Poetry tips from Joseph Coelho

I think poetry often scares people because it can be associated with academia, intelligence and a need to be right. It can be all of those things but at its heart it is so much more. It is a dance of words available to all and hopefully these tips will help you find a toe-tapping beat.

  • Read poetry - be inspired by other poets and let yourself be moved by a poem. A great place to start is with anthologies where you get a selection of poems by a range of poets on different themes. A Poem For Every Night Of The Year edited by Allie Esiri is a great starting point as is Green Glass Beads edited by Jacqueline Wilson and Falling Out Of The Sky edited by Rachel Piercey and Emma Wright. There are anthologies for every subject and theme, so search for a topic that excites you.

  • Observe the world - play a game with yourself called 'Could this be a poem?' This involves hunting out poems around you from snippets of conversation, ideas written on walls, or the emotions triggered from watching a leaf fall to the ground.

  • Carry a notebook - no matter how good your memory is or how wonderful an idea or phrase, if you don't jot it down as it occurs you're likely to forget it.

  • Explore poetic forms - form can be a great way to explore a subject by giving you a creative restriction that often opens up ideas and turns of phrase that you may never normally come up with. There are many great books on form such as Stephen Fry's The Ode Less Travelled as well as no end of websites that spell out how to create sonnets, villanelles, sestinas and the like.

  • Share your poems - write them in cards, declare them at birthdays and read them to your friends and family.

  • See poetry as art that can be performed - whether they are sung, displayed on photographs, painted into pictures, sculpted out of plasticine or written on beach stones. Don't be limited by the page and the pen or the keyboard and the screen.

Joseph's poems have been published in several Macmillan anthologies. His most recent book How To Write Poems is published by Bloomsbury. Joseph has been a guest poet on CBeebies Rhyme Rocket where he was beamed up from The Rhyme Rock to perform his Bug Poem and has featured alongside Michael Rosen and Valerie Bloom on BBC Radio 4's Poetry Playtime.

His debut children's collection Werewolf Club Rules is published by Frances Lincoln and was the winner of the 2015 CLPE CLiPPA Poetry Award. His collection for older readers: Overheard In A Tower Block is currently nominated for the 2018 Carnegie Medal.


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