How Do You Write Poetry? by A K Whitehead
The very short answer is: don't write at all unless you have to. The short answer is: in numerous different ways. A somewhat longer answer is: find way that best suits you - that comes only from experience.
But, one might reasonably ask, what different methods are there which can be tried in order to get started? Well...
Don't Wait For Inspiration But don't take that as an absolute which suggests that one should not be inspired at all. Of course, we all want inspiration. Yet if we wait to be inspired for whole poem, most of us will have taken very short answer given above and we shall write very little and very infrequently.
You probably know old adage about any form of art being ten percent inspiration and ninety percent perspiration. It's mostly like that with poetry. The very short answer above is saying: write only when you feel moved to write and have something urgent to communicate. But don't expect inspiration to carry you through whole poem. On some occasions it will but, at least in my experience, that will not happen all that often.
Inspiration can come in various ways. At one end it can come as a complete poem; at other, it comes simply as an idea, a concept or a way of looking at something. Then poem has to be built around that in some way.
How To Build A Poem This is getting to nitty gritty of question. The answer to How do I build or write a poem depends to some extent on what you are starting with. Suppose you have just had an idea, a concept, a way of looking at something. One might, for example, have a sudden flash of inspiration that a person's life could be summarised by array of cups they have in kitchen. Okay, how might one approach development of that?
First is to have some idea of probable length of poem. The cups/life idea might be interesting but it's not going to stretch to length of The Rhyme of Ancient Mariner. It's going to be quite a short poem. In fact, with an idea of this kind short becomes very important. Trying to stretch it out will probably result in loosing any potential for impact.
So one is thinking of a few lines, and probably quite short ones. Next is syllabic or rhythmic structure of lines. A great deal can be said about these aspects and so we can say very little in this short article. The way lines are constructed should be contributing to overall impact or impression made by poem. Lines may have same number of syllables, or some lines may be long and other short. Verses, like lines may be all of same or of differing lengths. These aspects may be part of a deliberate overall scheme, or they may be due to way you feel poem should evolve. Experience will usually contribute to development of these kinds of instincts.
The poem may also be one without thyme, or with rhyme at end of each line, or with rhyming lines alternating or rhyming every third line and so forth. Alternatively, lines may have internal rhyming in that two words rhyme within same line.
Consider following poem as an example.
CUPS Used to buy cups in tied sets,
batched identical or matching.
But that's a now flawed memory
and for a long time we rhymed them
into pairs, merging his and hers,
protocol of shape and colour.
Now I buy only one-by-one,
each detached and unmatchable,
self-chosen oddments on a shelf.