A poem is a beautiful way of expressing yourself, whether it be about a personal event in your life, pent up emotions, political issues, or a celebration of nature.
Poetry began life as an oral form, delivered by bards and jesters. In Greek and Roman times, they were of epic length, telling stories of great heroic deeds and adventures.
Some people still do hark back to this style every now and, then, but contemporary poetry is usually much more condensed. Writing about big ideas with such as short amount of space is not easy. What is even more tricky is making sure the words flow correctly. A poem needs rhythm, which is achieved through various techniques such as rhyme, metre, sibilance, alliteration, and so on.
If you are just starting out on your poetic adventure, these things can be daunting, and it is a good idea to read up on them. Two books that I found very useful are The Making of a Poem by Mark Strand & Eavan Boland and The Practice of Poetry by By Robin Behn & Chase Twichell.
In The Making of a Poem you will learn about different poetic forms, such as the sonnet, ballad, villanelle, and sestina. There is a section dedicated to each, which very clearly tells you everything you need to know. First it bullet points all the main features such as how many lines the poem has, how many stanzas, what the rhyme scheme is, etc. It then gives brief history on the origin of the form, and then places it in a contemporary context by giving examples written by other poets.
In part two of the book, it will use the same structure to explain metre and shaping. Not only is The Making of a Poem helpful, but it is also enjoyable reading the work of well known poets.
Once you know how to write a poem, you then need a topic to write about. We've all been plagued by that dreaded blight called "writers' block" at one point or another, and during those times, The Practice of Poetry is very helpful at generating ideas.
The handbook includes a collection of personal essays by selected poets, scholars, and professors. They talk about experiences they've had in class, or challenges they've faced in their own writing.
As many of the contributors teach at universities, they have provided a selection of writing exercises that they devised for their classes. While some are meant to be done as part of a group, most can be attempted on your own.
The Practice of Poetry reaches its full potential when the reader is actually attending some kind of writing workshop, whether as part of a course, or just a get together amongst friends. The idea of the book is not necessarily to get you writing a masterpiece, but to generate ideas that can be edited, fused, and moulded to create something in future drafts.