Daily Archives: March 18, 2010

Poetry Lessons: yours not mine

I need your help.  Last year for my in-law’s 40th wedding anniversary, I wrote a book.  Literally.  It was a personalized, leather bound devotional (260 pages worth) to commemorate their lives.  This year, my DD gets confirmed.

Apparently I’m a better DIL than a mom, because DD gets nothing so fancy.  Instead, I’m working on a poem for her.  My hope is that it will be timeless as she grows.  Lessons to live by, if you will.  Without being preachy.

My problem is that I don’t write poetry. 

Not as a general rule.  Only when the mood moves me.  Like for weddings or funeral programs.  For Mother’s Day.  For inspiration.  For climbing out of a black hole.  For children.  Mostly for the moment.

This is different.  This is forever.  A gift now to be cherished in years to come.  Or so I can hope. 

This is my daughter.  The child of my heart.  The one I am supposed to shape and mold into something spectacular.  Her future is my success, as well as the culmination of my failures.  That’s a lot of pressure for someone who doesn’t write poetry!

Fiction is easy.  Fiction is imagination.  Poetry is the soul.  Just thinking about it sends shivers of fear down my spine.

Like many good college students, I took a poetry class.  I didn’t take to it.  Or rather, it didn’t take to me. 

So now I am seeking your expert advice. 

Please leave your best poetry tip(s) in a comment.  I will compile them into a list for other budding poets.  Together, we will learn everything we forgot or never knew in the first place. 

What makes a good poem?  And how in the heck do you write one?   


  1. Think in images as you write.
  2. Rhyming is optional. Unless its a limerick!
  3. Poetry tip one: heart.  Poetry tip two: soul.  That’s all there is.
  4. Don’t overthink the poem, go with your gut and write.
  5. Throw down the bones first and then fill in the rest later.  No editing until it’s all down, rather write until there are no words left to say.
  6. It’s all in your heart, get out of your head. 
  7. Focus on how you feel, and always be genuine. 
  8. Don’t be afraid to cry.  It likely means you’ve hit a nerve.
  9. Do not compare your results with anyone else’s.
  10. Jot down reminder words or thoughts and build your poem around them.
  11. Play with it, squish it, squeeze out the dross until you find the pure silver. Then pound out the extra words until you’ve created a work of filigree.
  12. Start with free verse. Don’t try to force your feelings and ideas into a rhyme or iambic pentameter. Only use a specific poetic form if it serves your words.

Wow, twelve wonderful tips.  It’s like an AA meeting for Hopeless Poets!  You guys and gals rock my socks off.