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Learning to Write Poetry

Learning to write poetry is a worthy undertaking. There are rules and techniques to be followed but many of us fear that if we study, our creative juices may dry up and we will have nothing to write about. At least that’s my excuse but maybe we should learn the rules of poetry writing and see what happens. I have been studying (somewhat) and this is what I am in the process of learning.

Many poets complain that they don’t want to be held back by technical considerations in writing poetry. Why do we who write poetry feel this way? We seem to think its an infringement on our creativity to follow any rules. Some of it comes from poets like Dylan Thomas in “Fern Hill” and Allen Ginsburg in “How” They wrote their poems as if they were talking to us. It sounds as if they wrote these poems straight off the tops of their head. But, of course, that isn’t true. These poets were so skillful that we can’t detect the craft of their technique.

What are the techniques of poetry writing? Ezra Pound divided them into three categories. (sight), (sound), and (voice).

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Image is the heart and soul of poetry. It is the most basic of all communication. Our earliest memories are in pictures. We think in pictures. Our ancestors of thousands of years ago made images of stone. The cavemen drew pictures on the walls of caves. Pictures tell a story. Pictures are an important aspect of poetry. Following are the picture aspects of poetry.

image-a simple picture

metaphor-a comparison

simile-an indirect comparison, such as “like” or “as”

figure-an image and an idea



Sound and rhythm has its source in the beat of our own heart. If we are excited it may skip and jump at a frantic pace. There are the sound of drumbeats and marching feet in parades, the sounds of children playing, the sound of wind tossed trees, the splash of water in the creek.

Following are poetic devices for sound.

assonance-rhyme of vowel sounds

alliteration-repetition of consonants

rhyme-one word echoing the sound of another

metrics-a simple notation system of rhythm.

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Voice is the unmistakable voice of the poet. You would never mistake “Something there is that doesn’t love a wall” as anyone other than Robert Frost. Following are the poetic devices for voice.

denotation- the literal meaning of a word

connotation-an indirect meaning of a word.

personification-presenting the object in a humane fashion

diction-choice of words

syntax-the arrangement and structure of words

rhetoric-an adornment of speech to impress

persona-an assumed voice, pretending to be other than what he is

The only way for any real learning and progress is endless writing and rewriting. Master all the poetic devices until they become familiar as a second skin. Go to your library and check out books explaining the devices of poetry writing. Check out poetry books by Robert Frost, Dorothy Parker, Walt Whitman, John Keats, and other great poets. And continue to enjoy and write poetry.There is nothing like it for expressing our feelings. Continue to enjoy writing your poetry even if you never pick up a book to study.

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