Feeling Poetically Stale? Try These Ways to Provoke Your Imagination Into New Ideas

Different forms and different approaches can jump-start all kinds of poems

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Photo by Blake Wheeler on Unsplash

When you have been writing poetry for a while, you can start feeling like your poetry is becoming stale. You’re writing the same old kind of poem (perhaps free verse of a certain length), or writing about the same old subjects. It can be hard to break free, but it’s worth pushing yourself to do so.

One way is to simply read more widely. Rather than keep going back to your old favorites, try new poets you might never have heard of. Do some googling of who has won awards recently or had books published, specifically targeting new names. I read a lot of American poets, so I started searching out UK poets instead.

When you google them, you will often find samples of their work online, due to the number of journals and magazines that now publish digitally. You can also look for new anthologies of poems and make sure you read ones that you might normally skip over. Our brains do tend to go for the familiar first, which is not good for stimulating our imagination.

When you find a new poem that intrigues you, write a poem in response. If it’s in a new style or form you aren’t familiar with, have a go at writing your own version. E.g. it could be an upside down sonnet, or a prose poem or a haibun.

Another “sparker” for a poem or three can come from looking at the contents list in an anthology and choosing several titles that really appeal to you or strike a chord (titles are not copyrighted). Use one as your title or first line and write a whole new poem.

There are new forms out there as well, and it’s really worth trying them out. It’s a change of pace, a new way of approaching a poem, and it pushes you to experiment. One of these is a Golden Shovel poem, first developed by poet Terrance Hayes in 2010. He was inspired by Gwendolyn Brooks’ poem, “We Real Cool”.

If you look at Hayes’s poem, “The Golden Shovel”, you will see that he has taken each word in her poem and used it as the last word in each line in a poem of his own.

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Sherryl Clark - writer, editor, poet.

Writer, editor, book lover — I've published many children's books and three crime novels for adults so far. I edit other people's fiction and poetry.