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Poetry tips and tricks!

With lots of opportunities open to inspire you to pen a poem, we have a some tips as you get started.

The Seaweek Poetry Competition is open for Waitaha residents until March 10

The Write On 'Memories and Milestones' Poetry competition is open for Year 3 to Year 10 writers from across the motu until April 14th.

How you structure and shape your poetry is up to you but you may wish to consider the following:

Use your experience and your voice!

You will often hear the advice: "Write about what you know". With poetry that can also mean "Write what you have experienced." You might know about sea turtles and dolphins from books or documentaries but so do lots of other people. However, they will not have experienced your unexpected encounter with a sea tulip, or the time you found those gorgeous sea stars, or the exhilaration you feel when surfing.

The Seaweek competition theme is about how YOU connect with our seas and the Memories and Milestones competition asks for YOUR personal experience. Use your experience and your voice! Write a poem that only you could write.

Use sensory language that shows rather than tells.

Words such as lovely, beautiful, nice mean you are telling the reader what to think. Instead use sensory descriptions so that they can say 'that is beautiful' (or scary or disgusting) for themselves!

Be true to the experience. The sea is not always "sparkly" and the sand around our country comes in far more shades than "golden".

Poetry is playing with language just as much as ideas

Deliberately choose quirky words and surprising line breaks. You might also repeat words, find chords and choruses in your lines, circle back to the beginning as though you are writing a song. Read your poem out loud and listen to the rhythm.

But, if you focus first on making your poem rhyme, you will limit your choices of words and form.

Precise nouns and lively verbs are really important to give your poem clarity and to help transfer what is in your mind to the reader's mind.

A tūī is a clearer image that just bird.

It fluttered or swooped is a livelier action than flew


Mark Twain said “Writing is easy. All you have to do is cross out the wrong words.” Gardeners know that you have to pull out the weeds and do a bit of pruning to let the garden flourish. It's the same with poetry. Take out words that are just filling in space.

Experiment/play with the order of lines and the language.

Delete unnecessary repetition and cliches.

Add surprising details and interesting similes.

As always, read your work out loud to hear how it flows.

You may need to tweak a few things before you say 'my poem is finished'.

Final Checks
  • Check the start of your poem- this needs to be a great line to drop the reader right into the poem.

  • Check your last line - this should leave the reader satisfied yet still thinking. If you've ended with an explanation then consider deleting it but using something from that line as your title.

  • Give your poem a title!

  • Please note that MOST poems are justified to the left and NOT centred. You need a good reason to centre your poem.

You are now ready to submit!

Check out the entry details and submit online here....

(c) Write On 2023


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