Poetry Tips

The Poetry Page                       Young Writers Contest


How do poetry judges find winning, wonderful poetry?


1. Be as specific as possible. Cut most abstract words from your poem;  words like love, friendship, death.


2. Replace them with concrete words. Every line should have one concrete word in it. (A tree, a spider, a glob of glue . . .)


3. Use action words, not adjectives.The leaves are orange and bright. Bright orange leaves fall. (Don’t try to describe an emotion with abstract words like love, sorrow, loss, longing . . . )


4. Remember: A poem is not simply prose put in broken lines. Every word counts, each line forms its own thought.


5. Rhythm. Poetry need not rhyme, but the words need to work together in harmony. When reading the poem aloud, there should be a rhythmic flow — but that doesn’t mean sing-songy.  Really listen to the words and how each one sounds with the ones around it.


6. Engage the reader with your five senses – touch, taste, sight, sound, smell


7. If you can have more than one layer to your poem, that is a metaphor.  At face value, the words may mean one thing, but with a deeper look, there may be more to be understood. Example: My mind is a sailboat, drifting on the waves, etc,


8. Be original. If you’ve heard it before, don’t use it. Find a new subject or give an old subject a new twist. Is this another poem about spring? How can YOU see spring differently from anyone else. A good poem will make the reader feel or think something new about the subject.  *Spring is my sister. She listens to my thoughts like the . . . , she .  




Poetry Prompts: 


1. What’s your passion? What are you crazy about? Make your reader crazy about it too.


2. If you must write about spring, start small. Write about the sun’s reflections on a drop of dew. What would you see in the reflection? What would the spring scents be?  How would it feel to touch a dew drop?  How would you interpret what you experienced? 


3. Compare somebody you know to an object. Spring is my sister. My brother is a sponge. My dad is a skyscraper. My mom is a warm coat. etc.  Tell how they are like the object. Repeat the first line at the end. 


4. The worst or best . . . day at school, test, ball game, movie. Compare it to things you really hate or love. The worst test is a swarm of angry bees . . . 


5. Acrostics – Spell a word vertically and start each line with that letter. Vacation, Halloween, my puppy, homework, little sister, chores, allowance, skateboarding, Iraq War, etc. 


6. Tell a story.  The first time you tied your shoe, rode a bike, flew on  a plane, hit a homer, scored a goal, argued with a best friend, aced a  test, told a lie, hurt a friend, disappointed  your parents, attended a funeral, etc.

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