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Poetry Preferences & How to Edit Poetry

Updated on May 6, 2008


Poetry is a great form of writing that allows you to express yourself. You can say anything you want with a series of short or long lines, rhymes, and style. Poetry is a great outlet to express the emotions that you normally wouldn't be able to express in daily speach.

The problem that most people have when writing poetry, is editing their own work. You may think, "I wrote it that way because."

Well, did you ever sit and think, "If I switched this around... did that... re- wrote this..." that the poem would be better?

I find that's where ego sets in.

But, remember, before you can claim to be a poet, or writer, you have to prove yourself as one.

You can't wake up and take the position as Edgar Allen Poe, Robert Frost, Emily Dickenson, or Elizabeth Barret Browning. These are just a small handful of great poets, and they didn't start assuming themselves as greats.

You have to work your way up there.

I'm hoping to give you a few ideas to help you edit your poem to make it better before you proclaim it finished.

No Poem is Wrong

Remember that poetry is a special form of writing that allows you do pretty much anything you want. It's an art. People don't say that the abstract paintings of Andy Warholl are wrong? He did them the way he did for a reason. But, every artists critiques his work, and every artist needs to look at his work with an editors eye before declaring it finished.

Just because you wrote a poem as is, doesn't mean that it's perfect and couldn't be better.

I once knew a guy who declared his poems finished from the start. He wrote one to two words per line, leaving his poems 50 plus lines long. They were hard to read, and often made no sense.

One day he asked me to re-write a poem. I gladly excepted, as I had been trying to get him to "fix" the poem for a while.

When I was finished, he loved the poem. He felt it was better than before, but he refused to change any of the others. He wanted me to, and replied, "this is fun. do them all." Poetry isn't a game to me, and I wasn't going to partake in the silliness.

An example of his work (not his exact work):

The rain



to the







Would you want to read that for 50 to 100 lines? No punctuation. No format. No style.

I'm not saying this type of poem is wrong, per say, just that it needs work before it can be called a poem, versus a list of words.

Don't let your, "I wrote it that way, so that's how it stays" ego get in the way of a possibly great poem. You're not Frost yet, so don't act like him.


When editing a poem, think about the best format for that particular poem. Not every poem will have the same format and style, as like a painting or sculpture the same design won't work in every case. It will get old and repetitive.

Again, unless you've already been proclaimed a poet by some professional critic, you're not a poet. So don't act like one in your ego and attitude.

There are great ways to format a poem- little things that make it interesting.

  • When you come to great "drop off" words, end the line even if it's not the end of the line, phrase, sentence, or thought. Consider fall, drop, end, and other synonyms as "drop off" words.


The rain fell


To the ground, and

It poured for days.

  • Use complete thoughts and phrases. Just because some of the greats use run- ons, sentence fragments, and other improper grammar, it doesn't mean that it always works or should work for an amateur poet. Just find ways to break up sentences so that they read the way you want.
  • Not every line has to end in punctuation. Try throwing off your routine, and end with a word not a period, comma, or colon.

An example of formatting a poem to read differently.

Cats are furballs of independence that like me.

I love cats, too.

Everyone should love cats.


Cats, furballs of independence,

Seem to be magnetized to me.

The liking is mutual, but

The glue that holds our bond

Does not hold everyone.

Shouldn't we all love cats?

Now, although, neither poem can be considered great, can you see the difference between the two?

A simple formatting change can be what breaks the ice between a mediocre poem and a great one.

Frog on a log
Frog on a log


A big misconception with many, is that poems have to rhyme.

They don't.

Just that simple. Poems don't have to rhyme. It's up to you, the poet, to determine whether you're poem will rhyme or not.

Some poems sound better with a few rhymes, but not every single line ending in a rhyme. So you may want to consider taking a look at your poem. Can you add a few rhymes to make it better? Take away a few?

There are different types of rhymes that you can use in a poem.

  • End Rhyme: the end of the line have rhyming words
  • Internal Rhyne: words at the end of one line rhymes with a word in the middle of another line.
  • Holorhyme: two entire lines rhyme

You can use:

  • True rhymes: words that really have similar sounds (ex. dog, hog, log)
  • Sprung rhymes: words in which the end consonant appears to rhyme (ex. ant, bent, pint)
  • Slant rhyme: words that look like they wouldn't rhyme but come close (ex. green, fiend, mean)
  • Semi- rhyme: a rhyme where one word has an extra syllable (ex bend, ending, mend)

Other terms that can be consider part of a rhyme include:

  • Alliteration: to have matching sounds (ex. short, ship, shore)
  • Assonance: to have matching vowels (ex. leaf, tree, me)
  • Consonance: to have matching consonants (cake, key, kick)

Remember that there is such a thing as repetitive and unnecessary rhymes, so look at your poem to decide whether the poem needs a rhyme or not.

Vivid Words and Phrases

Check your poem for vivid words and phrases. Did you say the "old man" or the "wrinkled man with a bent gait"?

Because poetry is meant to create an image with fewer words than a story or paragraph, you must make sure that you used vivid imagery.

Use loaded words that create the perfect connotations to the image that you're trying to portray. Don't say, just "the haunted house." Find ways to portray the same image without using an overused phrase.

When writing poetry, try to show and not tell. Find inventive ways to say "old" without actually using the word "old." Using this technique, you'll be able to create a more active picture for your reader.

Remember to...

Look at anything your write with an unbiased eye. If you look at it otherwise, you won't ever find anything wrong with it, and you'll never improve your writing style.


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    • profile image


      7 years ago

      ""Again, unless you've already been proclaimed a poet by some professional critic, you're not a poet. So don't act like one in your ego and attitude""

      Its funny to define a poet by saying they must be proclaimed as such by professional critic.

      But I do appreciate the point. I think poetry is so difficult because it its so open.

    • htodd profile image


      7 years ago from United States

      Nice info,Thanks for the info

    • Storytellersrus profile image


      8 years ago from Stepping past clutter

      I have been working to improve my poetry by learning styles from the past and experimenting on my own. Through this technique, I have created better connections and discovered ways to play with imagery. I have always struggled with imagery and find it fun to throw visuals at the screen in the abstract style of Willem de Kooning or Pollock. While readers don't always understand the unity of these images, for me, the play is the thing. It is what allows me to develop my poetry. I am working to create poetry that gets better over time, not necessarily to edit and edit and edit my old stuff. I am a person who edits out the freshness of my work. So I edit by improving the next poem. Perhaps some day, I will be able to edit without destroying. Perhaps some day I will have a poem worthy of such angst. For now, I have discovered a new way of creating images and I am having a great time throwing paint against the wall. Thanks for your ideas. I appreciate you.

    • acaetnna profile image


      8 years ago from Guildford

      Great hub with very useful ideas - thank you. I try to brainstorm my ideas and then arrange these ideas into some sort of order. I try to use only the really relevant words and check that y chosen words flow. Gosh what do I really know cos I've only just started trying to write poetry! There are some great poets here though with fantastic ideas. Thanks for sharing yours.

    • leni sands profile image

      Leni Sands 

      8 years ago from UK

      Great hub!

    • Steele Fields profile image

      susan beck 

      8 years ago from drexel hill,pa

      As a poetry teacher and poet, I absolutely agree that poetry should be edited ruthlessly. It takes me weeks, sometimes months to write a poem that I consider to be worthy of public viewing. There was one poem in particular that I worked on for over a year, I just published it on hub pages yesterday. My motto is, It's not good just because I wrote fact, the first draft of anything is usually so bad that I wouldn't be caught dead showing it to anyone. When I'm finished with a poem, I can literally say it has been edited no less than 10 times. The biggest thing for me is getting rid of cliches (there is even one in this post!) and being willing to delete the weaker material. But that is just me. For some, poetry is a simply way for them to work through difficult feelings and not necessarily something they seriously want to mess around with after they get it out of their systems. All that beng said, I wish all poets, regardless of their reasons for writing them, my best wishes in their poetic endeavors and for being such brave and sensitive souls.

    • profile image


      8 years ago

      His poem would look like a word sonnet, except that is one word per line and only 14 words long. I personally don't like word sonnets.

      It would be good if the person critiquing would edit themselves, as I noted a number of spelling errors in this commentary. Makes it hard to take that person seriously as an editor.

    • profile image

      Theresa Grefer 

      9 years ago

      hm.. well, i did gain some editing tips from this page, but there are so much more that goes with editing.

      actually, my favorite part about a poem is the editing. i usually start by brainstorming and then just writing down all my thoughts so that i don't miss what i want to say. once i have written the poem i type it (and that is my first step of editing). that is my mos fun and creative process.

      i will say that i agree the man who will not edit his poetry is a fool. but, i will also say that his using one word per line is a specific style that when about rain added to the dramatic effect of heavy raing pouring down. but it could still use work.

    • Whitney05 profile imageAUTHOR


      10 years ago from Georgia

      Perception is the key, yes, but I find that sometimes there are better ways to evoke the same emotion and picture than a poorly thought out poem.

      Given my example about a list of words as a poem. What are your views towards that? Would that be considered a poem or could it have been done better to evoke the same emotion and image?

      I'm off to check out your hub.

    • gamergirl profile image


      10 years ago from Antioch, TN

      See, there's a difference between being unbiased, and being willing to correct greivous errors. The art of poetry is such that any poem, any syntax, any format can be viewed as prefered by one person, but not by another, based on perception. So long as there are no spelling errors (unintentional spelling errors) and no unintentional grammar glitches, a poem can be great. Though, I talked about this in one of my hubs this morning. :P

    • Whitney05 profile imageAUTHOR


      10 years ago from Georgia

      True. I was that way when I started writing poetry, but now I'm able to look at it with a "what would make it better" eye. Maybe it's not unbiased, but it's not a "this is how I wrote it, so it stays this way" eye.

      That's what I'm trying to get across, more or less. You can't be set in stone until you've tried other options to making it better.

    • gamergirl profile image


      10 years ago from Antioch, TN

      I don't think anyone can truly look at their own work with an unbiased eye. We are attached to the things we write, being that any written work is an extension of ourselves - when it's truly our own, then we're already biased.


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