How to Write a Poem This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine.

October 6, 2012
It takes bravery to decide to write a poem, and not every average Joe can do it. You have to have an understanding of the world and be willing to dive right into the heart of a matter. If you are willing to start the first line of your first poem, then you have already taken the plunge. But before you can begin, you must know the steps:

Step 1: Gather materials.

You will need a few things to help you along. First, a pen. Not a pencil, a pen. This is important, as you will need to preserve every word you write. An eraser is your enemy. You may find that a line you wrote at first but (neatly) crossed out will work in a later stanza.

You will also need a good notebook. This is essential. As you write, your notebook will move from desk to floor to lap to suspended about your head and back to the desk a million times. Your notebook must be comfortable in your hand, easily moved, and not distracting. I know the notebook with the puppies on every page is cute, but when you are trying to be a hardcore poet, puppies will only distract you from your goal.

Also, you will need comfortable clothes. I don't care if your tiny, tight, trendy skirt is super cute, you will end up cross-legged and you will be distracted by how much your skirt is rising up. Get into pajamas or even athletic shorts. Now that you have gathered the materials, you can begin your poem.

Step 2: Start writing.

Write your first stanza. Reread it. Shudder at your own stupidity. Continue to write until you have a whole stanza. Don't stop; just get every idea on that paper without a care of how it looks. When you reread it, you will be horrified that those words ever sounded good together in your head. You will believe that you are a fool, an idiot. How could you ever dare to play at poet? Instead of calling the doctor to euthanize you, take a deep breath. You aren't a fool or an idiot; often things sound right when we are thinking them, but don't flow when read aloud. Take a deep breath, calm down, drop the pen, re-center yourself.

Step 3: Re-pump!

You've written some pretty terrible stuff, but that's okay. Because now, you have all the ideas you wanted to express. Remember: you are special; you have taken the initiative to write a poem in the first place; you are still new at this, even if you've written a thousand poems. No poet ever wrote a perfect poem in the first draft.

So, get pumped. Give yourself a pep talk. Take a shower and mull over your poem's subject. Put on your proverbial face paint and grab your metaphorical spear. Yell at your goldfish if that's what you need to re-pump. Just pick up your pen again and take control. Because you are an excellent poet!

Step 4: Rewrite.

Don't be afraid to change the subject or the perspective – or any part of it. That's what the second draft is for.

So, it didn't work from the girlfriend's perspective? Maybe you can try the boyfriend's perspective, the dog's perspective, third-person omniscient, anything you want. You will find that this second draft is better than the first. It may even be good enough to write the rest of your poem now.

Step 5: Get on a roll.

All right, you've got your first stanza done; now you need the rest. Just keep pouring out your heart and soul. Tear apart your inner thoughts, make them into fantasies, throw some lyrical power words in there, and you've got yourself a lovely poem.

Don't let the personal nature of the subject stop you. You are writing this poem for no one but yourself right now. These are your feelings, thoughts, perspectives, advice, or desires. You know what you want to say, so get it down! And don't stop writing. Hand cramps are just speed bumps on the highway of writing! Whether you're zooming at 70 words per minute or crawling along at 10, get the words down. There's time for fretting over word choice later.

Finally, Step 6: Repeat steps two through five until the end of your poem. This is called editing.

You have finished your poem. It's ugly, hare-lipped, droopy eyebrowed, and maybe even a hunchback, but it's your baby. And with some corrective surgery, you can transform your ugly ragdoll into a smokin' hot Barbie. Take those lackluster words and turn them into vivid power words that move your soul. Remove those extra lines that add nothing; that repulsive layer of padding belongs in the trash.

If you get an idea for another stanza while editing, by golly, add it! If you find a whole stanza is unnecessary but that one line is simply gorgeous, find a way to add it to another stanza or make a new poem from it. Don't worry about grammar, spelling, or punctuation until the very end.

These are the Six Steps to Poetry Writing. Don't be afraid of what you create. Nurture your little monster because it is your mind-baby and it needs love just like a real baby. Of course, if you fill a real child with inked words, she won't react well. But a poem-baby will grow and develop into a beautiful, moving, heartwrenching poem. Feed your baby and love it.

This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. This piece has been published in Teen Ink’s monthly print magazine.

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This article has 3 comments. Post your own now!

ChobaniLuvinPenguin This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. said...
Dec. 30, 2012 at 5:10 pm
This is so creative and beautifully written! I love it! Definitely one of my faves! I can totally relate to all the emotions that come with writting poetry :)
IfLifeGivesYouLemons This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. said...
Dec. 4, 2012 at 9:55 pm
Heavens mercy I love it! This piece is absolutely fabulous! If I knew you in person, I swear to heavens I would be in love with you. I almost NEVER give soley positive feedback, but I can honestly do nothing more than rave over this!
xobellaboo7 This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. replied...
Dec. 5, 2012 at 3:35 pm
Aww, thanks.  I'm really glad that you liked it.  
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