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Poem Writing Tips

poetry tips from Susan Wooldridge

Poetry Writing Tips from Susan Wooldridge

Writing poetry can be an intimidating art form for many writers.  However, it doesn't have to be difficult to get those poems flowing.  To prove this, Stage of Life asked for some simple poetry writing tips from Susan Wooldridge, author of poemcrazy: freeing your life with words.  Susan sent us her favorite tips to writing poetry - you'll find those below. 

Take a look, and hopefully you'll be inspired to write a poem from a new and fresh perspective.  Don't forget to share your poems about life with us here on Stage of Life when you're finished.

1.  Write to discover and explore, not to “tell.” Let your poems examine, Who am I?  Where do I come from?   Or simply, what do I see out the window?  Use colors and sounds.

Create a field of safety around yourself, so you’re writing freely, openly and honestly--not to please or impress others.  Sometimes it’s fun to write in a sound-bubble of music, I choose instrumentals with no words.  Visit a sheltered wild place.  To finish my book Foolsgold I set up office on the edge of Chico creek.  To write freely I had to forget the inhibiting world of humans! Forget publishing (for now.)  Forget awards and comparisons.  “Winning” and “losing’ can throw us off kilter in our work.

Be a journal-ist.  Begin a journal and carry it with you.  Jot notes on:  who, what, where, when.   Forget whether you’re writing a poem or prose, fiction or non-fiction  All good writing helps us SEE.

Gather the right tools, especially the right notebooks.  Find the size best for you, with paper you like to make marks on.  Get a pen that inspires you. Collect color pens. I love fountain pens and fineliners. Transfer your words to a laptop later. Create a playing field.  Be an otter.  Carry Scotch Magic tape and scissors.  Make your journal into a collage.  Do this for fun.

Paint a picture with language.  Find a painting or photo and put it into words. Create images and metaphors, they carry feeling.  Metaphors compare one thing to another. “I feel like the pale cloud drifting off the edge of the photo.”

Play with language.  Learn words from other languages. Find words from the native culture in your area. Maidu for water is momoli.  Mugwort is munmunum. Silly is sukulilli. Notice the sounds of words.  Gather them.  Go for nouns and verbs or words that are both, “nerbs,”  I sometimes call them.  Trigger. Spin. Wolf. Flow.

We’re here to communicate.  What do you want to convey? Jot down what you want to convey in your notebook.  Then forget about it and it will rise up in your writing. 

Persistence.  Don’t quit. The water buffalo crosses the muddy river if he keeps only the slightest motion forward.  If he stops completely, his hooves get stuck in the mud.  And also, DO quit many things that take you away from what you most love to do.

GATHER. Ducks flock. Create a small writing group.  The Sleepy Orange Trust group.  The asteroid cats.   The Live Poets Society.  Meet in a café. Encourage each other.  Don’t be too critical.  Tell each other what you like most in each other’s work.  Point out strong images (word pictures.) Give each other prompts.  But also…

BE ALONE.   You’ll see better. Write in bed, in the bath, on the road, walk and wander alone and write. Always have your notebook with you.

Listen and take notes.  Words will be given to you.  Jot down conversations you hear.  Notice signs and words around you.  Bayliss Blue Gum Road.  Caterpillars for Sale. Write at night, while driving, even if you’re in bed, at dawn, or in the bath, be ready to catch a poem or a sentence when it comes.

Read poems.  Be inspired by Emily Dickinson, ee cummings, James Joyce, Allen Ginsberg,  Francisco Alarcon, Jane Hirshfield.  Go to the library and take out Finnegan’s Wake by James Joyce and see how he played with language.  This will help free you.  Sit on the floor of the library or a used bookstore and gather snippets from ten books.

We’re here to be happy.  To play.  To extend love.  Translator Coleman Barks called the Persian poet Rumi “a heartmaster.”  Read Rumi. We are not our bodies. Talk to your spirit, your inner guide. Listen to your soul.  Ask your most holy, higher self, what it wants you to write.  Take down your soul’s dictation.

Treasure yourself.   Poet Robert Bly wrote, “You came into this world as a radiant package of cosmic wonders, as an unspeakably sublime bolt of primordial resonance, as a barely coalesced jumble of blinding beauty—and all your parents wanted was a good little girl or a good little boy.”

Author Susan Wooldridge

About Susan Wooldridge...

Susan presents writing and creativity workshops around the U.S. She’s in her seventh year of a series to foster creative expression among people of all ages and backgrounds in rural California libraries sponsored by Poets and Writers organization and the California Center for the Book.

To learn more about Susan, check out her website

Writing Contest for Students

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Teen Writing ContestWe encourage you to share our monthly teen essay contest with your class. 

Our monthly essay contest deals with real world teen issues.  This is a great opportunity for you to encourage your students to write more outside of the classroom.  Student essays submitted to have received press placement on, Mint Education,,, and other major media outlets. is considered one of the few, organic, non-corporate environments in which teens are sharing their real voice about real topics that effect them on a daily basis.

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