1. Look for inspiration. The first step is to work out what your poem is going to be about. If you are stuck, look close to home. Poetry doesn’t need to be about some momentous occasion, sometimes random details can be great starting points.
Once you’ve got an idea, take some notes about your chosen subject. The exciting part is letting your imagination and memories take off. If you find yourself scribbling furiously, hardly thinking about what you are writing – don’t stop. The thought/idea/Muse has gripped you, and you should follow it as far as it is willing to take you.
2. Find the words. The art of poetry is to compress and crystallise ideas. And a poet achieves this by choosing the right words. Sometimes the simplest words can produce beautiful poems. But poetry is all about finding the exact word that you need. And so, the more words you know, the better.
The best way to improve your vocabulary is to read. Read lots - and whenever you come across an unfamiliar word, find out what it means. It could be just the word you need in your next poem.
Also, remember to tune into your five senses - taste, touch, smell, sight and hearing - and use these to help you create an atmosphere with your poem. It will make your work come to life.
3. Select your tools. There are many different devices that a poet can employ to construct a poem and the devices you select can have a big impact on the look, feel and sound of the finished piece. Here are some things to think about:
Should I make the poem rhyme? Rhymes are fun but trying to make something rhyme just for the sake of it usually doesn’t work. Sometimes unrhymed verse suits the subject and feels more honest. It's true though that rhyme has an obvious appeal so experiment with both.
What rhythm will suit the subject? Read poems aloud to feel the rhythm. Some poems will suit a strong galloping rhythm while others will sound better with a more relaxed flow. And remember, sometimes breaking the rhythm can give a good dramatic effect.
How do sounds affect the poem? Consider the consonants, vowels and onomatopoeia of your chosen words. You might choose to use a lot of hard staccato sounds like T’s and P’s or softer sounds like O’s and E’s.
What images are you creating? The best poems are the ones that use very few words to paint vivid pictures. Through your choice of words you can take a reader on a journey to a specific place, a different time, even another world.
Will repetition make a difference? Experiment with repeating words or whole lines in your poem to create drama and emphasis.
4. It’s your choice. A long time ago people thought that there were a lot of rules for writing poetry. They had to rhyme, or every line had to start with a capital letter, or they had to be broken up into stanzas, or they had to have a particular rhythm.
Today there is no right or wrong way to write a poem. You can choose to use capital letters and punctuation or you can use no capital letters and/or no punctuation at all. Your poem can rhyme if you want it to and it can be whatever length you decide.
Writing poetry is easy but there are two things you should remember. Firstly, always write in short lines. Then your reader will recognise it as a poem right away.
Secondly, be consistent. Don't start using capital letters and punctuation and then stop. And if you start using rhymes don't give up half way through. If you choose a form or device, stick to it.
5. You’re the voice. Remember your poem has to communicate with the reader so think about what you want to say. It's your job to make the poem as clear as possible. Some of the best poems ever written are also the easiest to read. Keep it simple.
Readers respond to poetry emotionally and intellectually, so try to excite their minds with honest feelings, thoughtful ideas and musical language. But write, most of all, for yourself. Poets don't write poetry to pass exams. They write because they want to examine emotions, express ideas or say something about the world we live in.
5. Don’t give up. Even experienced, professional poets don’t get it right the first time. Usually you have to re-write a poem several times before you're happy with it. Sometimes, it can help to put it aside for a while and come back to it with fresh eyes.
Be patient and allow yourself time to be still, to be alone and to dream. Know that you can reveal your own ideas and your special feelings and express them in the shortest, most powerful way with the very best words you can find. It just might take a bit of editing to get it right!