By Jamie Nanfara
Your teacher asks you to write a poem and the first thing you think of is: a cat is sitting on a mat with a bat. Poems are much more than a handful of rhyming words strung together! A poem often makes the reader feel some kind of emotion and NEWS FLASH poems do NOT always need to rhyme! To write a great poem all you need is rhythm and your own imagination. Here are some tips for writing a poem.
Think of a Topic
Divide a piece of paper into four equal parts and label them 1. People and places you love, 2. Things you like to do, 3. Questions you have about the world, and 4. Memories. Then, think of topics you might want to write about for each heading. Challenge yourself to write 3-4 ideas for each heading. Which idea do you want to write about first?
Choose Words Carefully
Before you start writing your poem, make a list of words that describe your topic. Use your senses to come up with words. What do you smell or hear? What do you see? How do you feel? If you choose to write a rhyming poem, use a website to find words that rhyme with your list. HERE is a good website to start with.
Write Your Poem
Use your list of words to begin writing your poem. Start with a statement or a question about your topic. When you are writing, remember to use your senses to make your poem descriptive. Use comparisons to give your reader a picture in their mind. Be creative!
Use Line Breaks Deliberately
Line breaks let the reader know when to pause. Line breaks also give rhythm to your poem and contribute to its meaning. Read the two poems below with VERY different line breaks. See the difference?
We glided on the porch swing
and ate warm bread
Grandma watered the daisies
The sun set
Another summer day gone
We glided on the porch swing and
ate warm bread Grandma
watered the daisies the sun
set another summer day gone
Experiment with the line breaks in your poem. Try a few different ways until you are satisfied with the rhythm and appearance of your poem.
A poet is never done after the first draft! Read over your poem and take out words or phrases that don’t fit. Can you add more descriptions? Do the line breaks make sense? An Alliteration is when two words beginning with the same sound are next to each other (like crunchy cookies!). Can you find a place where you can add an alliteration? After you make some changes, reread your poem out loud again. Does it sound complete?
For more inspiration, check out these poetry collections:
Poetry for Young People
By Langston Hughes
Edited by Arnold Rampersad & David Roessel
Illustrated by Benny Andrews
Published bySterling Publishing Co.
Hip Hop Speaks to Children: A Celebration of Poetry with a Beat
Edited by Nikki Giovanni
A Light in the Attic
Poetry for Kids: Carl Sandburg
ABOUT JAMIE NANFARA
Jamie is an elementary school teacher and freelance writer. In addition to creating content for KidLit TV’s website, she is an active member of SCBWI and is currently querying her first picture book. She has an MA in Teaching and is passionate about children’s literature and the role it plays in supporting the social and academic growth of her students. When she’s not teaching or writing for children, she is looking for adventure and laughing at the silly antics of her husband and daughter.