful artists and from highly upvoted forum posts, but it ultimately comes down to what works for you.
We thought we’d just offer a little insight into how a budding poet may wish to approach their craft, just so anyone perusing can feel free to borrow, re-shape and re-mould this advice as they start to put together their first pieces of poetry. Let’s start by exploring some different poetry styles!
Ever looked at a poem with a furrowed brow and wrinkled nose because you were perplexed at how much it didn’t rhyme? I think everyone has at some point, but this is a staggeringly narrow-minded way to look at poetry. Like song lyrics, not all poetry has to rhyme to be effective, and not all poetry without rhyme is without rhythm. See below for some examples of different poetry styles.
Sonnet: Popularised by up-and-coming independent poet and playwright (trust us, he’s gonna be the next big thing) William Shakespeare, a sonnet is an old Italian style of poem, comprising fourteen lines. Typically, sonnets deal in the themes of love, devotion, heartbreak; anything pertaining to romance, really.
Haiku: Originating from Japan, the haiku is one of the world’s most well-known forms of poetry, renowned for its simplicity. For any budding poet, a haiku can be a great way to start out, as it only comprises three lines, and follows a “five, seven, five” rule, where the first and third lines have five syllables, and the second has seven.
Free Verse: Free verse poetry is exactly what it says on the tin. There is no rhyme scheme, no limit to the number of lines, no limit to syllables per-line. Penning poetry in a free verse style can be a great way to exercise your creativity or break free from a creative rut, and you can end up with something truly stunning due to the lack of inhibitions. However, be wary- the lack of concrete rules can also make writing this kind of poetry quite difficult.
Limerick: For the comics and fork-tongued jokesters among us, we have the ever-popular limerick. A limerick is a humorous poem that follows an AABBA rhyme scheme, with the last line typically acting as a punchline. An example of a famous limerick, written by a professor at Princeton university, can be seen below:
“There once was a man from Nantucket
Who kept all his cash in a bucket.
But his daughter, named Nan,
Ran away with a man,
And as for the bucket, Nantucket.”
Elegy: An elegy is a poem without any kind of stylistic rules or limitations on number of lines or syllables, however the subject matter almost always deals with ever-cheery topic of death, usually of a loved one. Elegies are not all doom and gloom though, and could almost be described as a “funeral ode”, being more of a celebration of life than a lament.
Ode: Odes are, simply put, praise poems! In days of yore, odes were performed alongside a musical instrument, and to this day are generally quite short. A famous example would be John Keats’ “Ode to Autumn”, which can be seen below:
“Season of mists and mellow fruitfulness,
Close bosom-friend of the maturing sun;
Conspiring with him how to load and bless
With fruit the vines that round the thatch-eaves run”
These are just a sprinkling of poetry styles that exist in the world, but we hope that you’ve felt inspired to try out at least one of them as you boldly venture into the world of poetry.