6 poetry exercises to skyrocket your writing!

Every writer needs to keep a few poetry exercises up their sleeve to help them summon a poem at will. 

The best athletes in the world practice regularly. They also warm-up and stretch before a big game. Musicians and performers frequently rehearse to keep their vocals in top shape. Writers are no exception. The overwhelming theme is that anyone looking to perform any craft at a high level needs consistent practice to develop and stay in shape.

When you are starting as a writer, it doesn’t matter how good you are. You can only get better. The process of writing itself can be quite rewarding, mainly if you are doing it for yourself. The journey is often as important as the destination. For poets who have been writing for a while, these exercises can help refresh your style or help you overcome writer’s block.

These seven poetry exercises will help you to explore your creative potential. They may appear complicated or confusing at first, but the more you practice, the more it will become easier for you to write your poetry whenever necessary.

1. 5 Minutes Of Free-writing

Free-writing is an excellent way to develop ideas when you are starting a new poem or narrative. We call it free-writing because you do not have to worry about grammar, spelling or punctuation. 

Free-writing encourages you to let your imagination take centre stage, and you are allowed to jump between topics or write what you see, about a dream you recently remembered or anything that comes to mind. The only rule is that you must keep the pen moving the entire time.

5-consecutive minutes can be intimidating at first, so you may want to break them down to 5 sessions of 60-second rounds. Put your pen down and stretch your fingers a little during your intervals and If you like, you may go over your work and highlight a line that you admire. When you are ready, restart your timer and repeat this process until you have eclipsed the full 5 minutes. 

As you get better at free-writing, increase your time to six and then eventually ten minutes without your pen ever leaving the page or revising. Go over your work. You will find an idea worth exploring further to write on a fresh piece of paper as the title of a brand new poem.

2. Read Poetry Out Loud.

Remember, poetry has been around longer than written text to preserve oral history, lineage, and law. By reading your poetry aloud, you will understand how it flows and what adjustments you need to make to give your writing rhythm. Look out for the syllables and familiarise yourself with the structure. Learn the timing of your words and anticipate when to breath and when you take a dramatic pause.

Practice reading your poem in varying degrees of volume and tempo. Please pay particular attention to every consonant and syllable in your speech and determine whether your vocal performance presents your poem in its best light. 

Many eager writers try too hard to sound like ‘a poet’ when performing their poetry and lose their identity. There is nothing wrong with emulating your favourite performer during your practice sessions to deconstruct what makes them so great. But always remember to use and improve your voice.

3. Establish Formal Constraints

Some people rely on boundaries to alleviate the anxiety that comes with a blank page. You can set up a goal like, “I will write a poem that is ten lines long”, and then concentrate your energy on using the best combination of words to bring your poem to life. Your poem does not have to be overly verbose. Sometimes the simpler, the better. Oh, and your poem doesn’t always have to rhyme.

In a previous study of biblical poetry, I highlighted how Hebrew poets used simple tools like metaphor and symbolism to craft masterful poems that have stood the test of time. Keep a list of poetic devices near you and try to implement a few you have never used before to help bring your imagery to life.

4. Poetry Prompts 

A poetry prompt is a predetermined set of instructions that writers undertake to stretch their creative muscles. There are different types of poetry prompts that you can choose to tackle daily, weekly or monthly, depending on how much time you have available.

Stylistic poetry prompt

Encourages the writer to tackle a particular subject through the use of a specific writing style.

Example Prompt 1: Write a poem with 17 syllables divided into three lines of 5,7, and 5 syllables, aka a Haiku about the last dream you can remember.

Example prompt 2: Turn to a news channel or website like CNN and write a quatern:- A 16-line poem made up of four quatrains about the news making the headlines.

Here’s a list of 52 poetry prompts you can check out after this article.

Ekphrastic poetry prompt

An ekphrastic poem is a lucid description of a scene or a work of art or photograph.

Poetry exercise 1: Write an ekphrastic poem inspired by any work of art that fuels your imagination.

Poetry exercise 2: Pick an image in your phone gallery and write a poem about how it makes you feel.

5. Write Epistolary Poetry

Another interesting method of practising poetry is to write an epistle. The epistolary poem, also called an epistle, is a poem written as a letter, addressed either to the public or private person but never sent. The epistolary form can add greater realism to a story because it mimics the workings of real life. 

Poetry exercise 1: Write an Epistle to your primary school crush

Poetry exercise 2: Write an Epistle to the current or former president of your country.

6. People-watching. 

People-watching is the act of observing people and their interactions, usually without their knowledge. I am not encouraging you to be weird, but on your next bus ride or visit to the mall, slow down and observe a random stranger living their life. Try to pick apart their little quirks to try to imagine their life story. Could you put it in writing?

Carry your notebook with you as you go about your daily tasks and write down interesting things you see. At the end of the day, go over your notes you wrote down and write a poem about it.

Closing notes

  • Remember to carry a notepad wherever you go. You never know when inspiration will strike.
  • Do not spoon-feed your reader. Keep them on their toes by using ambiguous wording that makes them stop and think.
  • Revise your old work and continuously experiment with new ideas and concepts.
  • Use different poetic devices every time you practice these poetry exercises and incorporate them into your new projects.

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Pick Me Up Poetry seeks to be an agent of change in society by fostering cross-cultural dialogue and providing much-needed representation for creators across the world. We offer our followers insightful glimpses into cultures around the globe through various mediums including our online magazine, published anthologies, live spoken-word sessions and more. Consider joining our Facebook group here.

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Press Release August 2021

Me Press Release: Poetry Should Teach & Inspire 23 August 2021 Poetry Submissions We are now considering poetry submissions from writers all around the world