Fundamentals of poetry- Learning how to write a world class piece

Fundamentals of poetry- Learning how to write a world-class piece

Aside from being appalled by the genius of Maya Angelou and john Milton, Shakespeare and Forst, Butler Yeats, and Emily Dickinson one can’t help but wonder how possible it was for them to pull such out from thin air a remarkable world-class piece.

It’s already conventional that every individual has that outstrip-able glass ceiling that can never be shattered, see such blockage as an incontinence urge—the deterrent pervading you from expressing yourself comes as a result of spontaneous occurrence and not as a willed cause sourced from an absence of literal erudition, and in respect to such observation how then does one surmount at Chris Abani’s level of poetry brilliance?

There is no disputing the fact that poetry is the hardest form of creative writing—the blend of emotional outbursts intelligibly mixed with antecedents and defining words till it results in a deducible quintessence that can be identified from a mile away, like where does one even begin from? For a write-up requiring so many rules and yet no rules at all, like where is there any guideline, any code of conduct, any modus operandi, where is the limelight where is understanding?

As poetry is expected to be unique to every writer you do not as a matter of fact need to surmount at Chris Abani’s literary brilliance or even surpass it, you do not need a plaque board to identify you as the world’s greatest poet, because there is no sure thing as Greatest poet/poetess but there are great poet and poetess on earth, renowned in a number of continents. And like them, achieving such can only be a declaration made by your piece.

Everything is scaled down to individuality and the unique blend of words, where some are strong in idiomatic write-ups and deploying figures of speech you can seek the desired literary defence from narration and excessive use of imagery.

But before you do, I will expose you to methods through which you can produce literary brilliance with ease and start your journey from an origin.

What is poetry?

Poetry is a literary work in which the expression of feelings and ideas is given intensity by the use of distinctive style and rhythm; either collectively or as a genre of literature.  With that properly identified let’s explore some of the benefits of scholarly attempts at poetry;

1.      It sharpens your wits and perceptive ability: although not a dominant notion writing poetry can enhance your thinking capacity and the manner in which you perceive life principles, it exposes you to rays of other layered philosophies and as well helps improve imagery

2.      It helps breed a connection with your emotions:  except it’s a narrative poem, writing a poem helps you relax and reflect on life lessons through which inspirations can be discovered. By means of ploughing for possible directions, you’d discover that ideas aren’t coming from a place of deep thought but rather caved-in and repressed emotions

3.  It can result in a life-paying career: all that is required for this is just written work, and the intelligence applied is what speaks for you. Writing a world-class piece even if it is just a one-time project can land you a lifetime of work as a freelancer. Do you understand?

Types of poetry format

There are different pattern of poetry that adopts different style but all are influenced by two major types of poetry which are

Lyrical: a lyrical poem is one that shares similarities with a song, most times such are adopted as music, it describes feelings by means of comparison and is mostly perceived with a rhyming scheme it’s the typical Shakespearean kind of vignette. E.g


Christiana Rossetti’s

“what are heavy”

What are heavy? Sea-sand and sorrow;

What are brief? Today and tomorrow;

What are frail? Spring blossoms and youth;

What are deep? The ocean and truth.

Narrative:  this kind of poem can be likened to prose, it tells a story, at times describes an event. They are mostly tailored in the form of a drama that prompts the creation of characters and adopts the plot of prose. It is composed of strong narration. An example of this is Williams Morris proud king. Another less lengthy example of a narrative poem is Annabel Lee by Edgar Allan Poe

“It was many and many a year ago

In a kingdom by the sea,

That a maiden there lived whom

You may know

By the name of Annabel Lee;

And this maiden she lived with no

Other thought

Than to love and be loved by me

I was a child and she was a child,

In a thus kingdom by the sea,

But we loved with a love that was

That was more than lover—

I and my Annabel lee—

With a lover that the winged

Seraphs of heaven

Coveted her and me.

And this was the reason that, long ago,

In this kingdom by the sea,

A wind blew out of a cloud, chilling

My beautiful Annabel Lee:

So that her highborn kinsmen came

And bore her away from me,

To shut her up in a sepulchre

In this kingdom by the sea…”

Is that clear? Now that you are abreast with the types of poetry and what they consist of let’s visit the basics of how to write a poem.

1.       Structure of your poem.

The structure of your poem can emphasize its form, poetry punctuations, and its concluding words.


The form of your poem is the physical arrangement in which every line should be segmented into, it can be structured in rhyming verse or free /blank verses. It must of course have a line length and be parted into stanzas. Here are some renowned forms of people poets usually structure their works with.

  • Couplet: a couplet is a poem made up of dual lines that rhyme; it can be a segment in a poem or an entire poem itself. An example of a couplet is;

“ Then share thy pain, allow that sad relief;

Ah, more than share it, give me all thy grief.”

Alexander Pope, “Eloisa to Abelard”

  • Limericks: limericks are s lined witty poems with similar rhyming patterns existing among the first, second and fifth line and a pattern that differs but correlates to with the third and fourth. E.g.

“There was an Old Man who supposed

That the street door was partially closed;

But some very large rats

Ate his coats and his hats,

While that futile Old Gentleman dozed.”

  • Haiku: haiku is a poem of 3 lines with an origin rooted in japan, it begins with a 5 syllabic opening line, a 7 syllabic middle and a 5 syllabic closing line, an example is a poem by Paul Holmes

“Bluebells stand so proud

Beneath trees so sparsely dressed

Fresh green leaves unfold”

  • Acrostic:  an acrostic is a poem where the first letter of each line spells a word that fits the theme or uncovers a much deeper expression. An example of an acrostic is a poem  written by Edgar Allan Poe

Elizabeth it is in vain you say

“love not”-thou sayest it in so sweet a way:

In vain those words from thee or L.E.L

Zantippe’s talents had enforced so well:

Ah! If that language from thy heart arise,

Breathe it less gently forth-and veil thine eyes.

Endymion, recollect, when Luna tried

To cure his love-was cured of all beside-

His folly-prode –and passion-for he died”

  • Epic: long narrative poem recounting heroic deeds, celebrating expeditions and heroic accomplishment an example of such is the odyssey by homer

“Tell me, o muse, of that ingenious

Hero who travelled far and wide

After he had sacked the famous

Town of troy. Many cities did he

Visit and many were the nations

With whose manners and customs

He was acquainted; moreover he

Suffered much by sea while trying

To save his own life and bring his

Men safely home; but do what he

Might he could not save his men,

For they perished through their own

Sheer folly in eating the cattle of the

Sun god Hyperion; so the god

Prevented them from ever reaching

Home. Tell me, too, about all these

Things, o daughter of Jove, from

Whatsoever source you may know them.”

Free verse: this kind is loosely written, with no adherence to any rule or rhyming schemes.

Zig-zagging down the road

Trying not to stray over the centre line

Or hit a curb

Or break an axle

Or a flatten a tire

Or wind up in the next surprise


Driving in Toledo is not a sort

For the timid or thesame or the


By Kelly Roper.

  • Sonnet: this a short poem with a pungent rhyming scheme of 14 lines, an example of this is a popular poem by William Shakespeare

“Let me not to the marriage of true minds

Admit impediments. Love is not love

Which alters when it alteration finds,

Or bends with the remover to remove:

Oh, no! it is an ever-fixéd mark,

That looks on tempests and is never shaken;

It is the star to every wandering bark,

Whose worth’s unknown, although his height be taken.

Love’s not Time’s fool, though rosy lips and cheeks

Within his bending sickle’s compass come;

Love alters not with his brief hours and weeks,

But bears it out even to the edge of doom.

If this be error and upon me proved,

I never writ, nor no man ever loved.”

The most utilized form of poetry written by developing poets and less experienced writers is the free verse, which is a poem that does not possess form or a definable scheme.

Poetry Punctuations

Not many writers are aware of this but poetry partly involves punctuations, that’s where the difficulty begins, where exactly do you punctuate? Like, it doesn’t appear natural. But in poetry punctuation severs as a choir conductor that regulates the beat aligning it with the stanza and highlighting when to halt for a breath.

The punctuations in poetry at times differ from the regular ones perceived in normal writing, use the following ways to understand the concept of punctuation in poetry

Stylishly:   this just means you dish out punctuations in the manner in which you want your poem to be perceived, like the typical arrangement, a comma signifies a brief pause, a full stop indicates an extended pause, a dash identifies a pause with a link to deep thought, and the absence of punctuations is an indication of enjambment. An enjambment is a run on all lines with no reference to breaking or systematically arranged pause.

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Combination: this type is more of a permit that allows punctuating divergence. Supposing there is a situation where a comma damages the flow of a line you can omit necessary punctuations and bypass them, after all, it’s a vital contribution to making a world-class piece

Grammatically: this connotes you use punctuations as the English language intended.

Concluding words

The whole pressure of a good poem rest on the concluding words, they are a very crucial aspect of the entire poem, they are the ones that echo in the mind of a reader—the concluding words as well as the build-up.

2.       Imagery

Imageries are poetic devices that vend out a well-traced description that appeals to the individual senses of a person

Here are some examples

  • And a puissant gust stole her from the surface of the earth
  • She wore a cloth of milky-colored fibre as skin so that when she stood under the moonlight, she was pale as a sheet
  • For every step, he took the parched-up leaves crackled, for they were under the power of his feet
  • I drowned staring at her, for her eyes were a sea of plain blue

3.  Sound

The most basic forms of sound existing in poetry are grouped into three, as imagery serves to suffice the mind, and sounds work to carry the ears along. The 3 basic appealing auditory or rather the ones you can easily use are

  • Alliteration: this is the repetition of consonant sounds.
  • Assonance: this is the repetition of vowel sounds in a non-rhyming manner
  • Internal rhyme: this is stringing words to rhyme with others.

4.       Meaning

The purpose of a poem is lost the moment it doesn’t portray anything. If your words are void of an abysmal definition what really is the point of your piece? Poetry transcends aligning words to form meaning, normal poems aren’t to be taken entirely literally when yours is void of a figurative description what you have would be more gibberish than an actual poem.

In the bid to hone your skills try not to emulate another person and develop your work organically and if it requires you to read other write-ups extensively do not fail to do so. Brainstorm for appealing topics and use contemporary events and circumstances to form content for your topic, see the Covid-19 event, for example, you can write on that, is that clear?

5.       Pinpoint your goal- try as much as possible to avoid cliché

As earlier stated, poetry is similar to other forms of writing and for that alone, there has to be a goal that all road leads to. To begin, ask yourself this life-saving question what do I want to tell my audience?  Would you be considering preaching about love, abomination, sex, depression, pleasure, and wealth, would you want to bastardize aggressive community standards as the Late Fela Kuti did with his music?

Whatever it might be, just resolve to an ending point. After doing that conclude that whatever subject or topic generated has one way or the other been written on by another beloved and well-appraised poet so in order to stand out, read so you would be able to differentiate what a cliché is from the original work, read so you will know which areas are yet to be touched on, it sounds hard and rigorous but hey, no risk no reward, right?


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