A Beginner’s Guide To Poetry

Poetry is difficult to define and there are multiple styles of poetry to be found by a variety of authors, both old and new. There are no set rules for writing poetry, but that is also what makes poetry one of the most interesting, diverse, and often the most challenging forms of writing to master.


There are different forms of poetry to explore:


Prose Poetry – This type of poetry is base on prose sentences but adopts different traits of poetry, as there is more emphasis on sound, symbolism, tone, metaphor, or specific themes.

Below is an example of a prose poem titled “List of Famous Hat” by James Tate:

Napoleon’s hat is an obvious choice I guess to list as a famous hat, but that’s not the hat I have in mind. That was his hat for show. I am thinking of his private bathing cap, which in all honesty wasn’t much different than the one any jerk might buy at a corner drugstore now, except for two minor eccentricities. The first one isn’t even funny: Simply it was a white rubber bathing cap, but too small. Napoleon led such a hectic life ever since his childhood, even farther back than that, that he never had a chance to buy a new bathing cap and still as a grown-up–well, he didn’t really grow that much, but his head did: He was a pinhead at birth, and he used, until his death really, the same little tiny bathing cap that he was born in, and this meant that later it was very painful to him and gave him many headaches, as if he needed more. So, he had to vaseline his skull like crazy to even get the thing on. The second eccentricity was that it was a tricorn bathing cap. Scholars like to make a lot out of this, and it would be easy to do. My theory is simple-minded to be sure: that beneath his public head there was another head and it was a pyramid or something.


Narrative Poetry – This form of poetry has a story arc, a narrative voice, and a plot. They range in length and no matter how complicated they are, these types of poems can be easily followed in a narrative.


Sonnet – Made famous by Elizabethan-era English playwright William Shakespeare, a sonnet is composed of 14 lines, iambic meter, and an ending rhyme scheme, such as “Sonnet XXII” written by Shakespeare below:

My glass shall not persuade me I am old,
So long as youth and thou are of one date;
But when in thee time’s furrows I behold,
Then look I death my days should expiate.
For all that beauty that doth cover thee
Is but the seemly raiment of my heart,
Which in thy breast doth live, as thine in me:
How can I then be elder than thou art?
O, therefore, love, be of thyself so wary
As I, not for myself, but for thee will;
Bearing thy heart, which I will keep so chary
As tender nurse her babe from faring ill.
Presume not on thy heart when mine is slain;
Thou gavest me thine, not to give back again.


Epic Poetry – A hero narrative in poetic form. These types of poetry are longer and follow story of a hero figure. Epic poetry examples include The Epic of Gilgamesh and The Odyssey.


Free Verse Poetry – A type of poetry that has no specific rhyme scheme, tone, format, or pattern. This type of poetry is ideal for beginners because no limitations are placed on the writer.


So how does someone write good poetry? Here are a few helpful tips that will get you started:


  • Read others’ poetry, as it will help you identify with the style of poetry you want to write. To get started, check out this list of recommended poetry books.
  • Attending open mic poetry readings and slams is a guaranteed way of not only listening to potentially great poets but also to get productive in writing poetry. You can either join one in your local area or create a group of your own. There are also various poetry groups in social media such as Instagram and Twitter that you can join.
  • Do not be afraid to experiment. It is important to know rules of poetry first before breaking them, but eventually, you will want to define yourself. Play around with the format until you feel that it is your own.

To help get you started on writing your own poetry, here are a few poetry prompts from Read Poetry: 

  1. Choose one of your five sense. Write a poem that focuses on your chosen sense.
  2. Write a poem inspired by a color.
  3. Write a poem based on something that happened to you this week. It could be something life-changing or something seemingly ordinary. Tune into that moment and paint a story about it.
  4. Listen to one of your favorite songs and write a poem directly after based on the feelings and emotions it brought about in you. Let music inspire poetry.




Additional Resources:

From Whispers to Roars – Writing Poetry For Beginners

Masterclass – How to Write Poetry: 11 Rules For Beginning Poetry Writers

Reedsy – How To Write A Poem: Get Tips From A Published Poet

The Conversation – A Beginner’s Guide To Reading And Enjoying Poetry

Poets.Org – Poetry 101: Resources For Beginners