5 Things Every Teenager Should Know About Writing Poetry
As a writer, your teenage years are a special time, because you have a wide range of experiences to draw on for your creative work.
You’re still young enough to remember being a child – and behave like a big kid sometimes! So your poems can be light-hearted and experimental, using clear, simple language to convey your ideas.
But you’re also old enough to feel and behave like an adult, so there’s no reason why you can’t write poems as well as an adult, too. Your knowledge of the meanings of words is wider, and you’ve developed more experience in ways to use language, so your poetry can have plenty of variety and interest.
Once you hit your teens, your emotions start jumping all over the place – one minute you’re dreamy and contented, then gloomy, then shouting for joy, then furious… all in the same day! When you express these feelings through poetry, your writing can have a subtle power which may be lost in once you become an adult.
1. What Can Poetry Give You?
If you’ve ever written a sad or angry poem after a romantic break-up or a family row, you’ll know that poetry can be cathartic – it can help to drain out some of those bad feelings onto the page, instead of keeping them bottled up inside you, so that you start to feel better afterwards.
But that isn’t all that poetry can give you. If you’ve had a happy time or an amazing experience, you can store those feelings in a poem to remind yourself later. If you’ve seen something small and special, which made you feel a sense of joy or wonder that you couldn’t explain to other people, or you have a strong opinion on something that you want to persuade others to share, writing a poem can be a way of letting other people see the world through your eyes.
You can enjoy the writing process itself, flipping beautiful words into the air like gleaming golden coins, stretching their meanings like rubber bands, arranging the lines until everything fits together like the parts of a machine and sensing the emotions pouring out of your brain into the poem.
And most of all, you’ll get a real sense of achievement when finally your words fall into the right places and your poem is finished and perfect – Yay! I can really, really write!
2. Sharing Your Emotions
If you prefer just writing love poems, or you only write funny verse, and you don’t have any interest in writing in other genres, you still don’t have to limit yourself to one style, as there are several ways to develop, enrich and improve your poetry within the genre you prefer – or you could try others to see if you want to widen your range.
Even if you think you’ve never gone anywhere worth writing about or done anything interesting, you haven’t lived in a box all your life, either. You’ve felt happiness, hope, thrills, surprise, excitement, delight and peace; and at times you’ve suffered anger, boredom, impatience, misery, loneliness, disappointment, loss and despair. You’ve appreciated beauty and kindness, and felt disgust at ugliness and cruelty. All those shades of emotion can be included in your poems – even in humorous poetry, using a contrast between negative and positive feelings can add a dimension and make it funnier.
3. Does it Have to Rhyme?
If you always write poetry that rhymes, you are limiting yourself unnecessarily; it’s the choice of language that matters most. However, there is a place for rhyming poetry, and I don’t mean the rubbish bin.
Rhyming poetry is much easier to learn by heart than unrhymed poems, because the pattern helps you to remember the exact words more easily, so you can carry the poem with you all the time. Once you’ve learned a poem by heart, you may find you can still remember it many years later. If you enjoy performing your poetry or reading it aloud, rhymed poems have an obvious advantage – but they’ve still got to be good, if you want anyone to listen!
Unrhymed poetry has a different advantage – without forcing your words into rhyming endings, you’re free to choose the ones you really want to use. For example, if you can’t think of a word that rhymes with ‘stallion’ except ‘galleon’, and your poem doesn’t take place at sea, you’ll have to say ‘horse’.
4. Finding Ideas
You have plenty of life experiences to draw on, without needing to fly over the Grand Canyon in a helicopter or trek on foot to the North Pole: Even if you haven’t had the chance to travel abroad, you’ve experienced many different situations: perhaps a busy street, a hospital room, an open field, a dentist’s waiting room, a huge cathedral, a shady woodland, a noisy school, or a cosy bedroom. Poems can have any setting; they don’t have to be about beautiful places. They don’t need to be set in a particular place at all, but it will make your poems more interesting if they aren’t all the same.
You’ve known a variety of times, seasons and weather: darkness, twilight, early morning, bright sunlight, strong winds and gentle breezes, biting cold, torrential rain… each of these could generate a poem, or could be used to contrast with an emotion. For example, being angry on a hot summer day feels quite different from being angry in a thunderstorm.
5. Developing Your Ideas Into Poetry
Once you’ve come up with a few ideas, it’s time to decide if they’ve ‘got legs’ – is there enough in the idea to make a poem?
You can use your memories and imagination to explore the idea. For example, if you’d like to write a poem set in darkness, you could come up with many different ideas. Being alone in a dark wood is quite different from whispering to your sister in a dark bedroom on Christmas Eve, trying to wash your hands in the dark, or standing in a crowd watching fireworks in the dark. Being accidentally trapped in a dark place is different from being deliberately locked in there, or choosing to hide there.
If you add an emotion to each setting, such as being excited by an amazing discovery, sad over your lost love, or guilty about having done something wrong, you’ll find that each will produce a very different poem. You don’t even have to choose – you can write them all!
You can make a list of words and phrases connected with the idea, or make a spider diagram to link ideas together. If you want to write a rhyming poem, you could jot down words that rhyme next to each, in case they generate more ideas. You can type key words into a search engine like Google, and look at the pictures which come up. You can talk about your subject with friends or family, or look through books on that theme. Once you’ve got enough ideas, you’re ready to start writing.
Good luck with your poetry – enjoy!
Emily Lock is a freelance writer and blogger about the ups and downs of trying to evolve towards a better life.
Her Emily the Dodo blog has ideas to inspire you to make those changes, quizzes to help you decide what you want and planners so you can figure out how you’re going to get it, along with life hacks to make it easier. Come and join Emily on the journey to a happy life.