(For People Without Poetic Talent)
This is a manner of writing a poem somewhat by logic and algorithm, rather than by instantaneous insight. It may serve to interest children in writing poetry who would not otherwise become interested. But it is definitely not "the" way to write poetry, and it should not be taught as if it were. It merely serves when all else fails. If you are a teacher introducing this to students, they should know that. And if any of your students can write poetry more "naturally", they should not be required to use this method.
I have written poems on my own this way, and I once used this method with a group of fifth and sixth graders, who wrote the 28-line poem below in about 20 minutes, as part of a play they were writing. I also used this method to write a response song to a country song I heard that I thought would be fun to have an answer to, using different words to the same tune. I wrote it using this method because I could not keep the tune in mind as I wrote the words, and because I cannot hear a beat in music very well, though I can hear one in poetry. So what I did was to take the original song, and figure out its rhyming and metrical pattern, then write the response to it using the same rhythm and meter. The woman who sang the original (on a demo tape) said the response worked perfectly. I was pleased with myself, though I doubt anyone will ever hear either song.
1) Write in prose form any ideas or elements you would like your poem to be about or to say. Use single words, phrases, or short sentences, in any order you think of them. If necessary, even use long sentences, but long sentences are generally not preferable for beginners.
2) Arrange the different elements or ideas in an order that makes (the most) sense to tell them.
3) Add other elements or ideas, if necessary, to make the story or point complete.
4) Write down some words or short phrases that are relevant to each item.
5) Although poems do not need to rhyme, rhyming is quite common, is often fun to do, and sometimes adds to the quality of the poem, if it is done well. So see whether any of the words or phrases you have come up with so far rhyme.
6) If few or none rhyme, think up synonyms that might.
7) Also think up antonyms that might rhyme with any of them, because you can always use a "negative sentence" with an antonym to express the same, or a similar, idea. E.g., if you are looking to express a relationship between the quality of parenting and the education of the child, you could write either something like:
8) Try to get pairs of rhyming sentences or phrases that incorporate as many elements from above as you can.
You do not have to rhyme the elements themselves; you just need to get the elements in phrases or sentences that rhyme. For example, in the "My Sister" poem, the line
And all because of that little creep
It does not matter whether these initial rhymes incorporate consecutive pairs of ideas or elements in the order you have arranged them, though it may be helpful, if possible, to have incorporated rhymes between pairs that are somewhat close together in the order in which they tell the story or make sense.
9) Write out these rhyming pairs in an order that seems appropriate from a sense-making point of view, as in 2 above, putting as close as possible to each other those pairs which also rhyme, but they do not need to be right next to each other.
10) Although the easiest rhyme scheme to use normally is aa, bb, cc, dd, ee...., which will require your eventually getting rhyming pairs which will be adjacent to each other, there are other possible rhyme schemes, many of which often sound more sophisticated and more complex or more satisfying, such as abab, cdcd, efef.... or abba, cddc, effe, .... There are even some quite intricate rhyme schemes that are pretty amazing.
11) Look to see whether there is a rhyme scheme pattern suggested by what you have so far. If so, you will want to incorporate and perfect it. If not, then you will have to choose a rhyme scheme to work with.
All the above are less interesting to me than the rest, which I find the more interesting and fun part of doing this because it is more creative and more challenging, but with enough of a framework from all the above that you have some sense of where you are going and what you need to get there. In a sense, now all you need to do is to think up things that fill in the gaps left over from the above, but at least you have something to work with to guide you and to challenge you.
12) Arrange what you have and, piece by piece, try to fill in the gaps with lines that rhyme in the correct pattern, if necessary thinking up synonyms or antonyms, or changing the grammar or word order in a line to get a different word at the end, or whatever else you can think of to have the ideas in a sensible order and the end-rhyme of each line rhyming in the right pattern.
If you get stuck in some part, go on to others. Your mind will work on the stuck parts unconsciously and will often give you good lines for one part while you are looking at another, or while you are doing something else altogether, like talking with a friend or playing a sport or taking a shower.
It may be necessary to write an extraneous line or two in order to make an important point have a line that rhymes with some other line. In the "My Sister" poem below, in order to use the word "fault" -- which seemed an important word for this poem -- we had to come up with a word we could rhyme with a line in which it occurred, one that we could work into a context that made contextual sense. So we came up with:
13) As the poem takes greater shape, if necessary re-arrange parts of it to make it flow better from the point of view of logic, story-telling sense, timing, or rhyming.
14) If you have not already been taking it into account, now is a good time to think about meter -- the number of syllables per line and the "beat", "rhythmn", or pattern of accents they have. Like rhyming, a set metrical pattern is not necessary, but it often adds to the quality of a poem, again, if you do it well. So try to get a consistent metrical pattern where all the lines, or only certain ones, have the same metrical length or at least the same rhythm. You do not need to use any sort of standard rhythm or meter, though those are standard because they tend to be easier or more natural for most speakers in a language. You may have some other rhythmic pattern that is more natural for you in general, or that seems more appropriate for, or seems to flow out of, the particular poem you are working on.
15) Revise and perfect, by looking at each draft you finish, seeing whether you can improve the ideas, the flow of the words, the metrical pattern, whether you can add internal rhyme with a well-chosen synonym or re-arrangement of word order, or in some other way, whether you need to say more, or less, whether you need to be more explicit, or perhaps more cryptic and enigmatic, etc., etc., etc.
16) If you are really industrious or curious, write a different version of the poem (or look at beginning to do this) with a different rhyme scheme to see how that makes it different in other ways as well, seeing whether and how the rhyming pattern affects other aspects of the poem.
17) When you think you have written it about as well as you either can or care to at the moment, you are done.
A rhyme scheme is generally the pattern of rhyme
that a poem has with regard to how the ends of the different lines rhyme,
if they do at all. It is normally designated in English by something
that looks like the following:
Limericks have the aabba rhyme scheme: five lines with the first, second, and last rhyming with each other, and the third and fourth rhyming with each other.
There are limitless kinds of patterns. Standard ones occur because
they are common, and sometimes perhaps easiest to write or perhaps most
pleasant generally to read or hear. But there is no moral or aesthetic
law that poetry has to have a standard or common rhyme scheme. (Return
The end-rhyme pattern in Shakespeare's sonnets (below is the 18th sonnet) is abab cdcd efef gg -- that is, the first and third lines in each stanza rhyme with each other, as do the second and forth, with the last two lines of the poem rhyming with each other, though in this poem none of the pairs of rhymes rhyme with any other pair:
From Tennyson's "In Memoriam A.H.H."
Poems do not need to rhyme. The following is
from Tennyson's "Ulysses"
In Edgar Alan Poe's "The Raven" many of the pairs
of lines have internal rhyming between a middle word and the end word,
with those words then rhyming with the middle word of the next line as
well (emphasized in bold below, by me, not in the actual poem that way):