Suggestions for Brainstorming a Poem


Read the poem at least twice before you start writing, and ask yourself the following questions to help you generate ideas.

  • What type of poem (sonnet, elegy, narrative, etc.) is it?
  • Is there a rhyme scheme? What is it?
  • How many lines are there?
  • Is the poem broken up into stanzas?
  • Why did the poet choose this style for the poem?
  • Is there any significance in the rhyme scheme, other than as a means of identifying the poem's form?
  • Is the form consistent with the poem's content, or appropriate to it?
  • Who is speaking in the poem? Is it the poet, or is it a character (persona) created by the poet to say this particular thing?
  • How does the speaker feel about his subject? Quote lines or words that show the feelings of the speaker and other characters.
  • What is happening in the poem?
  • What is the setting for the action? (Is it day or night, summer or winter, or does it even matter?
  • How does the setting relate to or affect the purpose or meaning of the poem?
  • What are the characters doing?
  • Is there conflict between the characters? What sort?
  • Is there conflict between the characters and some other force, such as nature or a god or some emotional or ethical situation?
  • How do the characters relate to one another or to the source of conflict?
  • Are there any allusions to other poems, literary characters, or works of art? If so, what do you infer from these?
  • Does the poet employ unusual language or techniques? For example, does he or she use alliteration, assonance, or poetic language?
  • Do these manipulations of language serve a purpose in the poem by emphasizing the poet's or the persona's attitude or feeling? How do these devices affect the poem's overall meaning or effect?
  • What other physical aspects of the poem, such as line length, relate to the meaning?
  • How do you feel about the poem? What specific lines, words, ideas, or attitudes in the poem cause you to feel this way?
  • Does the message or situation of the poem relate to you personally, or do you feel totally without the realm or sphere of experience detailed in the poem?
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