“A poet’s work:
to name the unnameable,
to point at frauds,
to take sides,
shape the world,
and stop it from going to sleep…”
- Salman Rushdie
How do you create poetry?
That’s a question I’ve gotten asked numerous times since I started to write. There isn’t really a “for sure” set in stone answer. It truly depends on what you’re going through in life, your thoughts at the time and the subject matter. I could go on and on, but I think you get the picture. The answer can be anything you want it to be.
My name is Andrew Brandon Carroll and I’m a poet and short fiction writer. I am also the creator of We Are Indie Wednesdays, my weekly concept that highlights the best, independent writers in the world. I am in the process of producing my full length, debut project as well. In this article, I'm going to talk about the many avenues of poetry and how a writer can approach writing a poem, even if you don’t have vast experience. I believe that, deep down, all writers are poets in a way. With this article, my goal for you guys is to tap into that unmarked territory.
The topics that I will cover are the following:
How long does a poem need to be?
How to start and finish a poem?
When to write poetry?
How poetry can change your mood?
The rhyme scheme is arguably the most well known feature within a poem. Everyone knows a good rhyme when they see one. They are very catchy and eye opening, especially when the scheme actually makes sense. When writing one, don't force it! The reader will know right off the bat if you are or not. Be creative in the words you use for the scheme. I’ll use one of my poems as an example (I will use my work for any and all examples because it’s easier, lol):
Exploring the sound of music
Late at night
Is the equivalent of drowning
In a sea of lyrics and beats
Each genre from the playlist
Is a mood shifting, unpredictable treat…
See? The words “beats” and “treat” are a good pairing. The scheme doesn’t have to be perfect, per se (ex: cat and hat) it just has to go along with what you are writing about. What I like to do sometimes is I’ll write a small list of random words, then I would start to put some of them together to see which ones mesh well. Then just like magic, you got something going that you can use.
Bottom line, dont overthink the rhyme scheme. Use it to guide you, like a light beam.
How or where do I find the inspiration to write? Where should I start? Anyone can find inspiration anywhere and anytime. Family. Friends. Relationships. Mainstream (because there is ALWAYS something going on in the world, good or bad). Sex. Music. Food. The Past. The Future. No limit in terms of what you can find to write about. However, when it comes down to writing something from the past (where the majority of my writing comes from), challenge yourself to really think about that time period to get the creative juices flowing:
Your favorite food joint.
The clothes you were wearing.
The person you were dating.
Where you were living at.
The music/movies that were popular at that time period.
How you looked (Did you have short hair? Long? More muscle? etc)
Bottom line, writing about the past can either be a pleasant experience, or a painful one. But it can bring out the best wordplay, I believe, a writer can create for their piece.
How long does a poem need to be?
I’m not going to spend too much on this topic because each poem and writer varies. Some poems have shorter stances, others are about 1-2 pages long (the longest poem, page wise, I’ve ever read was about 4 pages! And no I didn't write it). I’ve written some poems that were about a few pages long. It all goes back to the subject matter. Here’s a tip: If you have a lengthy piece, and you want more out of it, break it down to multiple poems. That way, instead of having one large poem, you have about 3-6 poems. Now you have a small collection of work! Think of it like this: you’re binge watching a TV show, instead of watching a 4 hour movie.
How to start and finish a poem?
I have three places to put my work: my phone, my notebook and my laptop. Literally, in that order, is how I start to write any new material. When the brain starts to spin like a tornado with a concept, I immediately start to write on my phone. If you don't have a notepad-type of app downloaded, I suggest you do so. It makes any type of writing easier to do on your smartphone (or a flip-phone, which I still have…very much kidding on that). That’s the first step. Then, I would walk away from the poem for a few hours, maybe a day or two sometimes. After that timeframe, I would return to it, just to see if what I wrote is something I want to make official. Also, correcting any errors/misspellings. Next step would be to transfer the work to my laptop and my notebook! I still handwrite all my poems because the art of pure handwriting still excites me as a writer.
That, in a nutshell, is my entire process to write a poem from the beginning to the end.
When to write a poem?
It varies! There’s no write or wrong answer (had to add a bad writing pun in this article). You can be at work, at home, a park, near the ocean, in the forest/woods, or even in your bedroom. The recent piece that is on my Instagram page, The Window, all took place within my own bedroom:
A cool breeze
Coming through the window
Brushing up on my bare skin
Everything is so still at this
Time of the night
Enjoying the calmness
This is when I can hear
My loudest thoughts…
I was at the edge of my bed, wide awake because I was tossing and turning all night. I had my window open and the weather that evening was amazing, and relaxing. That is what led me to write. Again, your surroundings can determine what type of material you’ll end up writing. It can be very inspirational!
How can poetry change your mood?
The final topic. And for this one, I’m going to dive a bit deeper on the personal side. I should have titled this “How poetry saved my life” because that’s exactly what it did. I’ve told this story before during past interviews, but it’s worth telling again because there’s a lot of readers out there who don’t know. When I started to write in 2015, I was at my lowest in life. I felt like I had no way out of the situations I was going through at that time. I only had a few dollars to my name, so I decided to randomly walk to a local dollar tree. I picked up a basic notebook. My original intention was to use the notebook as a diary of some sorts, to vent about everything and anything at that time. My first ever poem, it was pretty much a long rant. No structure, no style/substance. Just a bunch of words put together in a very sloppy and uncreative way.
Now, you’re probably asking yourself: What does this story have anything to do with the topic at hand? After I wrote that “poem”, I felt a WHOLE lot better. My surroundings didn’t improve overnight, but I felt some weight come off my shoulders. Then after, I just wrote what I can mentally get my hands on, and the rest is history. Poetry can most certainly change your mood.
So, my advice towards how to write poetry. It’s simple:
Do NOT limit yourself.
Take pride in what you write about.
And last, but certainly not least: BREATHE. No one is expecting you to be Maya Angelou or Edgar Allan Poe, and that’s okay! I’m still learning myself and will always be a student of the game.
You guys are all amazing creators and this might be a daunting task to start writing poetry, but I believe all of you great artists have it in you. I truly hope you guys get something from this article. If anybody has any questions or comments, feel free to reach out to me with a direct message through my Instagram page.
Meet Drew Carroll
Drew Carroll is a Chicago based poet and short fiction writer. He has been a member of The Writer Community since the very beginning and is also the creator of We Are Indie Wednesdays. Drew has been writing since since: 2015 and he is currently preparing his debut work of short fiction. Drew is also a former power lifter & grappling competitor.