Poetry is a subjective experience.
When it comes to writing a meaningful poem you want to translate a feeling into words. Communicate with your reader to create a shared experience. Or your goal may be to do both of those things.
So, it’s natural for you to feel that your deep poem needs to mean something.
Someone can read an entire collection of poetry and not find any meaning they can relate to. While another will be deeply moved by the message shared.
But that doesn’t mean that there isn’t a deeper meaning already existent.
No poet has the intention to hide the true meaning from the reader or mislead their audience in any way.
In fact, many people use poetry as a communication tool. When regular conversation fails to express the depth of your thoughts, feelings, and experiences, a poem can become your handy interpreter.
Poetry is able to stretch our everyday language to access deeper levels of communication.
The truth is, interpretation of your words will depend on the reader.
We all bring our own experiences with us when we interact with the world outside of us.
This means that when we read stories, poems, and communicate with others, the meaning we draw from that interaction will depend on our own understanding of the world.
That being said, communicating meaning in your own poetry doesn’t have to be a complete lost cause.
The meaning of the words we use comes from past usage, context, and conventional uses of the English language.
There are specific strategies used by classic and contemporary poets alike to evoke particular feelings in the hearts of their audience and paint precise pictures in their minds.
This way, the poem can share the emotions of the author and allow the reader to become the co-creator in the wisdom it shares.
“The meaning of a story emerges in the meeting between the words on the page and the thoughts in the reader’s mind.” -- Philip Pullman
It’s true that not every poem will be able to speak to every single person.
So, knowing how to write a deep poem that will resonate with others can be tricky.
These 5 tips can help you expose the meaning in your deep poem using figurative language, as well as, drive the imagination of your reader to uncover meaning of their own.
The first thing to ask yourself is: what are you trying to communicate?
When you first decide you want to write a deep poem, it’s important to choose a topic.
To write a meaningful and original poem doesn’t always mean that you need to talk about your personal experiences. But it does mean, you should write about things that are important to you.
It’s a great thing to be inspired by other creative talents.
But if they are writing deep poetry about love and you haven’t quite decided where you stand on that topic, your poem will be lacking.
So, write your deep poem about the things that actually matter to you. Not what you see other successful poets writing about.
Next thing to ask yourself is: what things are most meaningful to me?
List the topics that come to mind. These could be people, values, events, material objects, or abstract concepts that are important to you, such as family, friends, religion, marriage, honesty, your home, creativity… You can even talk about your morning coffee time.
There may be one topic that stands out to you at the time.
Explore this topic. Why does this subject mean so much to you? What moments in your life, things you have seen, heard, and experienced, events in the world around you, highlight the meaning of this topic?
12 Prompts for writing a deep poem:
1. Think about the day you decided to let someone or something important go from your life. What led you to come to that decision and how did you feel about it?
2. Explore an everyday moment. First opening your eyes in the morning, your commute to work, mealtimes with your family. Pay attention to the small details in those moments, what do they mean to you?
3. Talk about an experience in your life where your faith was shaken.
4. Think about an event or an experience that helped you [re]gain your faith.
5. Have you lost someone you loved? If you were to see them again now what would they say to you, what would you say to them?
6. Think about the grieving process. What do you think grief means, is it necessary?
7. What do you think happens after death?
8. Write about a near-death experience you or someone else had. Imagine what a near-death experience can teach you.
9. What do you think it means to live your life to the fullest? What does it mean to be alive?
10. Is there a purpose to hardships in life? How do you think challenges and obstacles affect our lives?
11. Write a poem about perfection. What does it look like to you?
12. Change perspectives. Choose any topic: a day in life, love, race, relationships, a recent news report, environment, work, spirituality, medicine… Write the poem from someone else’s perspective e.g from a child’s viewpoint, from an animal, from the planet, from the necklace you wear every day. What do they see from their vantage point?
Poetry is all about imagery.
When you create an image in someone else’s mind, you allow them to connect to your experience and become invested in the story you are telling.
Not to mention, the words we use hold deeper meanings on a personal, as well as, on a universal level.
For example, using the image of a road to represent life’s journey, or a storm to depict troubling times is accessible no matter your circumstances, opinions, or experiences.
Poems that use imagery of houses usually refer to a woman’s body because of the historical and social elements that make the woman -- a homemaker.
Make use of figurative language by focusing on the 5 senses when you want to describe the feeling, the scene, or the state of mind in your poem.
For stronger imagery, you may want to choose out of the wide variety of creative writing tools, such as a metaphor or simile.
You can guide your reader in the feeling you want to create, not only, with the words you use but also with punctuation.
There are 3 ways to use punctuation when you write your deep poem:
1. Grammatically: If your poem was to be written out in regular sentences it would follow the standard grammar rules. This technique might be helpful if you include dialogue in the poem. This signals to the reader what they should imagine, and gives structure to the ideas shared in the poem.
2. Stylistically: You can place the punctuation in the poem where you want the reader to pause. A comma is a short pause, a full stop/period is a longer pause, a dash connects the ideas between lines of poetry. No punctuation indicates a constant flow with no pauses, at times creating urgency to read on.
3. A mix of the two: You may want to stick to grammar-approved punctuation for the majority of your poem. Only using stylistic surprises when you want to emphasize specific lines.
This way you can use punctuation to highlight the main message in your poem. The point is to bring the reader’s attention to the meaning through punctuation.
To help you decide where you would like the punctuation to go, read your poem out loud. You can pause in different places in the poem to see what impact it makes.
When something is repeated too often, it loses its meaning.
Cliches work against a meaningful poem because the reader is so familiar with the idea, they can finish it without reading to the end of the sentence.
You want people to get to the end of your message. So you must keep them hooked with original concepts that describe everyday ideas.
Some examples of cliches to avoid:
Cliches work great in quick everyday conversation, they simplify the message for a beginner audience, but they certainly don’t make anyone stop and think.
Think about what these cliches are trying to represent. For example, clockwork describes the punctuality and predictability of an event or a person.
Consider a list of things that you think are also ‘on time’ or predictable. Sunrise, mornings, alarms, seasons, taxes, trains (unless you’re in the UK), water boiling at 212 °F...
To go a step further, you can describe one of the items on your list to create new, original imagery that’s meaningful.
Constraints breed quality.
Carbon becomes diamonds under pressure.
People are usually the most creative right before a deadline.
And when you don’t have an infinite amount of words to work with, your poem has to make each syllable count to be meaningful.
When you restrict the length of your poem, you are forced to use strong and impactful language to carry your message across.
A short poem has to rely on precision to convey meaning in an artful, yet tangible way.
To sharpen your entire poem, you should avoid abstract concepts. For example, rage, love, pride, will mean something different to each individual.
Use more concrete images to keep the reader on the same page as you, like smashing a glass to depict rage, or holding head high for pride.
Choosing short forms of poetry like, a haiku, a quatrain, or a sonnet, gives you the incentive to get creative with figurative language resources.
Your imagery also gets more crisp, as you can’t rely on the additional help of adjectives and adverbs.
This doesn’t mean that you need to stick to only 3 or 4 lines. A short poem is usually 15 lines or less.
The main thing you need to know to write a deep poem is -- stay authentic.
Write about your life experiences, express your feelings and opinions, share how you see the world through your eyes.
What matters is your unique interpretation because no one else has your vantage point.
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ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Adventurous by nature, Valery has been a world wanderer for many years.
Her journey started in Russia, transitioned to the UK, and now she discovers a sense of home in nations all around the world.
She moves beyond borders - learning, participating, finding inspiration and familiarity in diverse cultures she’s had the joy of living in.
When not chasing adventures and out-of-the-comfort zone experiences, she explores the wonders of language and its impact on the self, the world, and interpersonal communication.
She never ceases to seek opportunities for self-development and to contribute to a brighter future for the world around her.
You can discover some of her experiences on https://medium.com/@valeryvoyager