Writing Your Poem – Guidelines and Tips
5 things to think about when writing a poem
As a poet, you must allow your reader to understand a scene or occasion or mood in a new way. Imagine the scene or how you felt and find ways of expressing that in as real a way as you can. Specific is always better than general.
• Use your senses – sights, smells, sounds, tastes, textures – not all in the same poem necessarily!
• Images – comparing one thing with another – help bring the scene or emotions to life
Simile – ‘as fresh as this morning’s bread’ (a direct comparison)
Metaphors – ‘she was a whirlwind’ (not literally true but immediately conjures an image)
• Colours – can help make the scene very visual and specific, use unusual colours e.g. amber, fuschia
• Proper nouns – place names (for example) bring a scene into sharp focus (e.g. Jumeira, Kerala, Scafell Pike)
• Original ways of saying something – avoid clichés, very familiar ways of describing something e.g. ‘as hot as the sun’ and try to find a new way through careful language choice or comparison.
Writing about Time
The theme of the 2016 Taaleem Award is Time. It is a theme that has played a part in many of literature’s great stories and has been examined and interpreted in myriad ways by authors through the ages.
‘Time’ can mean a variety of things to you and it is your spin on the theme that will make your poem stand out to the judges. Remember to look at ‘Time’ not just as a physical concept but also as an abstract one. Play with the word ‘time’; after all, ‘time’ needn’t denote only the past, present and future. You can stretch a moment to infinity or condense an eternity within the line-limit of your poem. You can personify time and use it as a character or keep it intangible. You can use time as a genre and delve into steampunk, historical fiction and science-fiction. The possibilities are endless and you must choose wisely.
Always remember this – you write for yourself. Yes, there is a judge at the other end, but when you sit down to write, it should be what you want to write, not what someone else expects to read. The best writing comes with no expectations.
In other words, this theme is your chance to cut loose and explore – explore a place, an era, a genre, a person or even a perception. Your next step – where are you and when are you?
With all that said – follow the rules!
The Taaleem Award does not have many rules. To be accepted, poems must be no longer than the 32 line limit, and must be submitted as Word documents in Times New Roman, font size twelve, 1.5 line spacing. And, of course, stick to the theme of Time. Not following the rules of the competition will mean your poem is disqualified, so always keep that in mind.
Beyond that… ask your teachers, your parents, and indeed any poets you may happen to know what the rules of a poem are, and no two people will give you the same answer. A poem doesn’t have to rhyme, to follow any particular metre or structure, and yet you can always tell poetry from prose simply due to the care taken with language. At the start of this article we gave five general tips that will help you think about the kind of language that makes up good poetry, but this doesn’t even scratch the surface (if you will forgive a cliché – it is being used for a good cause after all!).
You will notice that this competition is asking you to talk about an awfully big theme in very few words, so those words have to be the right words, and have to be used well. They have to sound good when read aloud, which usually means paying attention not only to individual words, but also how they fit together – the rhythm of which words and syllables are emphasised, which words rhyme, any words or sounds that are repeated, and where any such rhymes and repetitions appear in the poem. Some kinds of poems have a clear beginning and end, while others repeat lines or return to the beginning. Some have a simple structure of verses and rhyme schemes, while others are extremely complex. Learn how these different styles and structures work, and then use them, or don’t.
The best way to find out the rules of poetry is to read some poems, find out what makes them distinct from other forms of writing, and then practice by writing your own!