Many poems seem like they were written in a burst of spontaneous inspiration. But actually, most poems follow a strict set of rules, some of which are hundreds or even thousands of years old. Just as most sports have rules that prevent players from running all over the field in a free-for-all, the rules of poetry help poets with everything from when to use rhymes to how long each line should be.
Poetry is distinguished from
other literary works because of what we call the "mechanics of poetry"--
the rules which transform words into art. Check out our sets of poetry
forms and examples and
devices and examples.
Learning how to talk or interpret or write or appreciate poetry may not always be easy. But becoming familiar with different poetry techniques, knowing how to recognize poetic devices, and learning to identify just the right form for your poem will make you a better poet.
Poetry is a unique expression of creativity and originality. Just as an artist may choose water colors or crayons to paint a picture, a musician may choose the piano or drums to create a song-- you, the poet, will choose a form and method that will best convey your message.
As with any type of avocation or profession, knowing how to choose and use the available and proper tools will make your job much easier. It will also improve your final product.
Writing poetry should be a fun, enjoyable, and creative undertaking, but by equipping yourself with some knowledge of poetic forms and devices, you'll ensure that your writing is the best it can be.
Poetry can be funny, sad, long, short, rhymed, or unrhymed. We call this the purpose, mood, and form of the poem.
Poetry can be based on fantasy, your real life or any important event. This is called the theme of poetry.
In poetry, the form is the way you write your poem. It can be very rule oriented or it can be free of rules.
Rules for form might include the number of words, indentations, capitalization, number of syllables, placement of rhymed words, and/or the number or placement of lines. A new poet will find that rules can be very helpful!
If you don't like the rules for poetry, claim "poetic license" and follow your heart. This move outside of traditional poetry rules is referred to as free verse.
Return to NewsHour Extra Poetry Site