Why You Should Write Poetry (Even If You're Bad At It)

I used to hate poetry, to be honest. I thought it was pretentious and complex and that it was not for me. Then, I watched the absolutely iconic film Dead Poets Society (dir. Peter Weir), and felt inspired to write my very first poem. Initially, it was a little four line stanza with little meaning. Hell, I still don’t really understand what I meant when I wrote it. After writing it, I began reading poetry, and writing even more poetry. I threw away the premature ideas about poetry and began to understand that poetry doesn’t have to be perfect or even good, it has to be something from your heart. 


For some reason, there’s a sort of stigma (if we can call it that) against writing poetry. This stigma is internal and usually based on the idea that someone has to be “good” at writing to write poetry. Which, if you look at any generation of poetry, is simply not true (men have been writing bad poetry for millennia). Obviously, poetry doesn’t have to be good in order to exist, but people tend to believe that when they write it, it has to meet certain standards. A lot of people are also intimidated by the prospect of the form, or the structure, rhyme, meter, of poetry. However, there’s a wonderful thing called free-verse poetry - basically, do what you want! Poetry isn’t about perfection, it’s about you.


Even if you believe that any poetry you write will be bad or won’t live up to your expectations, write it anyway. Poetry is an incredibly strong release of emotions and can help you deal with trauma or unresolved conflicts. Honestly, poetry is one of the things that helped me survive high school, because instead of letting my thoughts and feelings fall on deaf, uncaring ears, I wrote poetry on shitty notebook paper in the middle of my American Lit class. Poetry helped me through some really dark times, and I’m really glad I found it as an outlet. I punished myself enough as it was, and I know I would have been worse if I hadn’t had this outlet.


There are also lots of fun ways to do poetry that aren’t pouring your heart out onto a piece of lined paper. Here are a couple:


  1. Observational poetry. Go outside and write what you see. Use similes and metaphor to describe and compare things. And, if what you’ve written is one big paragraph, don’t worry about turning text to verse until you’re done. You can toy with what you’ve written in any way you want after you’re done: making rhymes, separating things into lines and stanzas, creating more vivid imagery, using better vocabulary, etc. This is especially fun if you’re bored or have a good amount of free thinking time.
  2. Memory poetry. Think of a memory - any memory. It can be good or bad or plain. Then, like with the observational poetry, begin to write about it. Embellish the things you’re remembering with particular vocabulary and images that invoke a certain mood you want. This is often a method used in creative writing classes, except instead of just a memory, a photograph is used. This is also a great way to write poetry, and the ways to write vary from photo to photo. Follow the basic editing steps, and voila! Poetry.
  3. Response poetry. Take a poem that you’ve read and feel something for. It doesn’t have to be good feelings or particularly liking the poem, you can feel anger or disgust toward the poem. Then, write those feelings and create a response to the poem you read. This is especially fun when you’ve read a shitty or pretentious poem (hello, T.S. Eliot). You can respond to the major ideas of the poem, or respond line by line, but make sure you voice your opinions and feelings on the poem you’re responding to. Think of it as an open letter. Edit. Boom. Poem. 


Poetry isn’t nearly as perfect or scary as we often think it is. I believe its a fun activity that everyone should do! And the most important thing to remember is that you don’t have to write a masterpiece, it doesn’t have to be polished for other people. Your poetry can be just for you.