Roger Stevens’ tips for budding poets

Roger Stevens is a poet whose work we feature in some of our imaginative learning projects included in the Cornerstones Curriculum.

In a previous interview, we spoke to Roger about his poetry and some of his favourite poets. Now, we get down to the nuts and bolts of what goes into writing interesting poetry.

Roger's tips for writing poetry

First of all – always, always carry a notebook around with you
When you see something, or hear something, or think of something that might become a poem or a story, you can write it down.

When I was a teacher, I gave everyone in my class a notebook. I told them that it was a personal book and that I would never read it. They could write anything they liked. But I told them that they had to write something every day – even if it was only one word. That led to my class writing lots of brilliant poems.

Once you’ve written a poem, read it out loud
By reading your poem out loud, you can hear the rhythm of the words.

Don’t be satisfied with the first thing you’ve written
Don’t be afraid to change it. Sometimes poems emerge from my pen fully formed, but usually my best verse has been worked on, left for a while and then worked on again.

The content doesn’t have to be one hundred percent true
You can change things. It’s like fiction, in that respect. As a child, my grandma did take me to play bingo by the sea. But we didn’t win a dartboard. We didn’t win anything!

And I do remember, with great affection, playing football on the yard with my grandad. Luckily, though, we didn’t break the shed door.

You could base your poem on an event or an object
To write a poem about something that happened when you were younger, begin by choosing an event – something you remember that had an impact upon you. Or choose an object that you were fond of.

Then, write down as many words and phrases that describe that occasion or thing – use all your senses. How did you feel? What did you think? Remember your emotions. What did you see, hear, smell? Write quickly and freely – don’t worry about being neat or about spelling. And don’t try and make things rhyme

Choose the best words and phrases and figure out how to put them together
Begin by writing them in short lines, one under another, so that what you have begins to look like a poem. I arranged my poem, Grandma, in groups of three lines.

Now work on the actual words
Add words. Take words away. Maybe use similes, or interesting adjectives. Try some alliteration. Read the words out loud to see if they have a good sound. And don’t be afraid to change the actual facts if you need to.

Cornerstones Curriculum

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