A Messy Guide To Poetry

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Creative writing has always been a huge part of my life. As a kid I was constantly scribbling away in notebooks, and as I got older it became something that I seriously wanted to pursue. I’m currently a fourth-year undergrad studying English Literature and I’ve also taken a bunch of Creative Writing courses during my time in university. Poetry is something that I’ve gotten so much out of over the years, so I wanted to share some advice with you about how you can also incorporate it into your life! First of all, poetry is incredibly personal.  In fact, I believe that writing poetry doesn’t capture an experience, but that it is an experience. In your own personal journey, let poems be a way through which you find yourself and feel yourself. When you flip through your journal you’ll be able to look back on the pages as individual moments in time– how you were experiencing the world in those moments. Now of course, you can also throw in all sort of poetic devices like metaphors to enhance the work and make it “poetic”, but ultimately, poetry should be an expression of emotion. Here’s a messy lil guide to writing poetry:

  1. Choose a place to write your poetry. I prefer to work on paper, so I keep a journal, but I also know of people who like to type their poems. That’s their creative process. Find yours. Whether it’s a folder on your laptop or a notebook that you’ve collaged the front of, personalize your poem space so that it appeals to your creative sensibility.
  2. Bring a small notebook with you everywhere, or keep a specific note on your phone. You never know when inspiration will strike. There’s nothing worse than when a great opening line or a fabulous metaphor comes to you when you’re out and about without a means to capture your thoughts.
  3. Write as much as possible and don’t be selective about what you put down on paper. The editing will come later. Record snippets of conversations, respond to an event or a piece of art, capture a single moment in time. Try writing one poem in five different ways. Then keep the best one. As James Mitchner once said: “I’m not a very good writer, but I’m an excellent rewriter.” You’ll never get better at expressing yourself authentically if you don’t start by getting through the word-vomit.
  4. Be as specific as possible. Break down every description into as many pieces as you can. The most famous poets had their work celebrated because they captured emotions and events in ways that were unique and specific. They took an emotion and described it in a way that was personal and in a voice that was precisely their own– unique to their time period, location, and personal experience. Try to find your own voice and style of writing poetry. But also remember that you don’t always have to stick to a style you’ve established for yourself– think outside the box and don’t let your poems become formulaic! Sure, you can stick to a rhyme scheme if you want, but what I mean is don’t be afraid to surprise yourself with what you might come up with! This is your realm to be as daring as possible. The great thing about creative writing is that no one else has to see it– sure, you may choose to share your best pieces, but let your journal be your personal haven where you have no obligation to impress anyone– not even yourself.

Emily is a flower fairy living in Canada of all places. She is studying english, drinking tea, and frolicking through the forest. Instagram

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4 Comments

  1. Anonymous says

    Love how she describes it as an experience and not the outcome- I really needed to hear that

  2. Phyllis says

    Much thanks for this!!! I’m doing a project for school and was having trouble with being too broad with my topics.

  3. absolutely incredible!! i didn’t write for a while and i was struggling, but now i have been writing multiple poems a day. thank you

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