Writing Your Poem – Guidelines and Tips
5 things to think about when writing a poem
Your job as a poet is to allow the 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. Jumeirah, 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 Metamorphosis
The theme of the 2014 Taaleem Poetry Award is Metamorphosis. This is a very broad theme – one that encompasses change, new beginnings, evolution, revelation and growth, but also potentially loss, fear, perhaps even disgust, revulsion or hatred. Metamorphosis can be dramatic or gradual, public or hidden; the only thing it can not be is static.
Writing about metamorphosis is a huge opportunity for your imagination, so try to look beyond obvious ideas (or, alternatively, offer an unusual take on something everyone sees but nobody really thinks about). Individual human beings and animals undergo different physical and emotional metamorphoses throughout their lives, but so do cities, communities, species, planets, galaxies… You have the opportunity to write about something as big or as small as you wish, but your ideas should be ambitious whatever your subject.
With all that said – follow the rules!
The Taaleem Poetry 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, size twelve, 1.5 line spacing. And, of course, stick to the theme of Metamorphosis. 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 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!