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Poetry Basics

Updated on February 2, 2018

Robert Frost's Inspiration

Robert Frost
Robert Frost | Source

A Poem Begins

“A poem ... begins as a lump in the throat, a sense of wrong, a homesickness, a love-sickness.... It finds the thought and the thought finds the words.”

Robert Frost wrote these words in a letter to the poet and anthologist Louis Untermeyer. (Jan.1,1916) The Letters of Robert Frost to Louis Untermeyer (1963).

Writing poetry can be an exhilarating, freeing experience. Poetry lends itself to the expression of hidden, deep, emotional reservoirs just waiting for the poet to explore and the reader to experience. The process of writing a poem can be as satisfying as the finished poem itself. Wrestling, searching, and grasping for the right word creates a certain, exciting tension in the poet's soul. Finding the exact phrase or word leaves the poet with a calm satisfaction.

This Hub focuses on poetry basics.

Robert Frost's poetry has served as inspiration for my writing. I appreciate the simplicity and depth of his poetry. The words he uses make me feel and think. His poetry, like all good poetry, makes me say “aah” and “aha”. This quotation from the letter to Louis Untermeyer gives us insight to Frost’s thoughts and feelings about the words and emotions expressed in his poetry.

Calliope, Muse of Epic Poetry

Calliope | Source


I find that when writing poetry, I need to create a rhythm. The first thing I would suggest is to let the poem flow in a single writing session. Try not to stop. Develop a rhythm. It has to do with meter and also repetition of sounds or rhymes. It has to do with the flow of the poem. I don’t consciously write in iambic pentameter but I hear the beat of the poem in my head when I write it.

  • This is what I mean by rhythm in a poet's practice, one of the poetry basics.

Meter is stressed or unstressed syllables or long or short syllables.

Iambic pentameter foot sounds da DUM.

A standard line of iambic pentameter is five iambic feet in a row:

da DUM da DUM da DUM da DUM da DUM

"But, soft! what light through yonder window breaks?"

This line is written by Shakespeare from Romeo and Juliet (a master of iambic pentameter).

This is the first part of a poem I wrote. It isn’t in iambic pentameter but it has a certain rhythm:


But...I loved you once, I loved you best, I loved you o'er the rest.
I loved you long, I loved you deep, I loved you.


Another aspect of my poetry is that I try to use words, sounds, feelings, and strong verbs--all in a concise manner. Poetry can tell a story but the images need to be dense.

A poet tries to express levels or depth of meaning through words and/or images as it relates to meaning and complexity.

We look for density in poetry--tight, power packed words. Express your idea with power in just a few words. That's what I try to achieve.

In the beginning of this poem, I've tried to communicate in a few words, how a poet writes and what his goals are for writing a poem.

A Poet Strikes
A Poet Strikes

A Poet Strikes

A poet strikes the magic chord,
Writing of his own accord.
Strumming softly, on the heart,
A poet plucks the perfect part.

© 2017
A Long

  • This is what I mean by density, one of the poetry basics.

Free verse defined

Free verse is a literary device that can be defined as poetry that is free from limitations of regular meter or rhythm and does not rhyme with fixed forms. However, it still allows poets to use alliteration, rhyme, cadences or rhythms to get the effects that they consider are suitable for the piece.

Free Verse

Much of my poetry would be called free verse. Free verse is poetry can be written in either rhyme or unrhymed lines that have no set fixed metrical pattern. When writing free verse, many use long lines, almost in paragraph form. There is nothing wrong with using complete sentences.

“Writing free verse is like playing tennis with the net down.” Robert Frost -- from an address at Milton Academy, Massachusetts, May 17, 1935

Example of a Free Verse Poem


Come, let us pity those who are better off than we are.
Come, my friend, and remember
        that the rich have butlers and no friends,
And we have friends and no butlers.
Come, let us pity the married and the unmarried.

Dawn enters with little feet
        like a gilded Pavlova
And I am near my desire.
Nor has life in it aught better
Than this hour of clear coolness
        the hour of waking together.

			Ezra Pound

Ezra Pound

Ezra Pound
Ezra Pound

Poetry Magazine Cover - 1912

Poetry Magazine - 1912
Poetry Magazine - 1912 | Source

A Poem's Time

I spend varying amount of time on a poem. Some poems begin and end in one, satisfying writing session. Others take days, weeks or even months and years. When the poem gets "stuck" or even if I'm satisfied with it, I usually let it sit. This lets the poem seem fresh when I go back to it-with fresh eyes. Occasionally, if I think it sounds "funny, like weird" or "stilted or awkward”, I'll share the poem with someone for comments. Let the poem flow; get the words out there.

Synonyms and Rhymes

Use synonyms in your poem to adhere to a theme. A synonym is a word or phrase that means exactly or nearly the same as another word or phrase, for example stick is a synonym of adhere. Synonyms can be found in a thesaurus or in an online dictionary.

I also use a rhyming tool. This can help with creating couplets that move the flow of the poem along. A poem does not have to rhyme to be a poem. I enjoy using rhyme and love the sense of rhythm that results in the poem. I generally use these tools after I have written the poem.

  • Synonyms and rhymes are poetry basics.

Online Tools

A Poet's Practice

Anything can inspire a poet. Write from the heart! Add more about your feelings, add more about what you feel about a person, event, nature—anything that inspires you and share why it inspires you. Use the poetry basics.

This is what makes a poet's practice.

© 2013 ajwrites57
A Long

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© 2013 AJ Long


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    • ajwrites57 profile imageAUTHOR

      AJ Long 

      2 years ago from Pennsylvania

      Peter, sorry just noticed I never commented on your encouraging words. Appreciate them my friend! Glad to see you continuing to mature as a poet!

    • ajwrites57 profile imageAUTHOR

      AJ Long 

      3 years ago from Pennsylvania

      Wilsonshears I appreciate your praise and comments.

    • peternoahthomas profile image

      Peter Noah Thomas 

      3 years ago from Wyoming, U.S.A.

      So much great information here. I like how you mentioned using a rhyming tool after you write the poem. I'm going to try that next time I tackle a poem. Your "A Poet Strikes" is one of my favorites among all your wonderful poems.

    • profile image


      3 years ago

      A great article, AJ. I look forward to studying your work more

      Thank you so much.

    • ajwrites57 profile imageAUTHOR

      AJ Long 

      4 years ago from Pennsylvania

      Thanks so much Joy56!

    • Joy56 profile image


      4 years ago

      I enjoyed this hub..

    • ajwrites57 profile imageAUTHOR

      AJ Long 

      5 years ago from Pennsylvania

      Thanks so much Gypsy Rose Lee! So glad you enjoyed and thanks for sharing! :o)

    • Gypsy Rose Lee profile image

      Gypsy Rose Lee 

      5 years ago from Daytona Beach, Florida

      Voted up and interesting. Enjoyed this. Passing it on.

    • ajwrites57 profile imageAUTHOR

      AJ Long 

      5 years ago from Pennsylvania

      Thanks MsDora! Glad you enjoyed this! Yes Frost had a great grasp of the poet's emotions, although I don't find his poems to be over emotional themselves. Yes, rhythm moves the poem along. Thanks for reading and commenting! :o)

    • MsDora profile image

      Dora Weithers 

      5 years ago from The Caribbean

      Great article, AJ. I have to read more of your work. Frost's quote at the top describes accurately what happens to the writer. I'm glad you stressed rhythm. That makes the poem even if it doesn't rhyme. Thanks for a really good read.

    • ajwrites57 profile imageAUTHOR

      AJ Long 

      5 years ago from Pennsylvania

      Thanks chef-du-jour! Yes, poetry is a wonderful world of discovery. I'm enjoying the journey through its world. I appreciate your comments.

    • chef-de-jour profile image

      Andrew Spacey 

      5 years ago from Near Huddersfield, West Yorkshire,UK

      Poetry is many different things to different people and is evolving all the time. I love the fact that the spark for a poem may come from the heart through intense feelings but then the poet has to try to capture that feeling in a net of words, using all the skills and devices available. It's a wondrous process when it works and so frustrating when you can't hit the nail on the head!

      I like your personal slant on the poetry that works for you. Thank you for sharing.

    • ajwrites57 profile imageAUTHOR

      AJ Long 

      5 years ago from Pennsylvania

      Yolanda, thanks for this comment! Somehow I missed it. Wow! this was 6 months ago! Yes poetry can be more emotional than prose. Maybe that's why I have written more poetry this past year than stories.

    • profile image

      Yolanda Isabel Regueira Marin 

      6 years ago

      Great post, who would have thought you have such depth lol Poetry is about an emotion catching fire and the poet baring his soul. I find it much more liberating and passionate than prose.

    • ajwrites57 profile imageAUTHOR

      AJ Long 

      6 years ago from Pennsylvania

      Thanks for reading and adding a poetic response to my offering! Yes, always from the heart! And yes, some know no other way than to rhyme the day away! Thanks again Pearldiver!

    • Pearldiver profile image

      Rob Welsh 

      6 years ago from Tomorrow - In Words & NZ Time.

      Some find inspiration in the dawning of a day

      Some look beyond the obvious or mundane

      Some just write, in hope others will hear, what they have to say

      Some just can not bring themselves to speak any other way

      And some, really know what it is to be, insane!

      Cheers for sharing - I believe poetry should always be written from the heart... but only at those times when one has a pulse!! Take care... PD

    • ajwrites57 profile imageAUTHOR

      AJ Long 

      6 years ago from Pennsylvania

      Thanks Adrianna for reading and commenting. Writing and reading poetry and should affect our emotions--even non-fiction! Thanks again from commenting from Europe!

    • adriannajoleigh profile image

      Adrianna Joleigh 

      6 years ago from Europe

      I enjoyed this informative post AJ.

      I agree with Robert Frost. Those emotions that are caught in our throats are the ones that are dying to come out and out comes our story, whether it be poetry or a story. Great job.


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