So you want to know how to write poetically...
First, let’s start with a question:
What makes a piece of writing poetic?
Whether you’re a regular writer of poetry or someone looking to enhance your writing technique, writing poetically is a skill accessible to everyone.
Writing takes on a poetic form when you step into the realm of imagination and start to share the story inside of you.
Poetry, poetic prose, and creative writing are all about the expression of feelings and emotions.
But sometimes, it can be a struggle to write out your thoughts, feelings, and inner stories to reach others in a meaningful way.
So, how can you employ the use of poetic elements to translate your inner landscape into beautiful writing?
The quickest way to connect with someone is through their senses. And likely, there are five to choose from.
You are not just retelling the story for your reader, you want them to experience it as if they are there with you.
You want to avoid using ‘telling verbs’ like ‘I heard, I felt, I saw…’.
Instead, pull the reader into your world by describing how you experienced something:
Hearing: “the shuffling of the leaves reached my ears…”
Feeling: “a chill went down my spine...”
Seeing: “a bright glare on the wing mirror caught my eye…”
The purpose of ‘show’ is to recreate the atmosphere and share the essence of the setting of your story:
“I loved spending time in my garden”
“I once had a garden. I can remember the smell of the turned earth, the plump shapes of bulbs held in the hands, fullness, the dry rustle of seeds through the fingers…” - (from Handmaid’s Tale)
Evoke two very different experiences from a piece of writing.
The poetic form of writing is all about a shared experience. Don’t just tell them how great your experience was, this time, bring them with you.
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If you’re a fan of descriptive language and all words that end in -ly, quietly, fearlessly, loudly… say I.
Imagine if someone always explained every small detail to you: they were sitting on a seat, the rain was wet, and the hot fire flames were keeping them warm... You would soon lose interest in anything they have to say.
There is a wide range of nouns and verbs that can do the job even better instead of the unnecessary descriptions that follow them around.
Trust your reader.
If someone is shouting you don’t need to tell your audience they are shouting loudly. If an animal is naturally furry, let’s say a fox, there is no need to say ‘there was a furry fox’.
Sometimes the adverb or adjective is just a natural part of the verb or noun you want to use. If it doesn’t add anything to the imagery you want to create. Don’t use it.
It's like someone else chewing your food for you. Not a pleasant experience.
Many people often wish to read the thoughts of others. But if you ever get an opportunity to spend time inside someone else's thoughts, you will likely be lost forever.
Naturally, what happens inside people’s heads is a convoluted mess.
Any style of writing, speaking, expressing ideas becomes a form of translating those messy streams of thought. What goes on inside our heads and what you read on paper are light years apart.
If you’re still unsure, try it for yourself.
Practice time: Let’s try a stream of consciousness exercise. I recommend beginning with writing a blackout poem to help clear the mind. Take 3-5 minutes to just write everything that comes into your mind. Don’t hesitate. Don’t pause. Just put a pen to paper and go for it.
After you stop, go back and simplify what you wrote. Can you make that sentence more simple? Can you make that complex idea more relatable? Go back a second time and simplify more.
And just notice the difference.
With enough practice, correction strategies for overly complicated sentences will become second nature.
The real secret to beautiful writing isn’t a fancy word or a complex sentence.
The key is in the thought you want to express. It’s your thought, your message, your emotion that makes your piece of writing special.
Simplified manifestation of thought is what you see in the greatest forms of poetry and prose. When you read a sentence potent with meaning yet simple in its structure, you can’t help but appreciate the power within.
You don’t need complex language to express a complex idea.
Minimalism is the greatest writing technique anyone can apply.
While minimalism is the greatest technique you can begin to apply to your creative writing straight away, there are a few other tools to help you write poetically.
Simple doesn’t mean boring. There are some literary devices to help you express many things all at once but remain short and sweet at the same time.
Here are 7 devices you can keep in your writing arsenal. Apply them to your poetry or poetic prose to make it stand out.
What makes a piece of writing stay in people’s minds? Well, a powerful message is towards the top of the list.
However, another way to leave an imprint on the memories of your audience is repetition.
Repetition of sounds to be precise.
This not only helps your audience remember but adds a rhythmic quality to your writing. Aligning it more to music than just lonely words on a page.
”While I nodded, nearly napping, suddenly there came a tapping,…” - The Raven by Edgar Allan Poe
Together with the rhyme, you create a poetic dance of sorts.
In writing, when you use sounds as words you create stronger imagery.
You allow yourself and your reader to travel into the world of imagination by expanding the intellectual experience into the physical.
Chirping of birds, beeping of cars, splashing on water... In this way, you help your reader to engage more of their physical senses. And provide yourself with more of a holistic writing experience.
Oftentimes, it can be difficult to share what you feel with simple words alone.
The statement - ‘I’m hungry’, although makes sense to everyone, does not depict the level of hunger you want to express.
‘I’m so hungry, I could eat a million fries right now’ kind of gives us a better idea of the state our pain-stricken character is in.
Exaggeration like this really drives home any point you want to make. It adds emphasis and highlights anything that you need to stand out in your creative writing.
Now, we must not confuse hyperbole with a metaphor. A hyperbole is an extravagant and at times, even ridiculous overstatement.
Whereas a metaphor breathes life into things that are usually inanimate. It expands the limits of everyday reality and opens the door to a creative style of writing.
The use of this kind of figurative language can give meaning to unfamiliar situations and concepts.
When you use it in your poetic writing you bridge the gap between the thoughts in your mind and the minds of others.
Creativity is all about laying down new pathways, where no man has been before. Finding connections between things that are not usually partnered together.
It’s stepping off the beaten path of the English language, and with words ‘like’ and ‘as’ macheteing a new direction.
Many famous expressions like: “Life is like a box of chocolates”, “They fight like cats and dogs”, “As clean as a whistle”
If a metaphor is a more subtle way to share your idea, a simile can deliver a message in a much more tangible way. Since you are comparing and contrasting two existing ideas.
Shared experiences rather than isolated. Writing is all about sharing a message with others
You heard the phrase: “Opposites attract”, right? Well, in the case of oxymorons that is especially true.
Sweet sorrow, terribly well, the only choice… If you have a soft spot for dramatic writing, an oxymoron is the way to go.
This pairing of opposing ideas really can leave a lasting effect, entertain and enrich your message with some poetic juice.
Have you ever been so engrossed in a piece of writing that you felt like you were watching a movie?
Scenes appeared in your mind’s eyes, you knew what the characters looked like, you could smell the food they were eating.
This poetic element is what makes the difference between writing and writing poetically.
Describe ordinary things through a different lens: The light under the door looked buttery...
Paint a picture for your reader with crisp detail: The soft glow came from the tiny setting sun…
Provide a vivid description for your readers and leverage any sensory details: “he fell on the soft carpet” vs. “the soft carpet cushioned her fall”.
Mastering the use of figurative language to the point where mental images are married with internal emotions and physical sensations is how you can write poetically.
“Imagery does not occur on the writer’s page; it occurs in the reader’s mind” - Stephen King
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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