Poetry Studio

HOW I WRITE

I read, read, read…all kinds of books.

I read poems written by poets I like.

I keep a list of favorite words. I am always looking for new words to add to my list.

I keep a small notebook of words, phrases, and sentences that I find in books I'm reading. I write them in my notebook if I like how the words are arranged, how they sound, or the way they describe a person, place, or object so clearly that I can see it in my mind.

I get most of my ideas by observing what is around me—what I see and hear on my nature walks and what I see out my window. I write poems about what I like…animals, the seasons, trees and flowers, mountains, the prairie. Sometimes I write a poem about a memory. I like to look at paintings and photographs. They often give me ideas for poems. Ideas for poems are EVERYWHERE!

I do research. I need information about my topics before I can write, so I read books and search the internet. I always find more than I need for a poem, but I make a list of interesting information and decide what I am going to use after I start writing.

Did I mention that I make a list? That's how I always start a poem. I write everything I can think of about my topic on a piece of paper. My list is made up of words, phrases, even whole lines. I know that I won't use everything on my list in my poem, but I want to make sure all my ideas are there. With this list and my research information, I am ready to start writing.

I write my first draft of a poem on paper. Some writers like to start on the computer, but I like the feel of writing the words myself. (The computer comes later for me.) I start revising my poem on paper. All of the arrows and circles and cross-outs and carets (ʌ) make my first (or fifth or eighth or twelfth) draft very hard to read! (Take a peek at one of my revisions.) That's when it's time for the computer…so I can see what it looks like…as a poem. When I see my poem on the computer, I can start to give it shape. I think about line breaks. Some lines are long; others are short. A line in a poem may be only one word! I think about indenting lines. Some lines stay on the margin, but I might indent one or two tab spaces or more. I think about space between lines and double spacing so a line stands apart from the other lines. I change my mind often when I'm giving my poem a shape.

A poem doesn't have to rhyme. It can be hard to find a rhyming word that fits your poem and makes sense. Instead of rhyming, I try to write words that will create a picture in the mind of the person reading my poem.

Revision! Revision! Revision is an important part of any kind of writing. You can read my tips for revising poems. I revise many, MANY times before I think a poem is finished. Even then, I usually revise it one more time before I publish it.

Page last updated 03/27/16

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