Monday, April 4, 2016

GUEST POST: "How to Write a Poem in Ten Easy Steps" by Skila Brown

It’s National Poetry Month! Which is very exciting if you’re a poet or a lover of poetry. And probably doesn’t interest you at all if you consider yourself to be neither.

But if you’re a reader…and certainly a writer…you should be celebrating too! Poems can amaze, invoke, inform, and impress. Bonus: they’re often short enough to devour in a single bite, so investing time into one isn’t a huge commitment.

April is the perfect time to try your hand at writing a poem. But you’re not a poet, you say? Well, nobody is anything until they actually try. So stretch yourself. Write a poem. Here’s one fast and easy way to do it.

1.    Observe. Sit and watch a squirrel on your deck or a flower in the wind or a shark swimming on youtube. (Because watching a shark swimming in the water next to you might end this activity right here.)

2. Take notes on what you’re seeing. Not AP-Chemistry-study-for-final kind of notes but more like jotting down random thoughts that pop into your head while you’re watching. Words like scurry or slinky or sitting or seaweed. Or they may not even start with an s at all.

3. If you’re drawing a blank on what to write down, here are some ideas to get you started: make a list of verbs. Every verb that pops into your head while observing your subject. What colors do you see and what do they remind you of? Write down two scary things about the scene in front of you.

4. Go away.

5. Come back later to your notes. Read over them. Circle anything you like. See the beginnings of a poem somewhere? If yes, go to step 6. If no, go back to step 1 and repeat again with something different.

6. Take the stuff you like and play with it. Sometimes you can play with it by sound. Alliteration or rhyme is a good place to start. Sometimes you can play with the shape of the phrases. Concrete poems take the shape of the thing you’re writing about.  Sometimes you can play with it by metaphor. Maybe you thought that leaf looked old and wrinkled and full of veins and that makes you think of your grandmother’s hands and that time she taught you to make apple fritters. Go with that.

7. Just write. Free write some more stuff on the page in front of you and see where it leads you.

8. Trim it into a poem. Poems pack a punch. Every word counts. Do you need all those words you have? Can you trim some to make the lines more potent? Can you find even stronger or better words for what you’re saying?

9. Think about line breaks. The first word and the last word of the line are powerful. You can also use line breaks to build suspense. 

10. Read it aloud. Do you notice any sounds you can capitalize on? Any places you can trim to make it more potent?

That’s it! And come on, that didn’t take long. Surely you can spare an hour or two this month to stretch your brain in a new and fun way.

Now—don’t forget to go read some poems! If you aren’t going to trek to the library to peruse the shelves, how about just clicking this. Or this.

See? Poetry is cool. I told you.

Happy National Poetry Month!

Skila Brown is the author of verse novels Caminar and To Stay Alive, as well as the picture book Slickety Quick: Poems About Sharks, all with Candlewick Press. She received an MFA from Vermont College of Fine Arts. She grew up in Kentucky and Tennessee and now lives in Indiana where she writes books for readers of all ages.

Fourteen shark species, from the utterly terrifying to the surprisingly docile, glide through the pages of this vibrantly illustrated, poetic picture book.

From the enormous whale shark to the legendary great white to the enigmatic goblin shark to the small cookie-cutter shark, Slickety Quick is a delightful frenzy of shark mayhem. Mysterious species such as the camouflaged wobbegong and the elusive frilled shark share the waters with better-known blue and nurse sharks, each commemorated in a poem by Skila Brown and illustrated by Bob Kolar. Sneaky shark facts ripple through each spread to further inform the brave and curious young reader intrigued by the power — and danger — of these amazing creatures.

These concrete poems about a selection of sharks will tickle the fins of many an aspiring marine biologist.

All in all, it’s a book that ought to leave many readers fascinated—and perhaps a little unsettled—by the diversity of sharks that exist beneath the waves.
—Publishers Weekly

An inviting format to spark shark discussions.
—Kirkus Reviews

Man, do I love me some poems about sharks! ***kisses fingertips to saver the sweetness***
—Middle Grade Ninja


  1. ❤️❤️😍❤️❤️ Skips Brown! Thanks for the post. She needs to get on Twitter? I can't find her

  2. I'm afraid my poetry is unspectacular and scarce. However, I do dabble in Haiku, so I guess I do write a bit of poetry, but mostly it's only for me. Call me the Selfish Poet or the Considerate One.

  3. Sometimes even experienced bloggers dont know how to cite poetry properly without breaking privacy policies.


Thanks for stopping by, Esteemed Reader! And thanks for taking the time to comment. You are awesome.