how to write your first poem

What is it like to write your first poem?

Let today be your opportunity to find out. Whether you consider yourself an experienced poet or a beginner, set aside your preconceived notions of how a poem should be written — and even what a poem is! — so that you can begin anew.

What is a poem?

No one really agrees on a single definition… “the sound of language organized in lines” (James Longenbach), “the best words in their best order” (Samuel Taylor Coleridge), “a piece of writing that is nearly always rhythmical, and usually metaphorical” (the dictionary) …everyone has their opinion.

I define poetry as simply bringing beauty into the world using words. There are plenty of ways to do that; give yourself freedom to explore and experiment this month.

Today, write your first poem, and focus on using words to create beauty.

The first time you do anything, it isn’t going to be perfect and it is going to be hard. If you’ve never written a poem before, write your first now so that you can get it out of the way and begin to improve. Give yourself permission to write a bad poem. It’s only your first; the second one will be better.

If you’ve written poetry before, give yourself this same freedom. Forget how you think a poem should be written. Step out of the comfort zone you’ve created for yourself and try something new. Give yourself permission to write like a beginner again.

{today’s exercise}

Look around you. Find something that is beautiful, not necessarily because it is striking or objectively beautiful, but choose something that is beautiful to you, though it be mundane or simple. Write down phrases putting its beauty into words.

Maybe that collection of phrases is your poem. Maybe one phrase stands out and becomes the seed for a new poem. Be free. Bring beauty into the world using words.

{my process & my poem}

After choosing an empty green bottle, I wrote down the following:

Beautiful because…
it makes me remember the celebration with friends
the color is pretty
the tall, subtly curving shape is elegant
it sits next to the cobalt blue bottle, coordinating, not matching

I chose to write a poem sparked by the first and last phrases:

Once, the bottle held mead,
sweet drink of celebration,
but now it sits empty, forgotten.
Forgotten by most who tasted its offering,
but not by me.

I kept it,
set it next to the cobalt bottle
that’s the same height,
but not the same shape.
The mead bottle is more elegant,
appearing more elegant still next to the cobalt bottle.

I don’t think it’s really empty.
I pick it up;
it’s heavy with memories of the day.