Stevieslaw: Poetry Composition 101


My complete “how to” for writing poetry.


Poetry Composition 101


Start with a first line

as glorious as

something out of

Dickens. In fact,

perhaps it is. Who

would be the wiser?

Has anyone

the leisure to leaf

through “Hard Times,”



The body of the poem should be arcane,

whatever that might mean.

I find that lots of foreign phrases,

some Canto this and Canto that

to tell them Ezra Pound is near,

and lots of similes and metaphors—

the clouds, the sun, the sea

are nice and have such

fine collective meaning.

Use rhyme a time

or two,

so scholars swear

your verses sing.

Sonnets, Quaterns

Rondels and the like

are best left to those

both highly skilled

and long-departed.


You’ll need a twist

by stanza three,

to keep your reader’s

head above the paper.

Perhaps a bit of plot,

or better yet

some sexual innuendo

or peccadillo, for that matter,

will get Joe Blow to plow

through your awful mess

even if you’ve

penned it in pig Latin.


Near the end,

think family.

A little dementia

is fine– I find the

early onset best.

Through your thesaurus

find fresh phrases for

twisted, tortuous

and the like,

even if your mom and dad,

like mine, could never do

enough for you—and seem

to be still helping from the grave.

Remember, “near tears but no tears,”

as poems that make you sob

are merely doggerel

and end up in

the Sunday supplement

surrounded by

limericks and

drawings of a daisy,

by Chris—age six.


The ending must tie

the first line to the body

through the title.

Or the body through

the title to the ending.

Got it?

How could you?

Be cleverish here,

so that your reader,

in overcoming

his bewilderment,

can feel quite clever too.

Remember to leave

the learned room

to grasp for meaning—

hint: put common “words”

in quotes to feed

the meaning’s frenzy.


Think happy thoughts

and write glumly.

And now,

let us begin.

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12 Responses to Stevieslaw: Poetry Composition 101

  1. wpbzkzk says:

    Who can resist trying with such superb instructions? You will make poets from all of us ….. and then where will that leave you? ….. to settle for prose …. and that would take you to Dickens’ line two: “It was the worst of times. “ But then, you are back to the blog……… Z >


  2. stevieslaw says:

    Yes. Already happening. My students are all free verdins, while I am lumbering in prose. But suppose, I can find a way to get paid by the word.

    My poem”Flotilla” is a finalist in the Goodreads poetry contest. I could use your vote(if you like the poem). Join Goodreads, join the poetry group, read the finalists, and vote for your favorite. Easy as stealing from Dickens.


  3. stevieslaw says:

    That’s versing not verdins. Spell check is humorless


  4. ivors20 says:

    I enjoyed the read Steve, but far to many instructions for this simple plumber/poet, although dad tell me “Ivor ! all else fails, try reading the instructions”


  5. stevieslaw says:

    It was originally 4003 pages and a comma. i suspected that might be to much, so I used every 403rd line and left out the comma.

    It’s immensely fun to read to an audience.


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