Thursday, March 27, 2014

How to improve your poems

Poetry writing often happens naturally and spontaneously. However, improvements can be made when a poem gets to sit awhile before you come back to read the lines aloud and notice what needs improvement.

The more you read poetry by other poets, the more you’ll recognize what works well and what does not. Meanwhile, you can improve your poems by asking these questions of each poem as you revise:

• Does the poem have a fresh view or insight into the theme or topic?

• Will the subject interest most people?

• Is the poem truthful and honest about its facts and feelings?

• Does the poem make refreshing use of language?

• Do the word choices have interesting connotations or echoing sounds?

• Does the poem emphasize only important words with the use of sound echoes or rhyme for special effect?

• Can any musicality be heard as you read the poem aloud?

• Does the poem use humor rather than wit and cleverness?

• Do the form, tone, and style fit the idea?

• Do the line-breaks in free verse work well, or would the poem improve if the lines were broken differently?

• Does each traditional poem fit a particular form?

• Will the length and style suit poetry journals or e-zines?

• Does the poem invite readers into an experience?

• Does the poem cause readers to think on their own, rather than telling them what and how to think?

• Does the poem offer more than readers will get in one reading, so they'll want to read it again?

• Would you like the poem a lot if someone else had written it?

If you want to write poems other people will enjoy reading, you’ll do well to study poetry forms and time-tested techniques as shown in this home study course, now available as an inexpensive, reader-friendly e-book, the Christian Poet’s Guide to Writing Poetry. And, if you have been writing poems a while or just want feedback to help you take your poems to the next level, a poetry critique will help.

© 2014, Mary Sayler, poetry editor and poet-author of Living in the Nature Poem by Hiraeth Press and Outside Eden, to be published in late Spring of 2014 by Kelsay Books

Living in the Nature Poem, paperback

Christian Poet’s Guide to Writing Poetry, Kindle e-book


  1. Great tips and ideas. I especially like the idea of "echoing" voices. Thank you for sharing Mary.

  2. Thanks for taking time to read and respond, Timothy. When I'm revising a poem - whether free verse or rhymed - I read aloud and listen for echoing sounds. If a sound echo might enhance the poem or stress something I want to stress, I'll look for a synonym with that sound. Fun game, playing with words!

  3. Good ideas and suggestions.
    I bought myself a small dictaphone so I can hear my work back.
    Surprising how different it sounds when read aloud - you can really spot where the piece needs some attention.

  4. Cool! I've never recorded poems during the revision process, but that sounds helpful. Thanks.