Poetry Writing Hacks: 10 Tips on How to Write a Poem

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If you are writing a poem because you want to capture a feeling that you experienced, then you don’t need these tips. Just write whatever feels right. Only you experienced the feeling that you want to express, so only you will know whether your poem succeeds.

If, however, your goal is to communicate with a reader — drawing on the established conventions of a literary genre (conventions that will be familiar to the experienced reader) to generate an emotional response in your reader — then simply writing what feels right to you won’t be enough.  (See also “Poetry is for the Ear” and “When Backwards Newbie Poets Write.”)

These tips will help you make an important transition:

  • away from writing poetry to celebrate, commemorate, or capture your own feelings (in which case you, the poet, are the center of the poem’s universe)
  • towards writing poetry in order to generate feelings in your reader (in which case the poem exists entirely to serve the reader).
  1. Poetry: 10 Tips for Writing PoemsKnow Your Goal
  2. Avoid Clichés
  3. Avoid Sentimentality
  4. Use Images
  5. Use Metaphor and Simile
  6. Use Concrete Words Instead of Abstract Words
  7. Communicate Theme
  8. Subvert the Ordinary
  9. Rhyme with Extreme Caution
  10. Revise, Revise, Revise

Tip #1 Know Your Goal.

If you don’t know where you’re going, how can you get there?

You need to know what you are trying to accomplish before you begin any project. Writing a poem is no exception.

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Before you begin, ask yourself what you want your poem to “do.” Do you want your poem to explore a personal experience, protest a social injustice, describe the beauty of nature, or play with language in a certain way? Once your know the goal of your poem, you can conform your writing to that goal. Take each main element in your poem and make it serve the main purpose of the poem.

Tip #2 Avoid Clichés

Stephen Minot defines a cliché as: “A metaphor or simile that has become so familiar from overuse that the vehicle … no longer contributes any meaning whatever to the tenor. It provides neither the vividness of a fresh metaphor nor the strength of a single unmodified word….The word is also used to describe overused but nonmetaphorical expressions such as ‘tried and true’ and ‘each and every'” (Three Genres: The Writing of Poetry, Fiction and Drama, 405).

Cliché also describes other overused literary elements. “Familiar plot patterns and stock characters are clichés on a big scale” (Minot 148). Clichés can be overused themes, character types, or plots. For example, the “Lone Ranger” cowboy is a cliché because it has been used so many times that people no longer find it original.

A work full of clichés is like a plate of old food: unappetizing.

Creative Writing Tips

More creative writing tips.

Clichés work against original communication. People value creative talent. They want to see work that rises above the norm. When they see a work without clichés, they know the writer has worked his or her tail off, doing whatever it takes to be original. When they see a work full to the brim with clichés, they feel that the writer is not showing them anything above the ordinary. (In case you hadn’t noticed, this paragraph is chock full of clichés… I’ll bet you were bored to tears.)

Clichés dull meaning. Because clichéd writing sounds so familiar, people can finish whole lines without even reading them. If they don’t bother to read your poem, they certainly won’t stop to think about it. If they do not stop to think about your poem, they will never encounter the deeper meanings that mark the work of an accomplished poet.

Examples of Clichés:

  • busy as a bee
  • tired as a dog
  • working my fingers to bone
  • beet red
  • on the horns of a dilemma
  • blind as a bat
  • eats like a horse
  • eats like a bird

How to Improve a Cliché

I will take the cliché “as busy as a bee” and show how you can express the same idea without cliché.

  1. Determine what the clichéd phrase is trying to say.
    In this case, I can see that “busy as a bee” is a way to describe the state of being busy.
  2. Think of an original way to describe what the cliché is trying to describe.
    For this cliché, I started by thinking about busyness. I asked myself the question, “What things are associated with being busy?” I came up with: college, my friend Jessica, corporation bosses, old ladies making quilts and canning goods, and a computer, fiddlers fiddling. From this list, I selected a thing that is not as often used in association with busyness: violins.
  3. Create a phrase using the non-clichéd way of description.
    I took my object associated with busyness and turned it into a phrase: “I feel like a bow fiddling an Irish reel.” This phrase communicates the idea of “busyness” much better than the worn-out, familiar cliché. The reader’s mind can picture the insane fury of the bow on the violin, and know that the poet is talking about a very frenzied sort of busyness. In fact, those readers who know what an Irish reel sounds like may even get a laugh out of this fresh way to describe “busyness.”

Try it! Take a cliché and use these steps to improve it. You may even end up with a line you feel is good enough to put in a poem!

Tip #3 Avoid Sentimentality.

Sentimentality is “dominated by a blunt appeal to the emotions of pity and love …. Popular subjects are puppies, grandparents, and young lovers” (Minot 416). “When readers have the feeling that emotions like rage or indignation have been pushed artificially for their own sake, they will not take the poem seriously” (132).

Minot says that the problem with sentimentality is that it detracts from the literary quality of your work (416). If your poetry is mushy or teary-eyed, your readers may openly rebel against your effort to invoke emotional response in them. If that happens, they will stop thinking about the issues you want to raise, and will instead spend their energy trying to control their own gag reflex.

Tip #4 Use Images.

“BE A PAINTER IN WORDS,” says UWEC English professor emerita, poet, and songwriter Peg Lauber. She says poetry should stimulate six senses:

  • sight
  • hearing
  • smell
  • touch
  • taste
  • kinesiology (motion)

Examples.

  • “Sunlight varnishes magnolia branches crimson” (sight)
  • “Vacuum cleaner’s whir and hum startles my ferret” (hearing)
  • “Penguins lumber to their nests” (kinesiology)

Lauber advises her students to produce fresh, striking images (“imaginative”). Be a camera. Make the reader be there with the poet/speaker/narrator. (See also: “Show, Don’t (Just) Tell“)

Tip #5 Use Metaphor and Simile.

Use metaphor and simile to bring imagery and concrete words into your writing.

Metaphor

A metaphor is a statement that pretends one thing is really something else:

Example: “The lead singer is an elusive salamander.”

This phrase does not mean that the lead singer is literally a salamander. Rather, it takes an abstract characteristic of a salamander (elusiveness) and projects it onto the person. By using metaphor to describe the lead singer, the poet creates a much more vivid picture of him/her than if the poet had simply said “The lead singer’s voice is hard to pick out.”

Simile

A simile is a statement where you say one object is similar to another object. Similes use the words “like” or “as.”

Example: “He was curious as a caterpillar” or “He was curious, like a caterpillar”

This phrase takes one quality of a caterpillar and projects it onto a person. It is an easy way to attach concrete images to feelings and character traits that might usually be described with abstract words.

Note: A simile is not automatically any more or less “poetic” than a metaphor. You don’t suddenly produce better poems if you replace all your similes with metaphors, or vice versa. The point to remember is that comparison, inference, and suggestion are all important tools of poetry; similes and metaphors are tools that will help in those areas.

Tip #6 Use Concrete Words Instead of Abstract Words.

Concrete words describe things that people experience with their senses.

  • orange
  • warm
  • cat

A person can see orange, feel warm, or hear a cat.

A poet’s concrete words help the reader get a “picture” of what the poem is talking about. When the reader has a “picture” of what the poem is talking about, he/she can better understand what the poet is talking about.

Abstract words refer to concepts or feelings.

  • liberty
  • happy
  • love

“Liberty” is a concept, “happy” is a feeling, and no one can agree on whether “love” is a feeling, a concept or an action.

A person can’t see, touch, or taste any of these things. As a result, when used in poetry, these words might simply fly over the reader’s head, without triggering any sensory response. Further, “liberty,” “happy,” and “love” can mean different things to different people. Therefore, if the poet uses such a word, the reader may take a different meaning from it than the poet intended.

Change Abstract Words Into Concrete Words

To avoid problems caused by using abstract words, use concrete words.

Example: “She felt happy.”

This line uses the abstract word “happy.” To improve this line, change the abstract word to a concrete image. One way to achieve this is to think of an object or a scene that evokes feelings of happiness to represent the happy feeling.

Improvement: “Her smile spread like red tint on ripening tomatoes.”

This line uses two concrete images: a smile and a ripening tomato. Describing the smile shows the reader something about happiness, rather than simply coming right out and naming the emotion. Also, the symbolism of the tomato further reinforces the happy feelings. Red is frequently associated with love; ripening is a positive natrual process; food is further associated with being satisfied.

Prof. Jerz belabors Kara’s point:

Extension: Now, let’s do something with this image.

She sulked in the garden, reticent...hard;
Unwilling to face his kisses -- or unable.
One autumn morn she felt her sour face
Ripen to a helpless smile, tomato-red.
Her parted lips whispered, "Hello, sunshine!"

OK, the image has gotten embarrassingly obvious now, but you can see how the introduction of the tomato permits us to make many additional connections. While Kara’s original example simply reported a static emotional state — “She felt happy,” the image of the ripening tomato, which Kara introduced as a simple simile to describe a smile, has grown into something much more complex. Regardless of what the word “tomato” invoked in your mind, an abstraction like “happy” can never stretch itself out to become a whole poem, without relying on concrete images. –DGJ

Tip #7 Communicate Theme.

Poetry always has a theme. Theme is not just a topic, but an idea with an opinion.

Theme = Idea + Opinion

Topic: “The Vietnam War”

This is not a theme. It is only a subject. It is just an event. There are no ideas, opinions, or statements about life or of wisdom contained in this sentence

Theme: “History shows that despite our claims to be peace-loving, unfortunately each person secretly dreams of gaining glory through conflict.”

This is a theme. It is not just an event, but a statement about an event. It shows what the poet thinks about the event. The poet strives to show the reader his/her theme during the entire poem, making use of literary techniques.

Tip #8 Subvert the Ordinary.

Poets’ strength is the ability to see what other people see everyday in a new way. You don’t have to be special or a literary genius to write good poems–all you have to do is take an ordinary object, place, person, or idea, and come up with a new perception of it.

Example: People ride the bus everyday.

Poets’ Interpretation: A poet looks at the people on the bus and imagines scenes from their lives. A poet sees a sixty-year old woman and imagines a grandmother who runs marathons. A poet sees a two-year old boy and imagines him painting with ruby nail polish on the toilet seat, and his mother struggling to not respond in anger.

Take the ordinary and turn it on its head. (The word “subvert” literally means “turn upside down”.)

Tip #9 Rhyme with Extreme Caution.

Rhyme and meter (the pattern of stressed and unstressed words) can be dangerous if used the wrong way. Remember sing-song nursery rhymes? If you choose a rhyme scheme that makes your poem sound sing-song, it will detract from the quality of your poem.

I recommend that beginning poets stick to free verse. It is hard enough to compose a poem without dealing with the intricacies of rhyme and meter. (Note: see Jerz’s response to this point, in “Poetry Is For the Ear.”)

If you feel ready to create a rhymed poem, refer to chapters 6-10 of Stephen Minot’s bookThree Genres: The Writing of Poetry, Fiction, and Drama. 6th ed., for more help.

Tip #10 Revise, Revise, Revise.

The first completed draft of your poem is only the beginning. Poets often go through several drafts of a poem before considering the work “done.”

To revise:

  • Put your poem away for a few days, and then come back to it. When you re-read it, does anything seem confusing? Hard to follow? Do you see anything that needs improvement that you overlooked the first time? Often, when you are in the act of writing, you may leave out important details because you are so familiar with the topic. Re-reading a poem helps you to see it from the “outsider’s perspective” of a reader.
  • Show your poem to others and ask for criticism. Don’t be content with a response like, “That’s a nice poem.” You won’t learn anything from that kind of response. Instead, find people who will tell you specific things you need to improve in your poem.

26 May 2000 — originally submitted by Kara Ziehl, as an assignment for Prof. Jerz’s technical writing class
01 Aug 2000 — modified and posted by Jerz
30 Nov 2001 — minor edits by Jerz
21 July 2011 — minor refresh
22 May 2013 — added intro before the tips.
24 Dec 2017 — minor formatting tweaks
09 Apr 2019 — corrected a 1000-year error caused by a typo in the above line

See Also:

HandoutsCreative WritingPoetry Tips

Poetry is for the Ear (jerz.setonhill.edu)

Poetry is for the Ear —Whatever poetry you write or read, learn to listen with the ears of your audience. Pay attention to the sounds the words make, even if you write in free verse.

Short Poems: Little Exquisite Vessels of Thought –A few good lines of verse can pack as much emotional content as a whole paragraph of ordinary prose. Just because a poem is short does not mean writing it is easy.

Getting College Credit for your High School Poems  –Poems that perfectly record how you felt about events in your life probably won’t work as submissions for college writing classes. Most professors will expect you to revise in-progress poems.


About This Page
Kara Ziehl, a UWEC creative writing major, compiled these tips in order to help students in my English 110 (“Introduction to College Writing”) class. I have fine-tuned and expanded her text somewhat, but I think she did an excellent job — this is now required reading for budding student poets in my classes. –DGJ

261 thoughts on “Poetry Writing Hacks: 10 Tips on How to Write a Poem

  1. Pingback: 10 Ways to Busy Your Mind During Quarantine - Inspired Every Moment

  2. My first attempt
    As I gazed at the sky,I saw the beauty of Earth which is to be compared with yours
    It seems am an ant scavenging for crumbs of bread to behold the sight of a sheen,
    I could feel the warm,calm breeze touching my skin,just as I see the sun scorching like your eyes
    Your aura is like the sweet aroma of a banana,
    Your smile spread like the wings of a dove gliding over the deep blue ocean
    The sound of your voice could be linked to that of a mermaid….

    My first attempt
    Please I’d like criticism

    • I see an engaging list of sensory details.
      What I’m looking for is some evidence of a revelation, an insight that changes the way the speaker (the “I” in the poem) thinks about the “you” who is the subject of the poem. Not all poems need to have that kind of a twist or revelation, but I’m looking for some kind of resolution. What new insight does the speaker gain, after gazing at the sky and doing all the comparisons listed in the poem? “Her big brown eyes were like pools that I could fall into and swim away from all my troubles.” That’s kind of silly (I claim no special talent as a poet) but it’s an example that goes beyond listing how X is like Y.

  3. Ive been writing poems for a while now.
    My fathers death brought out feelings I could
    best express through poems. I’m curious if they
    are pretty good or need work.

    Here’s one of my poems.

    Baby blue eyes

    When I saw you last, I looked
    in your eyes. You couldn’t
    speak, or even cry.
    You looked so lost and
    full of fear. All I could do,
    was wipe my tears.

    I knew it was over, you felt
    so alone. I did what I could for
    your journey home. I stayed by
    your side, all through the night.
    Never leaving you, holding you tight.

    My memories of you, are close
    to my heart. You’ll always be with me,
    we’ll never part. I’ll never forget
    how much I cried, I’ll never
    forget those baby blue eyes.

    2/11/17

    • Dan, I would say that poems people write in order to express their feelings and to honor and commemorate a specific event in their life fall into the category of doing whatever feels right to you.

      If you are interested in technical hints on becoming a better poet, I suggest you start with a poem that you feel is not “finished” — something you are still working on.

      I have noticed that students who brought their “finished” high school poems into a college writing workshop are often so emotionally attached to their work that it was hard for them to cut out lines or whole stanzas or change whole organizational principles that weren’t working. This handout is focused specifically on high school poetry, but the general idea addresses using very personal poems in a writing workshop.

      https://jerz.setonhill.edu/writing/creative1/poetry-writing-are-your-finished-high-school-poems-okay-for-a-college-writing-workshop/

      If what you’d like to do is polish this poem, then I’d say the line breaks in this submission are confusing (I’d expect line breaks after “eyes.” and “cry,” and “fear.”) Having said that, point 9 on this page cautions against rhyming for beginning poets, though I also wrote this handout that emphasizes the power of sounds in poems: https://jerz.setonhill.edu/writing/creative1/poetry-is-for-the-ear/

      The lines “You looked so lost and full of fear” and “I’ll never forget how much I cried” TELL me what you felt, but poetry works best when, instead of listing the emotions the poet felt, the poem instead generates feelings in the reader.

      I didn’t know your father, so when I read about you looking into his eyes, I do’t have the memory of decades of looking at your father’s smirk when he gets in a zinger during a dinnertime debate about politics, or seeing the scar on his right brow from the car accident you caused when he was teaching you to drive, etc. (Of course I made up those details, and so they don’t accurately reflect who your father is. What details WOULD accurately convey your father’s personality?)

      Rather than TELLING me that your memories are close to your heart, can you instead spend time bringing me along with you as you relive just one really significant event? Think of how a movie really comes to life when the camera zooms in on a person talking about a memory, and then suddenly we see a younger version of that character living through the events they remembered. Sometimes movies might have the older version of the character there in the scene, commenting, like Scrooge does during the flashbacks the Ghost of Christmas Past shows him. That’s what movies do — they dramatize for the camera. Poems do something different — they use very specific sensory details in order to conjure up emotions in the reader. But listing the emotions you felt is not the same thing as giving your reader a reason to feel something.

      This handout on Showing vs. Telling focuses on short stories, but it’s the same principle. TELLING me what you feel is different from SHOWING me something and generating a feeling in me.

      https://jerz.setonhill.edu/writing/creative1/showing/

      The professional writing advice “murder your darlings” emphasizes that even though we might be excited by and attached to what we wrote in a burst of inspired creative emotions, the process of editing and revision only works if we are objective and willing to trade off the emotional integrity of the experience we had WRITING a draft, with the technical requirements of what experienced readers will expect when READING a poem, and what they will find that’s original and effective, and what will seem predictable and overdone. https://medium.com/mindset-matters/who-said-murder-your-darlings-6a769e3f205e

      This site has a collection of poems about grief.

      https://www.poetryfoundation.org/collections/137079/poems-of-sorrow-and-grieving

      If you were a student in my class, and you said you wanted to write a poem about grief, I’d ask you to read a dozen or so classic and modern poems about loss, and I’d ask you to explore how those poets use sensory experiences, memory, juxtaposition, contrast and other literary techniques in order to accomplish something that moved you; and then I’d ask you to try using some of those same strategies in your own work.

      How many modern works use rhyming couplets? Was your baby-blue-eyed father a 300-pound professional wrestler? Were his eyes important to his profession, or to do something he loved to do, or something he did selflessly and reliably for the family?

      When I was a kid, I found where my dad kept his “to do” list, and I decided I’d spend about 30 minutes a week doing something on that list, without being asked, and without telling him. Vacuuming the stairs, watering the lawn, that sort of thing. Sometimes when he saw me doing the task, or when he went to do it and found it had been done, he would be in such a good mood that he’d invite me out for ice cream.

      If I wanted to put that detail into a poem, I wouldn’t say “here’s a thing that used to happen all the time. I would do a thing on my father’s to-do list, and he’d be so happy he’d invite me out for ice cream.”

      Instead, I’d introduce my father as a barrel-chested former weight-lifter, who was not a hugger, who commuted for decades to an office job that he hated, and but hummed happily when he was sanding boards and chopping wood. I’d pick a specific time that he was grumpy after doing his taxes, and I’d mention that I saw him making a cup of coffee and putting on his work clothes, so I turned off my video game and dashed out the back door, so that he’d see me uncoiling the garden hose and setting up the lawn sprinkler. I’d describe the change in his body language, and I’d quote the words he used when he invited me out for ice cream.

      I wouldn’t add a line about how “I’ll never forget how it felt when he reached across the back of the car seat to give my neck an affectionate squeeze”. Instead, I’d come up with a simile to describe the weight of his hand on my neck, and then I’d flash back to my first memory, which is of my father holding me above his head, telling me to straighten out like a board and pressing my nose against the ceiling; and then I’d flash forward to a few months ago when I visited him, when had some trouble getting out of a chair, and without interrupting his story about a play the Bears made, he just casually reached out his hand so I could help him stand.

      My poem would be about touch, but I probably wouldn’t title it “My father’s touch” and I wouldn’t end by announcing the poem’s theme. I would just pick these three memories of physical contact with my father, I would try to make each one of them meaningful sensory experiences to the reader, and I wouldn’t insert commentary listing my own feelings, or telling the reader how they should react.

      What are some other ways that your father’s eyes have been meaningful to you? Let your reader get to know your father’s eyes in happier times, so that we can feel the contrast for ourselves.

      • Thank you for your input Dennis. This is why I put it out there. I wanted to know how and what I can improve on. I’ll look at all you examples and hopefully learn from them. Again, thank you!

  4. I happened to write few poems without knowing how to write..
    Thank you for all d informations ..
    I shall follow the instructions and see how my poetry writing skill changes over the months🙏Ranbir laishram

  5. Pingback: Now Is the Perfect Time to Memorize a Poem | Jerz's Literacy Weblog (est. 1999)

  6. One may secure 9/9 band in IELTS but writing poetry in English is it self a new subject. It is very well written article and if followed the correct steps as described above. It can help improve the poetry writing skills a lot. One should pay attention to the following questions.

    “What should I write poems about?”
    “How should I decide the right form for my poem?”
    “What are common mistakes that new poets make, and how can I avoid them?”
    “How do I write free verse/blank verse/sonnets/haikus etc.?”

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  9. Pingback: Poetry Writing Hacks: 10 Tips on How to Write a Poem – Blogeek

  10. I think a good poet is very good at observing their surroundings. They are able to push these elements of life into creative writing, which can be in the form of poetry. I liked the poem by Sean Francisco in the comments. Poem Spark – Beautiful title.

  11. I really enjoyed your explanation, thanks a million and God bless you with more wisdom.

    • In the 3rd book in my Butterflies series, I am writing a 3rd section on poem structure. Now I have my own idea about how a poem is written and I just had to run a Google search for comparison.

      I just wrote this poem in maybe 30 minutes, good or bad, you all call it. I like it pretty good, I think. I’m definitely adding it to my next book.

      No offense, This is my Poem Spark.

      Poem Spark

      An ancient Jeraboam,
      would want you to know,
      there is but one poem,
      it’s of our soul.

      Its wine warmed in the heart,
      God given to man.
      There is just one start,
      with all the world at your hand.

      Don’t be afraid!
      Yes, sing us your song.
      It’s your history made.
      You can do no wrong.

      After your gold,
      gleams light on the dark
      please always be so bold,
      you make a Poem Spark.

      Sean Francisco

  12. My father wrote this poem; I don’t know if you can consider this as a poem coz i don’t know
    what figure of speech or style he employed here. Would appreciate your expertise here c:
    Thank you in advance!

    A PEOPLE BETRAYED

    My People
    My poor people
    My suffering people
    My forsaken people
    Fooled and deceived
    Dazzled and misled
    Silenced and blinded
    Lulled and deluded
    Swindled and cheated
    Plundered and looted
    Burdened and tormented
    Trapped and exploited
    Captured and manipulated
    Trampled and invaded
    Swamped and dominated
    Starved and enslaved
    Denied and deserted
    Blamed and derided
    Ignored and dismayed
    Shamed and prostituted
    Mortgaged and conveyed
    Condemned and uprooted
    Terrorized and bullied
    Paralyzed and BETRAYED

    By ruthless self-proclaimed leaders
    And by scheming alien invaders
    Who in reality are deceivers
    Who in truth are exploiters
    Who in fact are slavers
    Who in short are BETRAYERS
    Of my poor and endangered people
    A PEOPLE BETRAYED

    A people full of sorrows
    A people full of sufferings
    A people full of burden
    A people full of pain
    A people full of despair
    A people full of confusion
    A people full of shame
    A people full of difficulties
    A people full of tragedies
    A people full of nightmares

    Fooled and deceived
    Dazzled and misled
    Silenced and blinded
    Lulled and deluded
    Swindled and cheated
    Plundered and looted
    Burdened and tormented
    Trapped and exploited
    Captured and manipulated
    Trampled and invaded
    Swamped and dominated
    Starved and enslaved
    Denied and deserted
    Blamed and derided
    Ignored and dismayed
    Shamed and prostituted
    Mortgaged and conveyed
    Condemned and uprooted
    Terrorized and bullied
    Paralyzed and BETRAYED

    By ruthless self-proclaimed leaders
    And by scheming alien invaders
    Who in reality are deceivers
    Who in truth are exploiters
    Who in fact are slavers
    Who in short are BETRAYERS
    Of my poor and endangered people
    A PEOPLE BETRAYED

    A nation full of fools
    A nation full of slaves
    A nation full of beggars
    A nation full of captives

    A nation full of cowards
    A nation full of idiots
    A nation full of sycophants
    A nation full of robots

    A nation full of liars
    A nation full of hypocrites
    A nation full of clowns
    A nation full of puppets

    A nation full of rascals
    A nation full of maniacs
    A nation full of crooks
    A nation full of monkeys

    A nation full of deserters
    A nation full of bystanders
    A nation full of profiteers
    A nation full of racketeers

    A nation full of pretenders
    A nation full of blusterers
    A nation full of squanderers
    A nation full of blunderers

    A nation full of deceivers
    A nation full of invaders
    A nation full of conspirators
    A nation full of saboteurs

    A nation full of slanderers
    A nation full of distorters
    A nation full of captors
    A nation full of tormentors

    A nation full of exploiters
    A nation full of plunderers
    A nation full of oppressors
    A nation full of traitors

    My people
    My poor people
    My suffering people
    My forsaken people
    My starving people
    My condemned people
    A people deceived
    A people misled
    A people exploited
    A people dominated
    A people enslaved
    A PEOPLE BETRAYED!

    • that’s not a poem, just a list of words. it literally does the opposite of all the tips given above, i.e. not a single concrete image to help the reader see in their own head. “my poor people” gives the reader zero visually, emotionally. who are the people? if concrete details were described — their unique clothes, or land, or actions — the reader would see them. right now, they are invisible.

      a tip not given above: Compress! make the poem as short as possible to convey the idea. who wants to read or hear the phrase “a nation” 36 times, or “people” 30 times?.

      • I can certainly imagine an in-person recitation of this composition being very personal, very passionate, and very meaningful. Spoken-word performances are very different creatures from the kind of literary poetry that this page covers. This text states that a certain list of adjectives apply “in reality,” “in truth” and “in fact” to a certain group, but as “J z” mentioned a list of words doesn’t work on the reader’s emotions in the way that literary poetry does. We’d need to depend up seeing your father’s face, hearing his voice, and knowing about your relationship to your father, in order for these words to have the kind of effect on us that they may have on you.

        What do these words mean to your father? What does he mean to you? How can you make us, the reader, feel those relationships?

  13. My first attempt:

    Her red lipstick covered lips raised like the oceans blue waves.

    Her happiness is like the silver stared night sky.

    The night sky is like a calm breeze brushing against her skin on a warm summer night.

    The breeze is like her inner breath. Breathing comes to her like a diligent and vibrant brush stroke.

    Her happiness is like the sweet aroma of the calming ocean saltwater.

    Her happiness relies on others like stain colored glass relies on the very sand beneath her fingertips.

    What do you guys think!! I need constructive criticism!

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