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How to Become a Poet Writer

Updated on June 15, 2012

Poetry can seem intimidating to most people. However, it does not have to be. Poetry really comes down to three things: rhyme, meter and imagery. After covering each of these topics writing poetry will no longer seem an overwhelming or frightening prospect.

However, before we dive into our three topics I do want to note that vocabulary is very important for anyone interested in writing poetry. It is integral in all three areas mentioned above. Vocabulary is necessary to choose appropriate rhymes that do not feel forced, to maintain your meter you need to know words with a variety of syllables and to establish the appropriate imagery you need to be able to choose words that evoke a variety of feelings. So, if you are serious about writing poetry begin expanding your vocabulary today.

Famous Rhyme Schemes

The Star Spangled Banner
(Rhyme scheme: ABABCCDD)

Oh, say can you see by the dawn's early light
What so proudly we hailed at the twilight's last gleaming?
Whose broad stripes and bright stars thru the perilous fight,
O'er the ramparts we watched were so gallantly streaming?
And the rocket's red glare, the bombs bursting in air,
Gave proof through the night that our flag was still there.
Oh, say does that star-spangled banner yet wave
O'er the land of the free and the home of the brave?

-Francis Scott Key

Fire and Ice
(Rhyme scheme: ABAABCBCB)

Some say the world will end in fire,
Some say in ice.
From what I've tasted of desire
I hold with those who favor fire.
But if it had to perish twice,
I think I know enough of hate
To say that for destruction ice
Is also great
And would suffice.

-Robert Frost

Ode to a Nightingale
(Rhyme scheme: ABABCDECDE)

'Tis not through envy of thy happy lot,
But being too happy in thine happiness,--
That thou, light-winged Dryad of the trees,
In some melodious plot
Of beechen green, and shadows numberless,
Singest of summer in full-throated ease.

(lines 5 through 10)
-John Keats

The Raven
(Rhyme scheme: ABCBBB or if you include the internal rhymes AA,B,CC,CB,B,B)

Once upon a midnight dreary, while I pondered weak and weary,
Over many a quaint and curious volume of forgotten lore,
While I nodded, nearly napping, suddenly there came a tapping,
As of some one gently rapping, rapping at my chamber door.
'Tis some visitor,' I muttered, `tapping at my chamber door-
Only this, and nothing more.'

(lines 1 through 6)
-Edgar Allan Poe

Simple Rhyme Schemes

The Couplet

The couplet is one of the simpler rhyme schemes. Using a two line stanza, simply rhyme the last word of each line. (A,A B,B C,C...) You probably already know several without even realizing it.

  • "How like Eve's apple doth thy beauty grow,
    If thy sweet virtue answer not thy show!"
    -William Shakespeare
  • "A little learning is a dangerous thing;
    Drink deep, or taste not the Pierian spring."
    -Alexander Pope
  • "I have the measles and the mumps,
    a gash, a rash and purple bumps."
    -Shel Silverstein
  • Humpty Dumpty sat on a wall
    Humpty Dumpty had a great fall

    All the king's horses and all the king's men
    Couldn't put Humpty together again

The couplet makes for very memorable lines but can seem childish if used exclusively. (You may have noticed that most of your children's poetry is made of couplets.) So mix your couplets with other rhyme schemes.

The Simple Four-Line or Alternating Quatrain

As the name implies, a simple four-line uses a four-line stanza with the second and fourth lines rhyming. (A,B,C,B) Or for added complexity consider an alternating quatrain. A quatrain is also a four-line stanza. But, unlike a simple four-line the alternating quatrain rhymes the first and third lines as well as the second and fourth. (A,B,A,B)

  • Leap Before You Look
    The sense of danger must not disappear:
    The way is certainly both short and steep,
    However gradual it looks from here;
    Look if you like, but you will have to leap.
    -W.H. Auden

Enclosed Rhyme or Envelope Stanza

The enclosed rhyme is another four-line rhyme scheme. However, in this pattern one rhyme encloses or envelopes the other. In other words the rhyme in lines one and four surrounds the rhyme in lines two and three. (A,B,B,A)

  • In Memoriam
    O thou, new-year, delaying long,
    Delayest the sorrow in my blood,
    That longs to burst a frozen bud
    And flood a fresher throat with song


I am including limericks because everyone has a limerick (some not repeatable in polite circles) that they remember whether they wish to or not. Limericks use a five line stanza with the first, second and fifth lines rhyming and the third and fourth lines rhyming. (A,A,B,B,A)

  • There once was a fellow named Tim
    whose dad never taught him to swim.
    He fell off a dock
    and sunk like a rock.
    And that was the end of him.

Before you get all excited and run off to create your own dirty limericks it should be noted that the limerick follows a very specific meter, which brings us to our next topic.

Poetry Meter

If you've heard of poetry meter at all you've surely heard the term "iambic pentameter". It sounds intimidating and probably brings up memories of torturous English classes. Let's break the words down and see what they actually mean.

The meter of poetry is described in feet. Each foot represents a sequence of syllables, usually unstressed followed by stressed. It can be thought of like drum beats da DUM (unstressed, stressed) or you might see it written with the symbols ˘ (unstressed) or / (stressed) above the syllables.

In the case of iambic pentameter penta means five, so you have five meters or feet of iambs. An iamb is simply an unstressed followed by a stressed syllable. In other words you have five sets of unstressed stressed syllables. In drum beats that would be: da DUM da DUM da DUM da DUM da DUM.

Types of feet

However, iambs are not the only type of feet. Of those feet using only two syllable you also have the trochee, which is the opposite of the iamb. That is the trochee is a stressed syllable followed by an unstressed (DUM da). You could also stick to only one type of syllable: two stressed syllables as in the spondee (DUM DUM) or two unstressed syllables as in the pyrrhic (da da).

Now, because I brought up limericks I will address one three syllable foot: the anapest. The anapest is two unstressed syllables followed by a stressed syllable. There are several other three syllable feet, but if you wish to write limericks you now have what you need as they use the iamb and the anapest feet.

limerick meter

iamb anapest anapest (da DUM da da DUM da da DUM)
iamb anapest anapest (da DUM da da DUM da da DUM)
iamb anapest (da DUM da da DUM)
iamb anapest (da DUM da da DUM)
iamb anapest anapest (da DUM da da DUM da da DUM)

Now that you understand that meter is talking about stressed and unstressed syllables you can easily copy the meter used in famous poetry without knowing all the words used to describe the different types of feet. Or you can identify the stressed and unstressed syllables in a poem you've written and modify some of your word choices to create a more pleasing meter.

The original image of the Beowulf manuscript
The original image of the Beowulf manuscript | Source


For those of you who wish to make poetry a little more sophisticated that limericks we need to address imagery. Words convey feeling when describing a cheese pizza you can make it appealing or unappetizing simply through word choice. Does the pizza have an orange drop of grease that rolls from the edge to splatter on the table? Or is the cheese thick and melted so that each piece clings to it's neighbor with golden tendrils of melted cheese?

This is actually a good exercise to help you improve your imagery. Choose some object like a tree and describe is as good or nurturing versus bad or scary. We take about the imagery but truthfully it is the feeling behind the picture that creates the power. Consider the feeling each word gives you. Is the light ruby or scarlet? Each word evokes a different feeling in the reader. Rubies are associated with riches, while scarlet is associated with adultery or blood.

So when crafting a poem consider your words carefully. Is peripherythe best word for the rhyme? Does animalistic fit the meter? Does crimson evoke the image and feeling you are trying to create? A little rewriting and I'm sure your poems will shine (notice I am evoking the image of the sun).


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    • Joy M profile imageAUTHOR

      Joy M 

      6 years ago from Sumner, Washington

      I think a lot of people get scared off by poetry because they've never really been taught anything useful about it.

    • Simone Smith profile image

      Simone Haruko Smith 

      6 years ago from San Francisco

      I love your explanations! This really makes me want to have a go with poetry- even though I've never seriously attempted to write any. Thanks for the useful and informative introduction!

    • brsmom68 profile image

      Diane Ziomek 

      6 years ago from Alberta, Canada

      I am not much into poetry - neither reading nor writing, but do know someone who is. I will be sharing this Hub with them so perhaps they may benefit. Voted up and interesting.

    • josh3418 profile image

      Joshua Zerbini 

      6 years ago from Pennsylvania

      Thank you so much for posting this article, although it makes the poem I just published really bad. :) P lease come take a look at it, I need lots of advice! :) The first poem I have ever written, besides mandatory poems in high school. Voted up and awesome, and shared!


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