A Poet's Basic Toolbox

In last week's post, I mentioned I would be using the remaining Thursdays in November to write about the things I have found useful for building, revising, and polishing my own poetry. Go here to read the post and join the monthly link-up. And please share it with your friends.

In order to write poetry, the aspiring poet needs a toolbox of sorts. There are many tools that poets can use to hone their craft. Some are very simple and some are complex. Here are three of the most basic I rely upon.


1. Imagination/Memory:

Poetry is almost more picture and feeling than word. It’s all about imagery, about letting the soul out to play, about stepping outside the boxes we’ve made for ourselves in order to highlight the very spirit of our stories. Inside your imagination, you have an empty canvas and all the colors are available to you; all the space and sound waves are yours. You can travel to places beyond your locale through memory of your experiences.

Basic Assignment- Create a picture in your mind based on a past experience. Describe it all; colors, sounds, shapes, etc. Write it in a journal or computer file. Repeat this exercise once or twice a week and you'll have some great new material for writing poetry.


2. The local library:

The internet may offer scope, but it can’t provide that feeling of holding a book in your hands, having words nearly jump off the slightly dusty page, or feeling the plastic slipcover crackle in your hands. Sometimes you need the tangible- a hard copy of a book- in order to experience the intangible- being touched by intricately woven words. (You can probably use your library’s website to search for specific poetry to check out, if you have a favorite in mind.)

Basic Assignment- Choose 2 books on writing poetry, and 2-3 books of collected poems to read this month.


3. Word helpers, on or offline:

A thesaurus is your best friend. Really. There are so many times that a certain idea of a word comes to mind but the actual word associated is not quite the one you’re looking for. Thank goodness for synonyms!

Other times you’re working on a specific form that requires rhyme, and your mind suddenly went blank. There are rhyming dictionaries for that. Isn’t that awesome? (See “Your local library” for this brilliance.)

Online, here is a thesaurus for a quick go-to, and check out this one for rhyming words.


If you have any of your own favorite go-to sites, please share in the comments! What are your basics for poetry-writing?

Jamie Bagley