Poetry Exercise

Welsh Poetry Competition

First of all I have to admit I rarely do this kind of thing myself.  I will certainly research facts and figures if I have an idea of something I want to write in my head, but it’s usually after the event.  I write the poem first and then check I’ve got my facts right later.  Writers are often told to ‘write what they know‘ so I rarely write about stuff I don’t either know pretty well, have a strong opinion on, or have a fair idea what I’m talking about.  To be honest, with a feeling or a moment (like a haiku) I’m just glad I can scribble something down before I forget.

OK, that said there are ‘exercises’ that you can do to create a poem, especially if the subject matter is already half formed in your head.

At time of writing we are in fact in quite extraordinary circumstances.  The COVID-19 pandemic is a scary thing and has resulted in the majority of the population in ‘lockdown’.  We are confined to our homes apart from one spot of exercise per day, or to go and get tested for COVID-19.  If you live in Texas perhaps you could get Covid testing in Houston, but for us in Wales of course we’ll be off to the local pharmacy. OK, if we’re indoors then we can write and if we pop out for a walk then hopefully we can experience a bit of nature, which is always good material for a poem right!  Spring is here too and the birds are singing, oblivious to the threat to their garden feeders.

Right, here’s some subjects and techniques you can use to write a kick-ass poem:

  • Explore your surroundings
  • Find inspiration in your environment or everyday activities
  • Take a walk and use your phone to tap in a few words or a notebook to write in

Look around and write down observations on what you see: a tree, a person, a street.

Write a list of twenty adjectives to describe the tree or person.  Next, write down ten smells or colours.  Then pick a dinosaur, waterfall, favourite actor, a whisky brand, a flower, a Bob Dylan track or the Latin name for a deadly bacteria and throw them in to the mix. (I just made that last bit up.)

Make a rough decision about a possible structure: rhyme, metaphor, abstract, line breaks, spacing etc.?  Will you use punctuation?  Do you want to use long sentences or short or both?  Ideally your poem will find its own form, music or rhythm and will suit the message you’re trying to get across.

Does your subject evoke personal memories?  Does it have cultural implications, or elicit a certain emotion?  Hopefully there will be a point to it, a twist, a story, a moral, an appreciation or just a rant.

Of course if you want to really freak yourself out, stay indoors, watch a scary film, e.g. ‘Contagion’ or ‘Outbreak’ might be appropriate at the moment and then jot down a list of bodily fluids and combine them with the ghosts of long forgotten historical characters or family members.  Too much?  Sorry.

Anyway, you get the picture or if you don’t take one then write a poem about that!  A bud opening, a blade of grass, a dog playing or a lamb rolling in a field.

The world is your oyster remember so be happy you’re still in it and rejoice, scream or whisper your thanks, praise or wonder at it and who knows, maybe you’ll produce something to enter into the competition, lol 🙂


‘The world is your oyster’ is a quote from Shakespeare’s ‘The Merry Wives of Windsor’

  • Falstaff: I will not lend thee a penny.
  • Pistol: Why then the world’s mine oyster, Which I with sword will open.
  • Falstaff: Not a penny.

The original implication of the phrase is that Pistol is going to use violent means (a sword) to steal his fortune (the pearl one finds in an oyster).  We inherit the phrase, absent its original violent connotation, to mean that the world is ours to enjoy.


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