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Ten Top Tips For Writing the Perfect Competition Poem

September 9th, 2013

Our poetry competition is now open! So, use these ten top tips to make your entry a real contender.


1. Make the theme of your poem original. Poetry judges will not take kindly to you using the same old tired themes. Although they can be great subjects for poems, favourite pets, the beauty of nature, unrequited/lost love and the beauty of nature become tiresome when they feature over and over again! So, take the time to think of something different and, if you can’t, at least make yours an original approach.

2. If you want to use a rhyming scheme (abab or aabb), rather than free verse, make sure that the words you use do rhyme. For example, the words ‘hoax’ and ‘pokes’ rhyme but if you used ‘hoax’ and ‘poke’ the rhyme is lost.

3. Don’t change the natural word order just to get a rhyme – it’ll sound odd. Only use one word to rhyme with another if it fits in with the natural flow of the language.

4. If you are writing a poem in a particular form, such as a limerick or sonnet, make sure you use the correct rhyming scheme and metre. This simply means you should stick to the correct number of ‘beats’ in each line. For example, limericks have five lines and follow the rhyming scheme: aabba

Lines 1, 2 and 5 have 3 beats each, but lines 3 and 4 have only two beats. If you’re unsure what this means, tap out the metre with your hand while reading the limerick below:

A lady who hoped to find fame

Made poetry writing her aim.

She wrote day after day

Till they took her away –

But nobody’s heard of her name.

5. Try to use all the tools available including a wide vocabulary, metaphors, similies and alliteration. But keep originality in mind too – clichés will not be tolerated, so avoid expressions such as ‘black as night’, ‘green with envy’, ‘as fresh as a daisy’, ‘a heart of stone’ like the plague! (See what I did there?)

6. Punctuation is important! Occasionally free verse poems can get away with using no punctuation, but usually of both rhyming and free verse need punctuation. Remember punctuation helps your reader understand the meaning of the poem and shows when pauses are necessary.

7. Give your poem a title – you wouldn’t write a story and not give it a title so do the same for your poem. It helps the reader know what it’s about and focuses their attention.

8. Avoid using pompous ‘poetic’ language or archaic words. ‘Thee’, ‘o’er’ and ‘doest’ will not go down well, and please stay clear of phrases such as ‘host of golden daffodils’!

9. Free verse is not prose – some people assume that they can just chop up a piece of prose into short chunks and call it free verse. Wrong! Even though free verse doesn’t have to rhyme, it must still have rhythm and metre.

10. When you’re done, put your work to one side for at least a week. Then, go back to it and re-read it with fresh eyes and read it out loud. This will help you see where the rhyme works and where it doesn’t, where you need to alter the punctuation and check rhythm and meter too.

Good luck and if you think you need some more help with writing great poetry, why not have a look at our poetry writing course?




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