Jerry Pinto: Some Ways Not to Write a Poem

This is the first of the ‘On Writing’ section on The Teen Zine, where poets and authors will occasionally write about the craft of writing.

Jerry Pinto is a poet, novelist and writer of splendid non-fiction. These are his suggestions to young poets.


  1. Please don’t try and rhyme. If you do it all the time, you will end up wasting time.

You see what happened there? I started by saying don’t rhyme and then I thought up a nice rhyme and I thought it would be a crime not to rhyme this time and suddenly I wasn’t saying what I wanted to say but I was saying what the rhyme wanted me to say. The last word was suddenly ruling the rest of the sentence. So you don’t have to rhyme. But the words must sound nice and musical. See if you can set them to a beat, a thumpetty-thumpetty-thump.

  1. Don’t be sloppy and soppy.

Please don’t tell me you love your Mummy, she is so sweet, she makes nice things for me to eat.

Oh Goosefeathers, I’m doing it again. I know it is your Mummy and I know you love her. We all love our Mummies. The Egyptians love their Mummies so much they put them in glass cases and charge people to see them. Ha ha.

  1. Don’t write a poem like another poem

If you write a poem that is like some poem that already exists, you’re really wasting time. That poem is already there. It is on the internet. Everything is on the Internet, including pictures of you as a baby, because your parents went mad with pride when you were born and put you up on the Net when you looked like you were a piece of strawberry that had been trod upon by a camel.

  1. Write about what you know.

Write about school. Write about recess. Write about how annoying it is when a samosa breaks when you bite into it. Write about icecream dripping on your shirt. Write about hockey. Write about selfies.

  1. Don’t write inspirational stuff.

Teachers like it when you write:

I will try my very best

in everything I do

But if I don’t win the prize

I won’t be blue

For I know that taking part

Is important too.

But is this what you feel? If you write a poem because a teacher will like it, you are not writing poetry. You are writing suck-uppery.

  1. Write about what you feel. (But do remember point 2 above.)

And finally read lots of poetry. Read it aloud. Read a poem a day. And you might one day write a poem. That will be reward enough.


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