UMass Boston's independent, student-run newspaper

The Mass Media

The Mass Media

The Mass Media

Mastering the art of poetry: Tips to get started

Poetry captures the human experience in an art form, allowing people to connect and inspire. Photo by Olivia Reid / Photography Editor.

Spring is the season of new beginnings and change. As such, it is the perfect opportunity for UMass Boston students to pick up a new hobby or return to an old one.

April is known as National Poetry Month—a term coined by the Academy of American Poets in 1996, according to National Today. (1) During this month, it is time to celebrate the beautifully complex nature of the art form, as well as the artists who use it.

For those looking to begin dabbling in poetry or to get back into writing it, National Poetry Month marks the optimal time to do just that. Though writing poems may seem daunting, taking it one step at a time can ease the apprehension. Here are some tips to help master the art of poetry.

Start with free verse poems. While rhyme and meter are crucial aspects of traditional poetry, free verse poetry has risen to popularity within the modern poetry scene due to the lack of rules to follow. With no specific rhyme scheme or meter necessary, free verse is the easiest form to begin with.

Free verse also allows the poet to write without having to conform to particular criteria, which makes it easy to communicate an idea directly, without embellishments. For students not used to poetry, free verse is a great starting place for developing a writing style and learning how to best use poetic devices to convey intent.

Another tip is to use writing prompts for inspiration. There is no shame in utilizing prompts to write, especially for beginners, and it can be useful when facing a creative block or not knowing what to write. Writing prompts can provide inspiration in different ways, inspiring a poem that explicitly relates to the prompt or one that incorporates unique elements that changes the meaning of the prompt entirely. 

A poem derived from a prompt about childhood memories could touch upon memories personal to the writer, but it could also become a science fantasy poem from the perspective of an alien growing up on Earth. With writing prompts, there is never a shortage of ideas and the possibilities are endless.

Prompts can be easily found on social media platforms like Instagram, Tumblr or Pinterest, or through poetry sites and blogs. There are hundreds to choose from for any poetry genre and niche, so explore what different prompts have to offer.

Once there is a general idea for the poem, experiment with various poetry forms. In poetry, the form of the poem determines how the content is presented to the audience and its impact. A haiku—a three lined poem with five, seven and five syllables respectively in each line—would have a contrasting impact on an audience from a sonnet, which has 14 lines and a rhyme scheme. (2)

Experimenting with the poem’s form can encourage creativity when writing the poem, as it may require the writer to think outside the box to create a poem that satisfies the criteria. Discovering new ways to write a poem can be challenging yet fun, and it leaves room for more abstract ideas to take shape.

Most of all, treat poetry as an extension of the mind. The beauty of poetry is that it is a place where vulnerability and emotions are emphasized, where the audience can connect intimately with the poet through words. As National Today says, “Poetry really helps […] to control our emotions and to heal from traumas.” (1)

Poetry doesn’t need to be political or metaphorical to be considered poetry. At its core, poetry is an art based on emotions. It is an outlet for when sentences aren’t enough to say what needs to be said, or when the mind cannot hold everything inside of it.

Whether beginning or continuing a poetry journey, the most important thing to remember is this: Express feelings, thoughts, perceptions and imperfections without restraint. Be profound, and be bold.

There is no universal formula for writing poetry or perfecting it. However, the art that comes from it and the soul that is put into it is what makes poetry so compelling.


[1] https://nationaltoday.com/national-poetry-month/ 

[2] https://www.poetryfoundation.org/learn/glossary-terms?category=209