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How to Write a Good Poem in 1 Hour

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Ravi Shankar Rajan is a software program director who writes on varied subjects from history, archaeology to leadership and poetry.

How to Write a Good Poem in 1 Hour

How to Write a Good Poem in 1 Hour

Writing Quickly Doesn’t Mean Compromising on Writing Well

If I were to ask you to name the key ingredients of a good poem, you would mention something like this.

  • Form - The structure of your poem.
  • Perspective - the message you want to convey to the reader.
  • Tone - The emotions you are trying to convey? angry,sad,reflective etc.
  • Grammar - Do the word structures follow the right grammar and punctuation ?
  • Images - The vivid imagery/pictures conveyed by your poem inside the reader's mind.
  • Rhythm and meter - Whether you write rhyming or non-rhyming, the words need to follow a rhythm and meter that conveys the expected message to the reader.
  • Words - Are you using the right words or "pretentious" words to impress the reader. Remember a good poem aims to express and not impress the reader

and so on....The ingredients of a good poem can be endless. However, that brings us to one pertinent question.

What about speed? Can we write a good poem in say,1 hour?

I realize, a "1-hour poem" would be considered writing blasphemy by many. After all, good writing is powered by content and content requires time and patience to create. But then writing quickly doesn't mean compromising in writing well.

A fast, well-written poem is all about careful planning, remembering about time, and sticking to the point. Once you are able to achieve all three, you’ll be able to write more quickly without a loss of quality.

And here is a simple method for writing a good poem within 1 hour. While this method might not work for all types of poems, the least it can do is to stimulate your creative cells in producing your best content in the least amount of time.

So here it goes.

Plan Your Time

This is an important activity when you ration your time and work out the different phases accordingly. For example, if you have 1 hour, you can do the following.

  • Research – 20 minutes
  • Writing the content – 30 minutes
  • Revision – 10 minutes

Remember, you should spend at least one-third of your time on research and at least 50% on shaping the poem. Don’t forget to include revision in your plan.

One word of caution; we are ignoring the idea generation time here. When you have limited time, you should know precisely what you are going to write about. If you have trouble starting, brainstorm first, choose what fits best and then enter into this 1-hour poetry writing challenge.

Research to the Point – 20 Minutes

Research to the Point – 20 Minutes

Research to the Point – 20 Minutes

If you need research, do it by just looking for the most specific information.

You need to be ruthlessly efficient in searching only for the key concepts that you are going to use in your poem. But beware!! If you are not careful, research is one of the best ways to fall into the trap of procrastination. Just searching for that “one more source” could set you back by hours with diminishing returns.

For example, the other day I was experimenting with various poetic forms and I came across this interesting form called the “Viator”. It was created by Robin Skelton, the author of the bestseller The shapes of our singing. Viator is the Latin name for traveller.

It consists of a poem made up of stanzas in which the first line of the first stanza travels through the poem moving to the second line in the second stanza and so on until the poem ends with the line with which it began.

The Viator stimulated my poetic cells and I decided to write a poem using this poem.

Don’t worry about not having enough information. Your goal is to utilize your 20 minutes to get the initial information to get started. You can always refine later in subsequent iterations. The key is to be brief and concise. Get into the library or online, find your sources, note key concepts, and then get to writing.

Writing the content – 30 minutes

Writing the content – 30 minutes

Writing the content – 30 minutes

This is where you start and end the poem. Divide the content into two parts.

  • Outlining the Key Sentences – 10 Minutes
  • Connect the Key Sentences – 20 Minutes

Outlining the Key Sentences – 10 Minutes.

Here is where you write down the key sentences in each stanza. Each key sentence should highlight the main point, supporting evidence and then transition smoothly into the next key sentence. Remember the key sentences should be connectable with each other. They create your poetic framework within which the supporting sentences fill later.

For example, continuing my Viator example, I selected the topic of a dying soldier who is remembering his happy past. I needed a powerful sentence to connect the dots and create a story, so I selected the following stanza as my outline.

As he lay in the twilight between life and death,

Since this is a viator, this sentence will travel throughout the poem in all the stanzas till the very end.

Connect the Key Sentences – 20 Minutes

Here, you’ll write your supportive sentences and provide additional evidence to your key sentences. This is the main chunk of the writing where you will expand on each of the key sentences and provide further details as required. This time, you need to further tighten the draft by making sure that your sentences are strong, precise, and don’t require further editing.

For example – continuing my Viator on the soldier, I delved into the nostalgia of the dying soldier as the key sentence traveled throughout the poem.


As he lay in the twilight between life and death,

evanescent images torment his delirious mind.

He shuts his eyes not wanting to see any more

while hiding behind the pain within his gaping wounds.


A vagrant landmine exploded somewhere.

As he lay in the twilight between life and death,

he sees an obscure village nested within snowy hills,

waiting anxiously for the return of her brave son.


He sees fireworks rupturing the icy skies, mountains of sweetmeats everywhere,

and a towering pride shining through the feeble eyes of his father

as he lay in the twilight between life and death

fighting desperately to the reverse the roulette of fate.


As the devils of death tightened their grip,

the vultures assembled before his wrecked self.

An inky blackness overwhelms the soldier

As he lay in the twilight between life and death.

Voila !! With this, you have finished the first draft of your poem.

This step is important so make sure you have some time devoted to making revisions including proofreading.

This step is important so make sure you have some time devoted to making revisions including proofreading.

Don’t Forget About Revision – 10 Minutes

This step is important so make sure you have some time devoted to making revisions including proofreading.

During the revision, pay attention to the general story structure, key statements, and the connecting sentences in each paragraph. Check if everything in your work of art is logically flowing in a uniformly connected flow. Afterward, see that you have no errors or typos.

Build your writing muscle; one ligament at a time. Not a wasted word. Not a wasted effort.

Build your writing muscle; one ligament at a time. Not a wasted word. Not a wasted effort.

Writing Is Still a Lot of Work

At the end of the day, writing of any kind is still a lot of work. But if you follow a well-defined process, it need not be as strenuous as running a marathon.

So just write for just 1 hour and then go about your day. Then on the following day, push yourself a little harder. Build your writing muscle; one ligament at a time. Not a wasted word. Not a wasted effort. Time is the essence. This will help you to be a productive and creative writer.

As Elmore Leonard has rightly said.

“If it sounds like writing, I rewrite it.”

This content reflects the personal opinions of the author. It is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and should not be substituted for impartial fact or advice in legal, political, or personal matters.

© 2021 Ravi Rajan

Comments

Ravi Rajan (author) from Mumbai on September 13, 2021:

Thanks Lora

Lora Hollings on September 13, 2021:

This is a great resource for both experienced writers and beginning writers. I think that you can actually write a good poem in an hour as long as you plan ahead and follow the steps in your article. I also liked your poem too! This is an interesting form of poetry which I would also like to try.

Ravi Rajan (author) from Mumbai on September 13, 2021:

Thanks Vidya

Ravi Rajan (author) from Mumbai on September 13, 2021:

Thanks Rozlin

Ravi Rajan (author) from Mumbai on September 13, 2021:

Thanks Centfie

Ravi Rajan (author) from Mumbai on September 13, 2021:

Thanks Srusthi

VIDYA D SAGAR on September 13, 2021:

An interesting article with great suggestions and a wonderful poem, Ravi. I liked learning about this new poetic form. I want to try it sometime. Thanks for sharing.

Rozlin from UAE on September 13, 2021:

Informative and helpful article, well explain. Thank you for sharing, Ravi.

Centfie from Kenya on September 13, 2021:

I agree with @srushtigamit. I find this article encouraging and informative with great ideas that I can use and "be able to write more quickly without a loss of quality."

Srushti Gamit on September 13, 2021:

Thank you Ravi for such an informative article. All the suggestions you’ve mentioned is quite helpful and will work for many people.

Ravi Rajan (author) from Mumbai on September 13, 2021:

Thanks Umesh

Umesh Chandra Bhatt from Kharghar, Navi Mumbai, India on September 13, 2021:

Excellent. Well explained. Thanks.

Ravi Rajan (author) from Mumbai on September 13, 2021:

Thanks, Brenda. As I mentioned ultimately words and content are the king. However, it really stimulates the poetic cells if we take 1-hour challenges like this to prevent writer's block and lack of ideas.It works well in my case.

BRENDA ARLEDGE from Washington Court House on September 13, 2021:

Ravi

I must say if you wrote that poetry on the soldier this way..it is quite good for you.

The poem is great.

But simply doing research & writing words down in an hour seems to lack feeling.

Poetry sparks a feeling in us & as a writer it is up to us to pass this feeling along to the reader.

No amount of research can make that part shine.

Or at least not for me.

Sure, I write a few pieces that get the message across but they are not my best work.

The ones I pour my heart & soul into that touch others in a unique way are the one's worthy.

Interesting steps though to get someone started on his journey.

Ravi Rajan (author) from Mumbai on September 13, 2021:

Thanks, Greg for your kind comments.

greg cain from Moscow, Idaho, USA on September 13, 2021:

I agree with John in that the Viator is a type of poem I’d like to try. It’s an interesting concept. I also agree with Bill in that ‘good’ is relative to many, many things, not least of which is the reader, the beholder. Finally, I like the idea of writing for an hour and the way in which you broke it down. For me, though, a few lines in a poem might take days to weeks until I get just the word or words I want. Walks with my dog, rides on my bike...those are the times to contemplate, ruminate, cogitate.

Very instructive article, Ravi, and thanks for all the wonderful food for thought. Happy Monday to you.

Ravi Rajan (author) from Mumbai on September 13, 2021:

Thanks, Bill for your comments. Poetry is very subjective and depends on the reader.

Bill Holland from Olympia, WA on September 13, 2021:

I think this depends on the definition of "good poem," which is in the eye of the beholder me thinks. But your suggestions are certainly good, and I can see others using your suggestions without the time limit.

Ravi Rajan (author) from Mumbai on September 13, 2021:

Thanks, Misbah for your kind comments.

Misbah Sheikh from The World of Poets on September 13, 2021:

Ravi, this is a very well written and educational article for those who want to write poetry. You have given us some very nice suggestions. Poetry, in my opinion, is something that flows from the heart and soul. It's a river with a lot of waves. And the melody of poetry vibrates the soul. Thank you for sharing this very interesting article. Stay happy and healthy!

Blessings always!!

Ravi Rajan (author) from Mumbai on September 13, 2021:

Thanks, John. The Viator is really interesting.

John Hansen from Gondwana Land on September 13, 2021:

What a great article, Ravi. You certainly made me want to try writing a viator poem.

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