Though the physical parts you use in your poem will be important, you must first decide on your poem’s
subject. Will you write about a person or an event? Will your subject be a firsthand experience, something
you observed, or something you imagined? Will you talk about abstract topics, like love, happiness, or the
meaning of life?
The impressions, facts, and ideas a poem contains—what your poem is saying—make up the content.
What would you like your poem’s content to include? Will you discuss your personal philosophy on a
particular subject? Will you talk about your love for a favorite family member or cherished pet? Will you
expound on your favorite or least favorite time of year, or perhaps an experience that had a great impact on
your life? While poetic standards may determine how you will compose your poem, only you can decide on
your poem’s content.
In determining your content, however, you must be careful to choose a topic about which you have something
to say. This may seem like an obvious statement, but when many writers set out to write on an interesting
subject, the words and ideas do not flow when it comes time to put pen to paper. Once you find a topic about
which you are passionate, it is much easier to create a poetic work infused with an energy your readers will
sense and appreciate.
Theme is the central idea or main topic of a work.
Every written work has a theme, whether the writer deliberately infuses their work with one or not. Whereas
content includes everything your poem contains, theme refers specifically to the main point, topic, or subject
of your poem. For example, you may write about a boy who meets a girl in a beautiful garden. The two fall
in love, but when the girl travels abroad for the summer, each is led astray by another person whom they
meet during their time apart. Each of the events—the meeting, their falling in love, the girl’s leaving, their
temptation, and their breakup—are part of the content of the poem; the theme or main idea, however, is that
love is fragile and requires commitment to last. Do you see how the theme is part of the content of a poem but
does not include all aspects of content?
Once you choose your content, you have to think about the order of events. You need to create a sequence or
a discussion that catches the reader’s attention. There is a certain flow that narration usually follows from its
start, through the middle, and to its end. Following this sequence, you must ensure your poem flows in a way
that is interesting, but also natural, so when your poem ends, your reader will have a sense of closure.
Closure is the effect of finality, balance, and completeness leaving readers with a sense of fulfilled
When you begin your poem, be conscious of any action taking place within your verse. Let’s say for example
you are writing about a baseball game. You share with your reader the discouraging record of the home team
and describe the uncharacteristic optimism they bring to their last game of the season. They play better than
they ever have for the first half of the game. They are delighted with their performance and really feel like
they might win against their long-standing rival. But then the poem ends. Certainly, we want to know what
happened to the team. Did they win? If so, how did they feel about it? The way you end your poem can be as
important as how you begin it, so be sure to give the reader closure.