• 4-minute read
  • 5th July 2020

3 Brilliant Poetry Writing Exercises

Are you feeling stuck for inspiration? We’ve put together a list of three poetry writing exercises to help you get your creativity flowing again!

What Are Poetry Writing Exercises?

Sometimes, inspiration doesn’t come easily, which can be very frustrating! But that’s where writing exercises come in. Like with physical exercise, the aim of a poetry writing exercise is to offer a ‘work out’.

And while the results are not important, writing exercises can provide a starting point for something more personal or interesting. If you fancy trying some poetry writing exercises, why not start with the following?

1. Watch, Listen and Write

If you’re stuck for something to write, a good starting point is to write about the things around you. Try describing your environment using all five senses: sight, hearing, smell, taste, and touch. Make a list for each one:

I see a flickering street light outside my window, the familiar walls of my study, and my cat curled up on the easy chair in the corner.

I hear the cat softly purring. Outside, the traffic hums constantly.

I can smell fresh bread baking next door. It is mingling with acrid exhaust fumes from outside.

I taste the sharp, fresh citrus of my fizzy drink.

I feel the firm but yielding foam of my stress ball as I squeeze it.

When you’re done, look at what you’ve written again and ask yourself a few questions. Do any evocative phrases stand out? What makes them work? Could any of these sensory experiences inspire a poem? How could you make the sensations more vivid for a reader?

If you aren’t feeling inspired by your immediate surroundings, try a change of scenery! Go for a walk and make notes of what you see, hear, smell, taste, and touch, then write up your experiences when you get home.

2. Make Lists

Writing lists can help to fight off blank page syndrome. And you can make lists of anything you like. This might include:

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  • Words linked by a theme (e.g. water verbs, such as flow, crash, leak, drip).
  • Combinations of words linked by sound, such as alliteration (e.g. big brother’s babushka), assonance (e.g. the loud round clown is found down town), or rhyme (e.g. a cartoon moon festooned in balloons).
  • Words with related meanings (e.g. if you start with exciting, you could list synonyms like thrilling, astonishing, dramatic, spectacular, sensational)

Be playful! Look for unusual word combinations that sound interesting – even a single phrase could be the inspiration for a new poem.

Alternatively, you could try creating list poems. These are poems that use a list format, usually taking a theme and exploring it line by line. One great example is John Hegley’s ‘What a Poem’s Not’, which starts like this:

A poem is not an Ant
but it can be quite short.
A poem is not a Banana
but there may be something under its skin.

You can even use the lists you made previously as a starting point!

3. Play with Similes and Metaphors

Similes and metaphors are important poetic devices. They work by making an unusual or unexpected comparison between two things, drawing our attention to a similarity or letting us see them in a new light.

If you are feeling stuck for what to write, then, you can start by playing with similes and metaphors. To do this, make two lists: one of abstract nouns (e.g. truth, education) and one of concrete nouns (e.g. tree, soap). You can always pick words at random from a book if you’re not sure where to start!

Once you’ve done this, pair up the abstract and concrete nouns and think of how you can use the latter to create metaphors or similes for the former:

Education is a tree with many branches.

Truth is like soap: try as you might to grasp it, it always slips away.

As you can see in the second example here, they won’t all be great. But this doesn’t matter! The key is exploring the ideas the word combinations inspire. And if one metaphor or simile captures your imagination, you could expand it into an extended metaphor or even a whole poem.

We hope these exercises will help you with your poetry writing! And if you’d like an assist with the proofreading once you’ve written a poem, we have expert editors available 24/7. Just let us know how we can help!

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