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Publishing of Book:The Art and Craft of Creative Writing

Art-and-Craft-of-Creative-Writing_cover Thanks for visiting my blog for  the past four years. During that time, I’ve read and learned about the writing life, poetry, short fiction, and creative nonfiction. I have read many books, learned a great deal, and written a couple hundred craft essays. In January of this year, I decided to write a book based on what I have learned. And so from April until a couple of weeks ago, I wrote a how-to creative writing eBook. It is called “The Art and Craft of Creative Writing.” It is based on what I have learned. To purchase the book, visit http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00F4VOYRK

The book is more than 400 pages long and includes the following chapters chapters:

 Table of Content

  • About the Author 3
  • Introduction. 4
  • THE WRITING LIFE. 7
  • The Art and Craft of Writing. 8
  • The Writing Life: Journal Writing. 16
  • The Writing Life: Reading Like a Writer 19
  • The Writing Life: Learning to Write Creatively. 24
  • The Writing Life: Finding Inspiration to Write. 29
  • Ten Myths about Writing. 33
  • Writer’s Block. 36
  • The Writing Life: Developing Your Writing Voice. 39
  • Blogging as a Form of Creative Writing. 44
  • The Writing Process. 49
  • Writing the Opening. 54
  • Writing the Ending. 57
  • Revising Your Work. 60
  • WRITING FREE VERSE POETRY.. 65
  • Poetry: An Overview.. 66
  • Free Verse Poetry: An Overview.. 74
  • The Title of a Poem.. 80
  • Finding Inspiration and a Subject for Your Poem.. 83
  • Writing Free Verse: Stanza, Line, Syntax. 87
  • Writing Free Verse: Word Choice. 93
  • Writing Free Verse: Adding Sensory Details. 96
  • Writing Free Verse: Using Figurative Language. 100
  • Writing Free Verse: Adding Sound Effects. 104
  • Writing Free Verse: Meter and Rhythm.. 108
  • Writing the Prose Poem.. 113
  • Learning to Write Free Verse Poetry. 116
  • WRITING SHORT FICTION.. 123
  • Writing Short Fiction: An Overview.. 124
  • Writing Short Fiction: Creating the Setting. 130
  • Writing Short Fiction: The Plot 134
  • Writing Short Fiction: Character and Characterization. 139
  • Writing Short Fiction: Dialogue. 144
  • Writing Short Fiction: Point of View.. 148
  • Writing Short Fiction: The Theme. 152
  • Writing Short Fiction: Literary Techniques and Poetic Devices. 155
  • Writing Short Fiction: Voice and Writing Style. 161
  • Writing Short Fiction: Beginning and Ending. 166
  • How to Write a Short Story. 170
  • WRITING CREATIVE NONFICTION.. 176
  • Writing Creative Nonfiction: An Overview.. 177
  • The Ethics of Creative Nonfiction. 184
  • Writing Creative Nonfiction: Using Humour in Your Writing. 189
  • Writing Creative Nonfiction: The Personal Narrative Essay. 194
  • Writing Creative Nonfiction: The Opinion Essay. 202
  • Writing Creative Nonfiction: The Meditative Essay. 209
  • Writing Creative Nonfiction: The Lyrical Essay. 215
  • Writing Creative Nonfiction: The Segmented Essay. 219
  • Writing Creative Nonfiction: The Literary Journalism Essay. 224
  • The Literary Journalism Essay: On Popular Culture. 229
  • Writing Creative Nonfiction: Narrative History. 237
  • The Literary Journalism Essay: The Global Village. 243
  • Writing Creative Nonfiction: The Profile/Biography Sketch. 248

For anyone who desires to embrace the writing life, write free verse poetry, write short fiction, write creative nonfiction, such as the personal essays, and more, this book is for you. It is filled with advice, tips, suggestions, how-to explanations, and more. You can buy it at Amazon for $7.00. To purchase the book, visit:  http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00F4VOYRK I will not be making any more posts to this blog. It is time for another project. Good luck in your writing endeavors. Dave Hood,B.A.

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Learning to Write Free Verse Poetry

Poets use different methods to compose their poetry.  As well, books on “how to write poetry” offer a variety of suggestions. Some poets write a poem one word at a time. Others write line by line. Many write down a complete draft, and then revise for alliteration, simile, rhythm, and so forth.  Clearly, there is no “one right way” to compose a poem.

In this post, I will explain my approach to writing poetry. The following will be covered:

  • How to prepare to write a poem
  • How to begin a poem
  • How to write a poem
  • How to revise a poem

As well, I’ll provide you with a few suggestions on how to become a poet. ( To call yourself a poet, you must learn the techniques and write poetry on a regular basis.)

Preparing to Begin

Suppose you’ve read lots of poems, learned the techniques, and have found inspiration and a subject to write a poem about. How should you begin? Start with some preparation. Here are a few suggestions:

  • Keep a writing journal, making notes in it each day. When you require an idea, check your journal. It might contain an idea for a poem.
  • Before writing, contemplate what you desire to compose a poem about.
  • Read some poetry or some other inspirational writing that you enjoy— to light the flame of  creativity.
  • Jot down a few important points you wish to make for the poem you intend  to write.
  • Freewrite for 10 minutes or more.
  • Select a subject.
  • Choose a form–narrative, meditative, image, prose poem….
  • Decide how you intend to write the poem. Some poets write word by word. Others write line by line. Other write out the complete poem, and then revise.

Determining how the Poem Unfolds

There is no single method of beginning a poem. It is your creative decision to make. However, your intention should be to “catch” the attention your reader, and motivate them to read your poem. And so, your beginning should be interesting. For instance, you might begin with the “cause” or in the “middle of the action.” In “A Poet’s Guide to Poetry,” author, Mary Kinzie, identifies some of the ways poets begin and develop a poem. Here are a few of her suggestions:

  • Cause and effect
  • Then and now
  • Description
  • Argument
  • Meditation
  • Explanation
  • Observation
  • Confession

Other methods of  beginning and progressing:

  • Narrative where there is a central character, often the speaker of the poem,  a conflict, climax, resolution.
  • Anecdotes A short narrative that makes an interesting point.

John Drury, author of Creating Poetry, writes that the opening of a poem doesn’t have to be “flashy.”  It can:

  • Set the scene
  • Begin with a question
  • Begin with a statement
  • Begin with a quotation
  • Begin with a fragment
  • Begin with an image

He also writes that if you are writing a narrative poem, you can begin “in medias res,” which means in the middle of things. In other words, start with the action or main event.

Remember, the purpose of a poem is to provide the reader with both pleasure and meaning. Keep these two points in mind as you write poetry.

Writing the Poem

Once you are inspired and have a subject to write about, you can begin to compose the poem. First, ask yourself: will I write about the ” outer world” or world I experience with my senses?” Or will I write about the ” inner world,” the world of my “psyche”  or  “self” ? (Confessional poets write poems about “the self”, such as depression, addiction, loss, grief, disease.)

I like to begin a poem with a title. Sometimes, the title is a word from the poem, Sometimes, the title is the first line of the poem. Always, the title tells the reader what the poem is about.

Next, ask yourself: what type of free verse poem am I going to write? For instance, if you are intending to tell a story, your narrative poem requires a beginning, middle, and end.

Then, ask yourself: how should I begin? There is no “one way.” You might begin with an image, a question, or in the middle of a scene.

Next, if you’ve decided to write a narrative poem, you are going to tell a story.  You will tell your story using as fewest words possible. In other words, each word must perform some function. If you are going to write line by line, you’ll have to determine what sorts of sentences to use–fragment, simple, compound sentences, and so forth. You will also want to keep in mind that the most important ideas should be expressed at the end of a line. In writing the poem, you might use simile, metaphor, imagery, alliteration, and other popular poetic devices. It all depends on your skill level and creative vision.

When you arrive at the end of the poem, you should end with something meaningful, such as an epiphany, or insight.

Here is an example of a first draft of a confessional poem. Notice how the title tells the reader what the poem is about.  It’s called  “Unemployed.”

Unemployed

It’s early morning. Slept poorly.

Neighbors have gone to work.

Like a shut-in, I sit in this silent house,

sip my hot coffee,

read  the newspaper,

listen to the litany

of depressing news

on CNN television.

I think to myself:

Life savings are depleting.

Unable to pay the bills.

Unable to put food on the table.

Creditors are telephoning every day

like hungry rats waiting to feast.

How long must I search for work?

What am I going to do?

It feels like an inescapable nightmare.

From this first draft, you can begin the revision process, by adding, deleting, altering.

Revising the Poem

How do you revise a poem?  Your first attempt at writing a poem rarely results in your best work.  You should view your first attempt as a rough draft. I recommend that you write a complete poem and then take a break. This break allows you to distance yourself. When you return from your break, you will be able  to view the poem from a fresh perspective and begin revising.What should you revise? Here are a few suggestions:

  • Be sure the title tells the reader what the poem is about. Perhaps it represents the first line of the poem.
  • Be sure you are using concrete nouns.
  • Be sure you are using action verbs.
  • Be sure you are using the active voice.
  • Be sure to use adjectives and adverbs sparingly.
  • Make sure you have shown the reader and not told them.
  • Be sure that your images appeal to the readers sense of sight, smell, taste, touch, and hearing.
  • Have you included similes or metaphors to entertain or to make the abstract concrete?
  • Have you used sound effects? Alliteration. Assonance. Onomatopoeia. Internal rhyme or end rhyme.
  • Have you used a friendly, conversational voice?
  • What point of view have you used? Is it effective? Is it consistent? If a shift in point of view, why?
  • Does your poem evoke emotion?
  • Does your poem have rhythm?
  • Does your poem have meaning? Look to the last stanza or line. Does it express some insight or epiphany?
  • Have you used poetic devices of simile and metaphor and imagery to entertain the reader?
  • Does the last line tell the reader something important, such as share words of wisdom, share an insight, share meaning?

When do you know when your poem is finished? You might end when it feels right. Kim Addonizio, author of ” The Poet’s Companion,” suggests that a poem is a work of art,  “A work of art is never finished, merely abandoned.”

A Few Suggestions on How to Become a Poet

Suppose you’ve decided to become a creative writer. You intend to write free verse poetry. How do you learn?  Here are a few suggestions:

  1. Read lots of poetry by good poets, such as Charles Simic, Mary Oliver, Robert Frost, Billy Collins. If you discover a poet that you really like, read all that poet’s poems. There are countless books, magazines, and websites that publish poetry, which you can read. Begin by checking out http://www.poetryfoundation.org  and http://www.poets.org or http://www.poetryarchive.com
  2. Learn the popular forms and techniques for writing a free verse poem. Some popular forms include narrative, meditative, image, confessional.  You must also learn how to use line breaks, simile, metaphor, rhythm, imagery, vivid descriptions, alliteration, and more. How to you learn? There are many valuable resources that will teach aspiring poets how to write free verse poetry. Start by reading “The Poet’s Companion” by Kim Addonizio, a useful text with sections on inspiration and subject matter, the craft of writing poetry, the writing life, exercises on how to write poetry, and additional resources.
  3. Practise the techniques by writing in a personal journal. For instance, to learn how to write a simile, experiment in your journal. For instance, suppose you wanted to practise writing a simile. You could begin by making comparisons. Here are a few: A building is like a statue…The street lamp is like a candle that lights a dark room…. At night, my neighborhood is like an abandoned town…Snow falls like white confetti. How to practise? Read “In the Poem of Your Hand: The Poet’s Portable Workshop by Steve Kowit, and complete the exercises.
  4. Find inspiration and subjects to write about.  You can look inward to your psyche, and write about your thoughts, feelings, impressions, what you’ve contemplated, a memory, or dream, something you’ve imagined. Or you can look outward—and view the world around you. You might write about something you’ve read, overheard, observed, or experienced. One of the best ways to find inspiration is to read a wide variety of books, magazines, newspapers, and content on websites or blogs. Curiosity fuels inspiration.
  5. Imitate the form, style, techniques of your favorite poets. To do this, you’ll have to learn the techniques or poetic devices that enable you to construct a poem, and then you’ll have to analyze the poem, to discover how it was constructed by the poet.
  6. Once you feel confident, begin writing a poem on a regular basis. You might start by writing a poem once a week. Please note that a poem can be about anything. Furthermore, poets have written poems about anything you can image, such as art, death, suicide, sex, love, war, depression, an image, a fleeting moment, a dream, an observation, a personal experience, other poets, parts of speech, and much more.
  7. Revise your poetry. You first attempt is never your best. Writing a poem is an iterative process. A good poem is the result of many revisions.
  8. Take a course on how to write poetry at university, or enroll online in a course, or read a few books on how to write poetry. I’ve learned most of my creative writing through self-study. A marvelous book  that will teach you how to write poetry is “The Poetry Companion” by Kim Addonizio and Dorianne Laux. (This is a must read. Every creative writer should own a copy.)

What’s the best way to learn how to write poetry? Author John Drury, in” Creating Poetry,” writes that “the greatest single means of learning how to do something is imitation.” He suggests that you “latch on” to a model poet, one you like, or several poets you admire, and begin to write poems in the style and techniques and subjects that they do.

You first attempt is never your best work, and so after writing a poem, you must set it aside, and take a break. When you return, read your poem aloud to yourself. Then ask yourself: Do I like it? If you don’t, revise it. You might add details, cut out details, change details. You might also make the poem sound and read as a poem by adding one or more poetic devices, such as imagery, simile, metaphor, alliteration, and so forth.

When are you finished writing a poem? Many writers believe that a poem is never finished—and can always be altered or revised. I tend to agree that “a poem is never finished, just abandoned.”

To become a poet, you must learn the poetic techniques and then begin to write poetry. The act of writing a poem makes you a poet.

Resources

For more information on how to write free verse poetry, read the following:

  • The Poet’s Companion: A Guide to the Pleasures of Writing Poetry by Kim Addonizio and Dorianne Laux
  • How to Read a Poem by Edward Hirsch
  • The Making of a Poem: A Norton Anthology of Poetic Forms by Mark Strand and Eavan Boland
  • The Poet Laureate Anthology, edited by Elizabeth Hun Schmidt
  • A Poet’s Guide to Poetry by Mary Kinzie
  • Creating Poetry by John Drury
  • The Discovery of Poetry by Frances Mayes
  • The Poet’s Guide to Poetry by Mary Kinzie
  • Making Your Own Days by Kenneth Koch
  • In the Poem of Your Hand: The Poet’s Portable Workshop by Steve Kowit

Writing Free Verse Poetry: Finding Inspiration and a Subject

By Dave Hood

Where do you find inspiration to write free verse poetry? Many aspiring writers wait for inspiration to come into their life. The problem with this approach is that the writer relies on chance, and might wait a lifetime to discover something that motivates them to begin writing poetry.  A better way to become inspired is to seek out experiences that will light the flame of creativity.

Once you’ve become inspired to write a poem, you’ll need to select a subject to write about. Poets have written poems on any subject you can image, such as a birth, love, death, depression, a fleeting moment, an overheard conversation, a random act of kindness.

In this post, I’ll explain where to find inspiration and identify some of the subjects that can be the foundation of a poem.

Finding Inspiration

There are countless people, places, events, objects, things—all of which can inspire you to write a poem. Inside most how-to- books on poetry, you’ll see a chapter  on “finding inspiration for a poem.”  Whether you write poetry, short fiction, personal essays–inspiration comes from the same sources. Here are 12 sources of inspiration:

  1. Dreams. Write a poem about some dream. To use this technique, you’ll have to remember your dream. Therefore, you’ll have to keep a notebook and pen on your bedside table. If you wake up, and remember the dream, you can record it with the pen and notebook.
  2. Memories. Write a poem based on a memory. What is the happiest time in year life? What is the saddest? What was your favorite toy? Fondest holiday? Most influential book?
  3. Contemplation. Ponder a question, an idea, a concept, some word, a fact, and then compose a poem.  Example: What is love?
  4. Observation. Many poets write poems about the world in which they live, such as their home, their neighborhood, their city, their region, their country. Instead of turning inward to the psyche, they observe some interesting trait of the world and write a poem. For instance, if you live in the city, you might write about  the traffic jams, the noise, the stress, alienation, a stranger, waiting for the bus, working in a skyscraper, riding the subway. When using this approach, make note of the sensor images–things you see, things you touch, what you smell, what you taste, what you hear.
  5. Conversation. Some poets are inspired to write a poem based on something they heard in a conversation. Perhaps you’ve heard something interesting waiting for the buss, at a party, listening to the radio.
  6. Personal experience. Confessional poets write about a personal experience, such as depression, grief, job loss, cancer, end of a romance, death of a loved one. When writing about personal experience, you share emotional truth in your poem. This emotional truth answers the question: How does it feel to you?
  7. Writing journal. Part of living the writing life is to keep a writing journal or notebook. Every time you see, hear, or read something interesting, you make note of it in your journal. When you require inspiration to write a poem, you look through your journal for the seed of a poem.
  8. Writing prompts. If you take a course or read a book on how to write poetry, you’ll learn about writing prompts.  These are suggestions for writing a poem. They are designed to “inspire you” to write. For instance, at the end of each chapter of “The Poet’s Companion”, author Kim Addonizio includes a list of writing prompts. Example: Write a poem in which you feel a sense of shame. You can also go online and conduct a Google search to find writing prompts.
  9. Reading. If you always want to have something to write about, you must always have an idea for a poem. One of the best ways to replenish the creative spirit is to read. You can read poetry, fiction, nonfiction, books about art, books about philosophy, magazines on psychology, pop culture, history, biography, and so forth. By reading widely and deeply, you’ll discover countless ideas that can become the foundation of a poem.
  10. Imagination. Some poets tap into their imagination for ideas. A simple way to use your imagination is to ask “What if?”
  11. Fleeting moments. A poem doesn’t have to be about some event that unfolds over a long period of time. Instead, a poem can be based on some “fleeting moment” in time, such as a first kiss.
  12. Borrowing an idea from another poet. Most poets write poems based on other poets poetry. In other words, they read a poem about love, or grief, or place, or an experience–and then use the idea to write their own poem. You can do the same.

Subjects to Write About

Once you’ve become inspired to write a poem, you can select a subject. What sorts of things can you write about? Essentially, you can compose a poem about anything. For instance, Billy Collins wrote a poem “Man in Space,” Ted Kooser wrote a poem called “My Grandfather Dying,” Robert Hass wrote a poem called “Happiness.” Here are 12 ideas you can use as a foundation for a poem:

  1. Write a poem about what you know. A hobby, school, work, love, illness, sickness, sadness, grief, lust, desire, sex…Write about what you like and dislike. Write about fatherhood or motherhood or childhood. Write about a memorable event, daily routine, family.
  2. Write a poem about grief or death. Many poets have written elegies, a poem that laments someone who has died. Poet Kim Addonizio suggests you capture “intimate details that are emblems of your particular loss. You could also use a metaphor or imagery to write about death. Or you could read the obituaries, then write a poem about a person who has died.
  3. Write a poem about lust, the erotic, sex, passion, a first sexual encounter, a first kiss.
  4. Write about your dark side or shadow. Kim Addonizio, in the Poets Companion, suggests you confront taboo, your inner critic, your insecurities, the forbidden, to wrote a poem. Some topics to consider: anxiety, depression, incest, abuse, addiction, self-loathing, a personal secret, a fetish, something you are embarrassed about. See the confessional poetry of Anne Sexton.
  5. Write about concerns, issues, events in the news. Topics to consider: pollution, war, poverty, AIDS, faith, God, crime, racism, patriotism, social justice, mental illness.
  6. Write about nature or wildlife, such as the ocean, a river, the mountains, the beach, birds, animals, trees, flowers. See the poetry of Mary Oliver.
  7. Write about a particular place, such as your home, neighborhood, hometown, workplace, a trip, a vacation,  a foreign place, and imaginary place.
  8. Write  a narrative poem. For instance, Homer wrote Iliad and Odyssey, but you don’t have to write an epic poem. Instead write something shorter, based on something that happened. Many contemporary poems are narratives. Read Ted Kooser’s “So This is Nebraska.”
  9. Write a poem about a person. The person might be dead or alive, a hero or villain, a celebrity or political figure, an artist, musician, writer, even another poet.
  10. Write a poem about a special occasion, such as a birthday, memorial, funeral, Christmas, Easter, Holidays, milestone.
  11. Write a poem about mythology or folklore, such as a fairy tale, legend, Greek Gods, horror, ghosts, the supernatural.
  12. Write about some pleasure. Start by asking yourself: What gives me pleasure? Perhaps you enjoy drinking a cup of coffee, reading the newspaper, seeing a film at the theatre. Answer the question, then write a poem.

Resources

For more information on writing free verse, read the following books:

  • How to Read a Poem by Edward Hirsch
  • The Making of a Poem: A Norton Anthology of Poetic Forms by Mark Strand and Eavan Boland
  • The Poet Laureate Anthology, edited by Elizabeth Hun Schmidt
  • A Poet’s Guide to Poetry by Mary Kinzie
  • Creating Poetry by John Drury
  • The Discovery of Poetry by Frances Mayes
  • The Poet’s Guide to Poetry by Mary Kinzie
  • Making Your Own Days by Kenneth Koch
  • In the Poem of Your Hand: The Poet’s Portable Workshop by Steve Kowit

Writing Free Verse Poetry: Stanza, Line Break, Style

Dave Hood

The best free verse poets use several techniques of style to compose their poetry. Four important stylistic choices available to the poet are:

  • Stanzas
  • Line breaks
  • Syntax or sentence structure or sentence variety
  • Grammar of a poem

A stanza is a group of lines in a poem, separated by white space. The stanza is the body of the poem. Sometimes you’ll see stanzas of two lines, three lines, four lines—-or one long stanza. The stanza in free verse is a way to organize related ideas, a way to create a pause, a way to add emphasis to related lines.

A line break is a tool that the poet uses to create a particular effect, such as a pause or to emphasize an idea, word, phrase. Sage Cohen, author of “Writing the Life Poetic“ writes: “Lines act as the engine that moves the reader through a poem.”

A good understanding of syntax or sentence structure will help you write better poetry. Sentence structure contributes to the rhythm of a poem.

The style of a poem is determined by the poet’s decisions about word choice, syntax, poetic devices,  and tone.

The best poets follow the rules and conventions of grammar. They use the active voice, write with concrete nouns and actions verbs, and use adjectives and adverbs sparingly.

In this post, I’ll discuss how to use the stanza, line break, syntax, and grammar to write good or memorable free verse poetry.

Stanza

What is a stanza? It is a group of lines in a poem, separated by white space. Stanzas are the body of a poem. They follow the title. The stanza in a poem is like a paragraph in prose. Sometimes a stanza is short, consisting of only a line. Other times, a stanza is long, making up the entire poem.

How do you know when to create a new stanza? The stanza in poetry is a device for organizing related ideas.

A new stanza is also a way to signal a change in time, place, perspective, and so forth.

The stanza is also used to tell the reader to stop and ponder. The white space before or after the stanza signals this to the reader.

The stanza also influences the momentum of a poem. Sage Cohen, author of Writing the Life Poetic writes: “Stanza’s influence the poems momentum. Line breaks cause the reader to linger an extra beat; the space between stanzas bring the reader to a sharp stop.”

The stanza is used to change direction. For instance, the poet who composes a narrative poem about “my day” might have one stanza for what happened during the “morning, another stanza for the “afternoon,”  and a final stanza for the “evening.”

In traditional poetry, there are rules for determining the number of lines and number of stanzas in a poem. For instance, the Shakespearean Sonnet is one stanza of 14 lines. Each line is an iambic meter. It is also an ababcdcdefefgg rhyme scheme.

Shall I compare thee to a summer’s day? (Sonnet 18)

by William Shakespeare

Shall I compare thee to a summer’s day?

Thou art more lovely and more temperate.

Rough winds do shake the darling buds of May,

And summer’s lease hath all too short a date.

Sometime too hot the eye of heaven shines,

And often is his gold complexion dimmed;

And every fair from fair sometime declines,

By chance, or nature’s changing course, untrimmed;

But thy eternal summer shall not fade,

Nor lose possession of that fair thou ow’st,

Nor shall death brag thou wand’rest in his shade,

When in eternal lines to Time thou grow’st.

So long as men can breathe, or eyes can see,

So long lives this, and this gives life to thee.

In contrast, the modern or contemporary free verse poem requires no particular stanza length and no particular rhyme scheme. A free verse poem can have one of three types of stanzas:

  • A single stanza.
  • Several stanzas with the same number of lines.
  • Several stanzas, each with a different number of lines.

Free verse poets sometimes use stanzas found in traditional poetry. Kenneth Koch, poet and author of “Making Your Own Days”, writes that the most common “stanza in English is the couplet, two rhyming lines together.”

In free verse poetry, you are free to determine when to break begin a new stanza and to determine the number of lines in each stanza. Remember that each time you end a new stanza, you tell the reader to stop–and take a long pause.

Line Breaks

In traditional poetry, the poet must often break a line to comply with a particular rhyme scheme or metrical pattern. In free verse poetry, the poet doesn’t have to comply to any rules. The poet can break a line for any number of reasons. Here are the most popular reasons why a poet breaks a line and begins a new line:

  • To emphasize a word or phrase at the end of a line.
  • To signal a pause to the reader.
  • To speed up or slow down the pace.
  • To create a sense of forward motion.
  • To change of thought.
  • To create an  interruption.
  • To comply with the rules of grammar.
  • To create a metrical pattern or syllabic pattern.

Suppose you wanted to write a short poem about spring, you could write:

Sunshine, blooming tulips, green grass, a warm breeze

A leisure ride on a bike—-

These are the ingredients of a favorite spring day.

Or you could write:

Sunshine

Blooming tulips

Green grass

a warm breeze

a leisure ride on a bike

These are the ingredients

of  a favorite spring day.

Or you could write something else.

Here are a few popular ways in which you can create a line break:

  1. Use white space on a line, between lines, between  stanzas.
  2. Indent a line of a poem with white space.
  3. Use end stop, such as comma or period.
  4. Use enjambment to break a phrase in half, creating a sense of forward motion.
  5. Use a dash, question mark, exclamation mark.
  6. Break a line at the end of a phrase or sentence.

Use a line break emphasize words or an idea at the end of a line, or to follow a rhythmic pattern,  or to signal the reader to pause after reading the line.

Syntax/Sentence Structure

The words “syntax” and “sentence structure” are used interchangeably. Syntax refers to the types of sentence structures a poet selects to write a  poem. In free verse poetry, there are no rules for the types sentences structures you can use. However, to avoid writing dull poetry, you`ll want to vary your syntax or sentence structure. For instance, if you desire to speed up the pace, you`ll write a short sentence or series of short sentences. If you desire to create a poem with lots of depth, you might use appositives, compound sentences, or complex sentences. If you want to create rhythm, you`ll use parallel structure. If you want to create a poem that moves to a climax, you`ll use the periodic sentence. What types of syntax ought you use to write poems? Here are the popular types of sentence structures:

  • Simple sentence (A single independent clause) Example: The ship sailed/across the sea.
  • Compound sentence (Two independent clause separated by a coordinating conjunction, such as  and, or, but, for, so, nor, yet. Example: The ship sailed across the sea/and the crew worked like slaves.
  • Complex sentence (A sentence with one independent clause, and at least one dependent clause. Example: While the snow fell, the old man in the living room/ sipped hot coffee/ read the newspaper/ next to the warmth of the fire place.
  • Cumulative Sentence. An independent clause, followed by several subordinate phrases or dependent clauses.
  • Periodic Sentence. Several subordinate phrases or dependent clauses, ending with a independent clause. A few logs/Kindling Wood/a match/ a fire place/marsh mellows/a roaring camp fire/
  • Inverted Sentence. It is a sentence in which the predicate or verb comes before the subject, or the complete subject and verb, coming after a . Example: Rarely have I eaten better spaghetti.
  • Sentence Fragment. A sentence that is a phrase or dependent clause. Reading the newspaper. Snapping a photograph. Playing the piano.
  • Parallel Structure. Nouns, verbs, phrases, clauses that have the same function or express similar ideas should match grammatically. Use parallel structure for items in a series, coorelative conjunctions, and coordinating conjunctions.

Here is an example of how a poet can use different sentence patterns in a poem:

Piano 

by D. H. Lawrence

Softly, in the dusk, a woman is singing to me;

Taking me back down the vista of years, till I see

A child sitting under the piano, in the boom of the tingling strings

And pressing the small, poised feet of a mother who smiles as she sings.

In spite of myself, the insidious mastery of song

Betrays me back, till the heart of me weeps to belong

To the old Sunday evenings at home, with winter outside

And hymns in the cozy parlor, the tinkling piano our guide.

So now it is vain for the singer to burst into clamor

With the great black piano appassionato. The glamour

Of childish days is upon me, my manhood is cast

Down in the flood of remembrance, I weep like a child for the past.

In this poem, D. H. Lawrence uses several types of sentences. Here are four:

  • And pressing the small, poised feet of a mother who smiles as she sings. (Simple sentence with a single independent clause)
  • In spite of myself, the insidious mastery of song betrays me back…(Complex sentence)
  • Down in the flood of remembrance, I weep, like a child for the past. (Complex sentence)
  • Softly, in dusk, a woman is singing to me. (Simple sentence with a single independent clause and phrase)

If you are not sure about the syntax of a sentence, such as the difference between, a fragment, simple sentence, complex sentence,  you should read “The Glamour of Grammar” by Roy Peter Clark,  and “Sin and Syntax“ by Constance Hale,  and “Woe is I“ by Patricia T. O`Conner.

The Grammar of a Poem

All good poets follow the rules and conventions of grammar. The poet know the parts of speech and how to use them. The poet knows the parts of a sentence and how to use them. The poet knows punctuation and how to use it. (The period, the dash, the question mark, the comma, and semi-colon, and so forth.) Here are a few grammatical guidelines you should following when composing a free verse poem:

  • Uses concrete nouns whenever possible.
  • Use action verbs whenever possible.
  • Use adjectives sparingly.
  • Use adverbs sparingly.
  • Use the active voice.
  • Make sure the subject agrees with the verb.
  • Make sure the pronoun agrees with the noun it refers to.
  • Use words, phrases, clauses, sentences variety.
  • Use parallel structure.

As well, it is acceptable to:

  • Split infinitives
  • End a sentence with a preposition
  • Begin a sentence with “and” or “but“
  • Use sentence fragments

Finally, when composing a poem, you ought to use correct punctuation or no punctuation at all. However, if you desire to become a good poet, you’ll create poems with correct punctuation—and when you don’t use proper punctuation, you’ll know why. It is really only acceptable to break the rules when you know why. And so, you must know how to use:

  • The coma.
  • The period.
  • The dash.
  • The colon.
  • The semi-colon.
  • The exclamation mark.
  • The ellipse.
  • The parenthesis.

If you are not sure about your grammar, you can read “The Glamour of Grammar” by Roy Peter Clark,  and “Sin and Syntax” by Constance Hale,  and “Woe is I” by Patricia T. O`Conner.

Resources

To learn more about writing free verse poetry, read the following:

  • How to Read a Poem by Edward Hirsch
  • The Making of a Poem: A Norton Anthology of Poetic Forms by Mark Strand and Eavan Boland
  • The Poet Laureate Anthology, edited by Elizabeth Hun Schmidt
  • A Poet’s Guide to Poetry by Mary Kinzie
  • Creating Poetry by John Drury
  • The Discovery of Poetry by Frances Mayes
  • The Poet’s Guide to Poetry by Mary Kinzie
  • Making Your Own Days by Kenneth Koch
  • In the Poem of Your Hand: The Poet’s Portable Workshop by Steve Kowit

Writing Free Verse Poetry: Poetic Devices of Comparison

Dave Hood

Poets use various poetic devices or figures of speech to make comparisons. These figures of speech are intended to enhance understanding, to entertain, to add deeper meaning, and to enrich the quality of a poem. These figures of speech are also used by writers in other forms of creative writing, such as short fiction, novel writing, personal essay, and memoir writing.

In this post, I’ll explain how to use the poetic devices of comparison. The following will be covered:

  • Simile
  • Metaphor
  • Symbol
  • Synecdoche
  • Metonymy
  • Personification
  • Allusion

Simile

It is a poetic device or figure of speech in which the poet uses “like” or “as” to compare one thing to  some other thing. The things compared must be unlike each other. The purpose of a simile is to add meaning and understanding. A good simile also makes a poem pleasurable to read. It can turn a dull poem into something memorable. For instance, Robert Frost wrote” the attic wasps went missing by like bullets.” Here are a few other examples:

  • The neighborhood is like a ghost town.
  • The sick man looks like a corpse.
  • You are free as a gold-fish in an aquarium.
  • He writes as if possessed by a demon.
  • She strolls down the beach like a model on a runway in a fashion show.
  • The truck is rusty as a wreck in the scrap yard.

Metaphor

It is a poetic device or figure of speech in which the poet suggests the one thing is another. The poet does not use “like” or “as” to make the comparison between two different things. Often the word “is” or “of” is used to make the comparison.

A poet can create an explicit metaphor by directly suggesting that one thing is another. Example: He is a shark. She is a black widow spider. (A is B) Or the poet can make an implied metaphor by comparing one thing to another using the attributes of the object, such as adjectives or verbs associated with it. Example: He sailed down the highway in his new corvette. (Comparison to a sailboat) She cut him with her claws. (comparison to an animal)

The purpose of a an explicit or implied metaphor is to entertain the reader, to help the reader understand, to add deeper meaning to a poem.

Examples:

  • The running back is a tank.
  • The old man is a walking corpse
  • The house is a mausoleum.
  • Place of grief
  • Sea of death
  • Dinner of gratitude
  • Gift of pleasure
  • Lust is a drug
  • Teeth of the wind
  • Mouth of a river

Poets must avoid using dead metaphors. These are metaphors that have been used so often that they’ve lost their originality and effectiveness. The comparison has taken on a new meaning of expression —and is often viewed as a cliché. Examples of dead metaphors include:

  • Seeds of doubt
  • Fishing for compliments
  • Grasp the idea

Poets must also avoid creating mixed metaphors. A poet creates a mixed metaphor when one thing is compared to two different things in the same metaphor. A few ludicrous examples include:

  • I can see the light at the end of the rainbow.
  • I make my goal to shake every hand that walks in the door.
  • I am bone empty.

Symbol

It is a poetic device in which the poet an image to represent something other than its literal meaning or dictionary meaning. A symbol is usually a physical object used to represent some abstract idea. For instance, a  rose can be a symbol of beauty. A dove can be a symbol of peace. The cross can be a symbol of Christianity, faith, Jesus. The lion is a symbol of courage. The gun is a symbol of violence.

Poets use well-established symbols in their poetry, such as darkness for ignorance or light for knowledge.  Many poets also create their own symbols and then use them in a poem.

Not all images are intended to be symbolic. Sometimes a gun is just a gun, or a clock is just a clock.  It is up to the reader to analyze and then identify the symbol in the poem. For instance, a poet might make reference to a ticking clock in his poem. The purpose of the clock might be to symbolize the passage of time.

Synecdoche

It is a poetic device or figure of speech in which the poet makes reference to the “part of something” instead of its whole, and this part is used to represent the whole.

Examples:

  • Skates sail up the ice. (Instead of writing “The hockey player sails up the ice.”)
  • The teenager purchased a “set of wheels.” (Instead of writing “The teenager purchased a car.”
  • All hands on deck (Instead of writing “All sailors on deck.”)

Metonymy

It is a poetic device or figure of speech in which one thing closely associated with another thing is used as a substitution. Frances Mayes, author of The Discovery of Poetry, states that a metonymy is ” an identifying emblem” substituted for the whole name. In other words, an associated quality or name or emblem,  which is not part of the whole, is substituted.

Examples:

  • Crown instead of monarchy
  • White House instead of President and Staff
  • Habs instead of Montreal Canadians
  • Leafs instead of Toronto Maple Leafs
  • Broncos instead of Denver Broncos

Personification

It is a poetic device or figure of speech in which the poet assigns human characteristics or human attributes to nonhuman things, such as ideas, concepts, places, objects, animals. The purpose of personification is to add deeper meaning, to entertain, to describe.

Examples:

  • Death comes knocking
  • Love arrives unexpectedly
  • Old Man Winter
  • Lady Luck
  • Jack Frost
  • April turns on the shower
  • The maple trees stood in silence
  • The walls stare back and talk nonsense
  • The wind whispers through a crack

Allusion

It is a poetic device or figure of speech  in which the poet makes reference to another person, event, art, history, religion, literature, mythology, or some aspect of popular culture. An allusion can also be a statement or quotation made by a famous or public person. An allusion can also be a line from a poem. Popular types of allusions  in poetry are biblical allusions, literary allusions, and mythical allusions. The purpose of allusion is to provide additional meaning. For the allusion to be effective, the reader must have knowledge of what the poet is alluding to. Example: The painting reminds/ of Picasso’s Cubism..f

T.S. Eliot often used allusion in many of his poems. For instance, in The Wasteland, he includes “I remember/those are the pearls that were his eyes…,” a reference to Shakespeare’s The Tempest.

To master the art and craft of  writing poetry,  you must learn the poetic devices of comparison, such as simile, metaphor, and symbol. Once you`ve learned these poetic devices, you can use them to write powerful, entertaining, memorable poems.

Resources

For more information on simile, metaphor, symbol, synecdoche, metonymy, personification, allusion, read the following:

  • Good Poems for Hard Times by Garrison Keillor
  • The Poets Companion by Kim Addonizio and Dorianne Laux
  • The Discovery of Poetry by Frances Mayes
  • Western Wind by David Mason and John Frederick Nims
  • Creating Poetry by John Drury

Writing Free Verse Poetry: Adding Sound Effects

By Dave Hood

When writing a poem, a good poet will choose words for their meaning and their sound. Memorable poems have a pleasing sound. A pleasing sound is like music to the ear. The poet who composes free verse can select several poetic devices to create a pleasing sound, such as alliteration, assonance, rhyme, repetition. The best writers also use these poetic when writing fiction or creative nonfiction. In this post, I will discuss the poetic devices poets (and writers) use to create a pleasing sound. The following will be covered:

  • Alliteration
  •  Assonance
  •  Onomatopoeia
  •  Rhyme
  •  Repetition/refrain

Alliteration

It refers to the poetic technique of repeating the initial consonant sound in two or more words on a line. Here is an example of alliteration from Jane Kenyon’s poem This Morning: “…Sunflower seed and bits of bread scattered on the snow.” The words “sunflower”, “seed”, “scattered”, “snow” begin with the consonant “s.” She also uses the words “bits” and “bread.”

Assonance

It is the poetic technique of repeating the same vowel sound of words on a line, in order to create a pleasing sound. A vowel is “a, e,i,o, u.” A poet can use long vowels, such as “o” in snow, or use short vowels, such as “u” in lunch. Here is another example of assonance from Jane Kenyon’s poem This Morning: The cats doze near the snow. The words “doze” and “snow” have the same vowel sound. Onomatopoeia
It is the poetic technique of using words that sound like the words they mean. Examples: whir, buzz, moo, thud, crackle, and so on. Poets use these poetic devices less frequently than alliteration or assonance. Example: Under the light of the stars, we roasted hotdogs over a crackling fire.

Rhyme

It is the repetition of the same sound of words in a poem. Three popular types of rhymes are slant or off rhyme, internal rhyme, and end rhyme.

Slant Rhyme or imperfect rhyme
A poetic technique that creates near rhyme or off-rhyme. Emile Dickinson was the first modern poet to use this technique. The poet selects words that have the same consonant sounds and different vowels (e.g. cap and cup), and places them close together on a line. The poet can also select words with the same vowel sound (e.g. talk and walk; snug as a gun) and different constants, and place them close together on a line.

Internal Rhyme
A poetic technique in which one word rhymes with another word on a line. This is a popular type of rhyme for writing free verse.

Example: We talked and walked along the beach.

End Rhyme
A poetic technique in which the poet rhymes the final syllables of words and places them at the end of lines. Here is an example for Robert Frost’s Dust of Snow:

The way a crow
Shook down on me
The dust of snow
From a hemlock tree

You can see how “crow and snow” rhyme, and how “me” and “tree” rhyme.

If you intend to use rhyme in free verse, use it selectively. A good rhyme doesn’t make the reader think “here’s a rhyme.” Instead “good rhyming is a feat of skill with words.” (Western Wind, Page 177) Often, when two words rhyme, the meaning of these two words interact to create something different.

Free verse poetry does not have to adhere to a particular rhyme scheme, such as “ABAB,” which means that lines 1 and 3 rhyme and lines 2 and 4 rhyme. In fact, many free verse poems have no rhyme at all. And yet, poets use rhyme on occasion.

Repetition

It is a poetic technique in which the poet repeat words or phrases in a poem. The poet can repeat words or phrase at the beginning of lines, at the end of lines, in the middle of lines. Repetition is a way to create emphasis. It is a way to create energy. It is a way to draw attention to an idea. It is a way to echo the sound of words.

Poets use two types of repetition: Anaphora and repetend.

Anaphora
The poet repeats the opening words or phrase at the beginning of two or more lines. Here is an example from Mary Oliver’s When Death Comes:

When death comes like a hungry bear in autumn….
When death comes like the measle-pox….
When death comes like an iceberg between the shoulder blades…

Repetend
The poet repeats words or phrases at different locations in a stanza or poem. Repeating a word or phrase gabs the reader’s attention. It is a way to add emphasis to an action, person, place, thing, event, experience.

For instance, James Fenton writes in the poem “In Paris With You.”
…I’m one of your talking wounded. I’m a hostage. I’m wounded…I’ve been bamboozled…I admit I’m..

See how Mary Oliver uses repetition to write in the poem, Spring,:

My life is
with its poems
and its music
and its glass cities,

it is also this dazzling darkness…

Poet, Debra Spencer, uses the device of repetend in “The Discover of Sex”:

We try to be discreet standing in the dark
hallway by the front door. He gets his hands
up inside the front of my shirt and I put mine
down the inside the back of his jeans. We are crazy
for skin, each other’s skin, warm silky skin…

Learning How to Use Sound Devices

You can get into the habit of using sound devices–such as alliteration, or assonance, or repetition ——by learning how they are used and by practising how to use them. Here’s how: On a daily basis, open your writing journal and use these sound devices to describe the things you see, hear, feel, smell, touch, remember. For instance, suppose you passed a stinking sewer during your day, you could write: I strolled past the stinking sewer and wondered where the stench started. (Example of using alliteration)

As well, when reading poetry, short story, essay, or article that you feel is well written, analyze the piece of writing for these poetic device of sound. Answer the question: What poetic devices did the author or poet use to create such a pleasing sound?

How should you add sound effects your own free verse poetry? Some poets compose word by word. Other poets compose line by line. Many write out the entire poem, and then add sound effects during revision. I recommend that you write the first draft, and then revise for alliteration, assonance, repetition. If you also desire to create a few rhymes, add them.

Free verse poetry doesn’t require you use alliteration, assonance, rhyme, repetition. However, if you read the free verse poetry of great poets, such as Mary Oliver, you’ll quickly discover that these poets use these poetic techniques to construct memorable poems, poems that have deep meaning and pleasurable sound when read aloud.

Resources

For additional information on alliteration, assonance, onomatopoeia, repetition, rhyme, read the following:

  • Good Poems for Hard Times by Garrison Keillor
  • The Poets Companion by Kim Addonizio and Dorianne Laux
  •  Creating Poetry by John Drury
  • The Discovery of Poetry by Frances Mayes
  •  Western Wind by David Mason and John Frederick Nims

Writing Free Verse Poetry: Meter and Rhythm

Dave Hood

Unlike traditional poetry, poets who write free verse aren’t forced to use a particular metrical pattern. And yet, some modern poets, such as Robert Frost, have used traditional forms to compose their poetry.  Frost wrote in blank verse, a  traditional form,  which requires each line to be written  in iambic pentameter and have no rhyme.

On occasion, contemporary poets write poems in one of the traditional forms, such as a sonnet or blank verse or epic or elegy. This is one reason to learn meter. Another reason is that meter is part of rhythm. And so, if you intend on using rhythm in your free verse poetry, you ought to understand meter.

As well, all good modern and contemporary poets know how to use rhythm and meter. Furthermore, a good poem includes rhythm.

In this article, I’ll discuss meter and rhythm.

Meter in Traditional Poetry

Meter is Greek for “measure.” In English poetry, poets use three common types of meter. In accentual meter, the stresses are counted and the syllables are variable. In syllabic meter, the syllables are counted. A poet who uses syllabic meter develops a pattern by having the same number of syllables on each line of  the poem. In accentual-syllabic meter, both the stressed and unstressed syllables are counted.

Accentual-Syllabic Meter

The poets of Europe, Canada, and United states use accentual-syllabic meter. The metrical pattern is developed by counting the stressed and unstressed syllables on each line. In traditional poetry, poets must compose poems that comply with a particular metrical pattern. For instance, Robert Frost, one of the most popular modern poets, wrote poems in blank verse. He was required to write each line in iambic pentameter, without rhyme.

How do you learn meter? You must first understand that every word in the dictionary has a particular sound, determined, in part, by the number of syllables in the word. Some syllables are stressed, others are not. For instance, cat, dog, bird–each have one syllable. In traditional poetry, meter is identified by the pattern of stressed and unstressed syllables in words, which create a pattern of sound.

The foot/feet is the unit of measurement for meter, which is made up of stressed and unstressed syllables.  Each foot has a particular rhythmical pattern.  In traditional poetry, there are five basic rhythmic patterns, which are used to create meter:

  1. Iambic- one unstressed and one stressed syllable. Each unit has two syllables. Example: hotel
  2. Spondee-one stressed, followed by another stressed syllable. Example: Nightmare
  3. Trochee foot- One stressed, followed by one unstressed syllable. (Each unit has two syllables) Example: Rainfall.
  4. Dactyl-One stressed, followed by an unstressed, followed by an unstressed. (Each unit has three syllables)
  5. Anapest- One unstressed, followed by another unstressed, followed by a stressed syllable.

Length of a Line (Measured in Feet)

In traditional poetry, there are several types of line length:

  1. monometer-1 foot
  2. dimeter-2 feet
  3. trimeter-three feet
  4. tetrameter-four feet
  5. pentameter-five feet
  6. hexameter-6 feet
  7. heptameter-7 feet
  8. Octometer-8 feet

Each type of metrical pattern has a particular number of feet and rhythmic pattern. For instance, iambic pentameter has five feet per line of poetry, each foot consists of one iambic ( One stressed and one unstressed syllable). So, the poet would select words follow this “unstressed/stressed” pattern. For instance, Robert Frost, who wrote poetry in blank meter, selected and ordered words on the line according to iambic pentameter.

Using Scansion to Identify a Metrical Pattern

How do you learn to identify various patterns of meter and rhythm? Use a scansion to analyze and identify the metrical pattern in a poem.  Begin by breaking each word into syllables on a line. For each word, mark the unstressed and stressed syllables, and then identify the metrical foot on each line. You should see a pattern. Iambic pentameter is the most common type of meter in traditional poetry, because it resembles the metrical pattern or everyday language.

Even though modern poetry doesn’t have to follow a particular metrical pattern, such as iambic pentameter, you should have a good understanding of meter, especially iambic pentameter. All good contemporary poetry has rhythm–and meter is one of several ways to create rhythm.

Iambic Pentameter

It is the most common type of metrical pattern in poetry, because it sounds most like speech. Shakespeare used it in his plays, John Milton used it to write Paradise Lost, T.S. Eliot used it to write The Wasteland, Robert Frost used it to write blank verse. Each line has ten syllables. These syllables are divided into five feet. Each foot must have one unstressed syllable and one stressed syllable. In other words, the line will have five feet of iamb. The rhythmic pattern or beat is: da DUM, da DUM, da DUM, da DUM, da DUM. For instance, “the dog, the cat, the bird“ follow this pattern. If you are intending to write poetry with rhythm, it is important to understand iambic pentameter. You can use it as a guide to write your own poetry.

Rhythm Modern and Contemporary Poetry

What is rhythm? John Dreary, the author of Creating Poetry, writes: “Rhythm is the rise and fall and surge and abatement of words–the melody.“ Rhythm is the flow of words on the page. It is the beat you hear when you read a poem. It includes some pattern of stressed and unstressed syllables, which create a pattern of sound. You can use several techniques to add rhythm to your poetry. These include line length, line breaks, meter, repetition or refrain, and parallel structure.

Line Length

The length of a line can alter the rhythm of a poem. If you write a long sentence on a line, you’ll slow down the pace, and add more syllables to the line. If you compose a line with fewer words, you’ll speed up the pace, and typically add fewer syllables.

Example:

In a row boat,

on a quiet lake,

a  boy fished for trout. (faster pace)

or

In a row boat, on a quiet lake, a boy fished for trout. (slower pace)

Line Break

Where you place line breaks will also alter the rhythm of a poem. A line break tells the reader to pause. You can add a line break in many ways, such as by adding:

  • White space. Add space between words,  between lines, between stanzas. White space tells the reader to pause.
  • Enjambment. Divide a phrase or clause on one line, and then restart on the next line. The purpose is to create a sense of forward motion.

Example:

the snow

falls

the wind

howls

  • End-stop. Add a period or coma at the end of a line. Both tell the reader to pause.

Meter

Another way to add rhythm to your poetry is to use meter. A simple way is to count the syllables on each line.  This is called syllabic meter. For instance, you might want to create a syllabic pattern with 7 syllables on each line. If you do this, be sure to read your poetry out loud to see how it sounds.

You can also use one of the popular metrical patterns such as iambic pentameter. Or, you can create your own metrical pattern.

Refrain or Repetition

Repeating words or phrases is an easy way to create emphasis and to create rhythm. Songwriters use refrains or repetition in their lyrics.

Poets also use repetition. For emphasis and to create a sound effect, they repeat a phrase or line throughout a poem.  For instance, Dylan Thomas repeated the refrain “Do not Go Gently Into the Night” four times in a poem by the same name.

Two popular types of repetition used by contemporary poets to create rhythm are:

  • Repetend. Repetition of a word or phrase at different locations within the poem.
  • Anaphora. Repetition of a word or phrase at the beginning of two or more lines in a poem.

Parallel structure

You can also create rhythm by using parallel structure. It requires that you use the same grammatical form  words, phrases, clauses that have the same grammatical form, such as verbs, nouns, verbal or prepositional phrases. Use also for coordinating (and, or,  but, for, nor, yet, so) and correlative conjunctions (Not only…but also, either…or).  Parallel structure is a simple way to create rhythm.

Examples:

(Nouns in a series)

The dog, the cat, the man

departed from the flaming house.

(Participles in a Series)

Blowing snow, gusting wind….

(Parallel structure for Coorelative Conjunctions)

Not only did he slip

but also broke his leg

 

Tips  for Creating Rhythm

Think of meter as a pattern of stressed and unstressed syllables on a line. Some modern and contemporary poetry have a particular rhythm patterns; other poems have an irregular rhythm matter. Here are a few suggestions on how to add rhythm to your poetry:

  1. Be sure to read your poems aloud to hear how they sound. Remember, at the end of each line, you have a pause.
  2. Consider using some form of rhythm. The most popular is iambic pentameter, which is based on five feet. Each foot has one unstressed syllable, followed by a stressed syllable (u /). This metrical pattern sounds most like every day language.  If this is too complex, use a syllabic pattern. Instead of counting stressed and unstressed syllables, count the syllables per line. For instance, you could write a poem of three stanzas, each stanza has five lines, and each lines has 7 syllables.
  3. Use repetition to create rhythm. You might repeat a word or phrase in different places of a poem.
  4. Alter your line length to change the pace. Long lines are used to slow down the pace. Short lines speed up the pace.
  5. Always use parallel structure. If you are not sure of parallel structure, find yourself a grammar book, and then study “parallel structure.”
  6. Break lines where you desire the reader to pause or  where you desire to create emphasis.
  7. Always revise your poems for rhythm.
  8. Remember, in free verse poetry, you create your own rhythmic patterns.

Resources

For additional information on learning about meter and rhythm, read the following:

  • Creating Poetry by John Drury
  • Good Poems for Hard Times by Garrison Keillor
  • The Poets Companion by Kim Addonizio and Dorianne Laux
  • The Discovery of Poetry by Frances Mayes
  • Western Wind by David Mason and John Frederick Nims
  • The Making of a Poem: A Norton Anthology of Poetic Forms by Mark Strand and Eavan Boland