Modern Poetry Guide: How to Write a Poem About Yourself (With Prompts)
Do you ever find yourself wanting to write poems, but don't know how to start?
In this post, I will guide you through the process of writing a poem about yourself. I will provide some ideas on how to get started, as well as some prompts.
Whether a new or seasoned writer, writing poems about yourself can be a great way to express your thoughts and feelings. It can also be a very therapeutic exercise.
So grab your pen and paper (or open a Google doc), and let's create some poems!
Are You a New Poet? Go With What You Know
If you're the kind of person who gets nervous when you sit in front of a blank page, that's understandable. Coming up with the first line of your poem can seem overwhelming.
These feelings are completely
normal. Even an experienced writer who has created hundreds of poems and written thousands of lines sometimes doesn't know where to begin.
When it comes to topics to write a poem about, the possibilities are literally endless!
If you're somewhat new to poetry (or even if you're not) and unsure where to start, it makes sense to explore writing about what you know best—you. You never know, you might gain a new perspective about yourself.
The Benefits of Writing Poems About Yourself
Whether you create a poem to share it with the world or just to explore your creative side, creative writing can be a therapeutic outlet. Especially if you're dealing with difficult emotions or an identity crisis.
Ernest Hemingway is known to have said, “write hard and clear about what hurts”.
"Write hard and clear about what hurts." -Ernest Hemingway
When we put our thoughts and emotions down on paper in a poem, it can help us dispel our worry and look at our situation in new ways.
Of course, not all writing has to be about pain or struggle (although those happen to be personal favorites of mine). You can describe the joys of life, enshrining these moments and making them sacred.
Even neutral moments and ideas can be worth talking about on paper. Something that at first seems mundane may carry new meaning after you've written about it.
To sum it up, there are many benefits to writing personal poetry. Some of the benefits of writing poetry about yourself are:
Gain a new perspective on your situation
Preserve a cherished moment
Find new meaning in the everyday
Words are powerful. They carry their own music and help us make sense of the world. They can also help us get closer to our true identity. That's why penning a poem about yourself can be such a compelling experience.
What Is the Process for Composing a Poem About Yourself?
Writing poetry can sometimes be like writing fiction—it can involve some planning.
There are times when we have bursts of inspiration and throw caution to the wind when it comes to planning. But if you're trying to get into your creative zone, there are a few things you may want to consider ahead of time.
4 Things to Consider Before You Begin Your Poem
The topic is the subject matter of the poem. What will you talk about?
The theme of the poem is the message you are trying to convey with your words.
3) Poetic Form
This refers to the structure of the poem. How will you create the poem? Will it have a rhyme scheme? Will you make your lines long or short? Will you choose a classic form like a sonnet or create your own?
4) Literary Device
Literary devices take many forms. Examples of literary devices include motifs, anaphora, metaphors, alliteration, repetition...and many more. These tactics make your poems sound rich and layered. They can make them delightful to hear when read aloud.
I will touch on these in the following sections.
How to Go About Creating an Autobiographical Poem
There are many different ways to go about writing about yourself. The first question you can ask yourself is, what aspect about myself and my experience do I want to explore? This relates to the topic part of the process from the previous section.
Describing your physical self is a good place to start. This can help you develop your skills in descriptive language and texture.
Or you may consider writing an autobiographical poem—either telling a story about a pivotal moment in your life or capturing an entire era.
You might use a stream-of-consciousness style to express your dreams, a battle with mental health, or other personal experience.
Decide which angle you're going to take as your first step before you compose poetry. If you've got your idea, go ahead and put pen to paper and see what lines come out!
If you need some examples to get you started on your poem, select a writing prompt for inspiration from the next section.
10 Writing Prompts to Help You Choose Your Topic
Sometimes, it helps to have a prompt to get the creative juices flowing. Here are ten prompts that may help you begin.
Describe yourself physically
Write about your dreams
Express a time you battled with mental health
Write poetry about a pivotal moment that changed you
Pen something about a mundane thing that you do every day
Write about a relationship with a member of your family (or a close friend)
Focus on a personality trait and how it manifests in you
Jot lines about an era of your life, such as childhood or young adulthood.
Write a poem about your future self--where do you hope to see yourself?
Describe a connection you feel with nature
How to Write a Poem About Yourself in the Confessional Poetry Style
The confessional style is ideal for autobiographical poetry. What is confessional poetry?
According to poets.org, confessional poetry is a writing style that is "the poetry of the personal or “I".
The confessional poets usually did not write in any specific poetic form. Instead, they used conversational-sounding language to relate to the reader.
Examples of famous poets that wrote in this style include Sylvia Plath, Anne Sexton, John Berryman, and W.D. Snodgrass.
Confessional Poem Example #1
Let's take a look at an example of a confessional poem by John Berryman.
Dream Song 14
Life, friends, is boring. We must not say so.
After all, the sky flashes, the great sea yearns,
we ourselves flash and yearn,
and moreover my mother told me as a boy
(repeatingly) ‘Ever to confess you’re bored
means you have no
Inner Resources.’ I conclude now I have no
inner resources, because I am heavy bored.
Peoples bore me,
literature bores me, especially great literature,
Henry bores me, with his plights & gripes
as bad as achilles,
who loves people and valiant art, which bores me.
And the tranquil hills, & gin, look like a drag
and somehow a dog
has taken itself & its tail considerably away
into mountains or sea or sky, leaving
behind: me, wag.
What can we learn about confessional poetry from this poem?
Berryman appears to be talking about a personality trait: he gets bored easily. He relates this to something his mother told him about being bored, and how that affects his perception of this trait in himself. It's also something of a list poem, as he lists all the things that bore him.
Confessional Poem Example #2
I'd like to share an example of one of my autobiographical poems with you from a poem I wrote called "worm sister earth mother."
worm sister earth mother
by Elyse Hart
i could never
hold a worm, couldn't
even look. my mother
in her garden
the horrid wriggling thing —
a pink wet
i would rather
or not at all —
but my mother said:
this is food of the bird,
friend of the soil —
makes our garden grow.
If you like metaphors, this poem is full of them.
It is about a teachable moment from my childhood. I was/am phobic of worms and can't stand them. Aside from its literal meaning, the word "worm" represents all the difficult things in life. In the last few lines, my mother explains how worms are actually beneficial for our soil and garden.
What About Poetic Form?
Form refers to the structure of the poem. Examples of forms are sonnets, haiku, sestinas, cinquains, the list goes on. A form may dictate how many stanzas the poem has, its rhyming pattern, meter, and sometimes subject matter, among other things.
If you're a visual person, you might experiment with concrete poetry. It allows you to paint a literal picture with words of an object that carries significance to you.
Most of the contemporary poems you read today are free verse. Free verse is not written in a set form, although many great poets still do write in forms today.
Should You Write in Forms?
My advice to you is if you find that form provides direction and gives you structure, then go ahead and use one.
But if using a form seems daunting and makes the task of writing a poem all the more difficult, then don't worry about it. Personally, I don't often use them.
I prefer to write my words as they come to me, and if they sound good when I read them back, then I'm on the right track.
Even if you do not choose to write in a form, make sure you do use literary devices (metaphor, imagery, alliteration, etc.). If your poems don't have any, take some time to edit that first draft and add some devices in.
This is what will make your poem interesting and expressive.
Go Write Poems!
You may decide to keep your poems to yourself or share them with friends, family, or even strangers.
Either way, creating poems can help us explore our identities and give us an outlet to create.
Need more guidance? Check out this post.
I hope these examples provide you with some inspiration to write a poem about yourself.
Don't be afraid to dig deep! Now select a writing prompt or come up with your own idea and create your own poem about yourself. If you found this post useful, subscribe to the Passing Through poetry blog using the form below to never miss a post! Or follow me on Twitter @elysehartpoetry.