A poem is a piece of writing which usually expresses thoughts or feelings.  It has meaning, music, and fewer words than most other kinds of writing. But even the experts disagree on what exactly a poem is.

Poems can be about anything and come in many different forms.  For example, a narrative poem tells a story.  A limerick is usually funny.  A haiku is a Japanese form that usually draws a kind of word picture. And lyric poems make you want to sing and are often the words to songs.

So how are poems different from regular writing?   Most poems are written in lines rather than sentences.  These lines are then separated into groups called stanzas, rather than into paragraphs like regular writing.

Poems can have special forms or they can be free-verse.  A poem can be rhyming or non-rhyming.  A poem can have a regular “metered” rhythm, meaning it has regular “stresses” or beats – much like music.  Or they can be more free-flowing.

Form poems, like sonnets or limericks, have very strict rules about how they’re to be written.  Both use metered rhythms and special rhyme patterns.

Other kinds of form poems don’t require rhyme, but for rhythm, do  require a certain number of words or syllables. For example, the standard American haiku is a syllabic poem.  It has exactly 17 syllables arranged in three lines. The first and last lines each have five syllables, while the middle line has seven.

Small gray-brown robin
splashes in the lawn’s  sprinkler
then dries wings in sun.

The cinquain is a poem that has five lines.  The first line has one word, the second two words, the third three words, and the fourth four words.  The fifth and last line again has only one word.

Helpful, caring
Loves to cook
Reads me bedtime stories Teacher
If you want to write poetry, start out by writing simple forms like the haiku or the cinquain.

For Practice

Here are some other simple poetry forms you might try.

1. An acrostic poem:  a poem that reads both across and down. Write your name or another word that interests you (a hobby, a place, etc.)  from the top of your paper to the bottom.  Then, beginning with the letters in that word, write other words going across the paper that tell something about the first word:


2. List poem: pick a topic like Things I like…, I wish…or I’m afraid of… Each line of the poem begins with part or all the words of your topic and then you fill in your ideas.  The poem should be 8 -10 lines long.  Then end your poem with either the opposite (But what I don’t like .… or What I don’t wish. . .But I’m not afraid. . .) or with the biggest/best/worst  (But what I really like . . .Most of all I wish. . .But what I am most afraid of …)

Things That Make Me Cry
I cry when I fall and scrape my knee.
I cry when I see a sad movie.
I cry when someone hurts my feelings…
But I never cry when the nurse gives me a shot.

3. A color poem: is another type of list poem.  Use the five senses (sound, smell, taste, touch, sight) to describe a color in an unusual way.

Red looks dangerous like fire.
Red sounds like an explosion.
Red smells like the first bite of a summer     apple.
Red tastes tangy and sweet like catsup
Red feels like the itch of poison ivy.