Nearly everyone uses both written and spoken language every day, but poetry is different. When you write a poem, you give yourself permission to play with language, with words and their rhythm, and in a very real sense with existence itself. What better way to start than by writing a poem about yourself, a subject you’re intimately familiar with?
Basics of Poem Writing
Poetry has been around for thousands of years, and it’s always had many different purposes — to inspire, to create beauty, to call for change in the world, or to win your love over, among many others. With the help of the internet, familiarizing yourself with different poetic traditions has never been easier. You, too, can create poems. With some practice, you can even get pretty good at it.
Too many different types of poems exist to explore them all, but if you’re interested in writing a poem about yourself, the types of poetry you may want to explore further include:
- Bio poetry was originally created as a way to introduce students to poetry, and they’re about a person. Bio poems have 11 lines. How long they are, and whether they rhyme, is up to you. The first line contains the subject’s first name, while the second lists any siblings. The third typically describes a few things the person loves, and the lines thereafter describe, respectively, how the subject feels about three things, three things they need, three things they give, three things they fear, and three things they’d like to see. The poem ends with the subject’s last name.
- Ekphrastic poems, which have fewer rules than most other kinds of poetry and focus on describing something in an artistic manner, in great detail.
- Haiku poems, a Japanese art that — at its core — consists of writing three lines of five, seven, and five syllables. Contrary to popular belief, “official” haiku poems do have more rules, including that nature be the subject. You should feel free to have fun with the format, though!
- Concrete poetry is another interesting kind of poem to play with — in this kind of poem, the written lines form a shape that resembles the subject you are dealing with. For instance, if you are writing a poem about your relationship with your cat, the lines can form the shape of a cat’s head.
- Limericks are another fun form of poetry. The basics? Write five lines, in which the first two rhyme with one another, the third and fourth rhyme with one another, and the fifth again rhymes with the first two. These should be humorous, and the last sentence is your punchline.
- Spoken word poetry is designed to be performed orally, and usually relates to political or personal topics. It can involve dance or music if the performer desires. This form of poetry can be a lot of fun.
You don’t have to learn all about the rules of villanelles and sonnets to enjoy poetry, and you’ll likely find that the process of learning about poetry is more enjoyable if you simply “go with the flow”. Flow is important, though; at the very least, the words you choose should either sound good together, or look good together on paper, with a rhythm or “punch”.
How to Write a Poem About Yourself
There are many different ways to write a poem about yourself. Your process will likely depend on your reason for writing — if you’re a student who was given the assignment of writing a poem about yourself, you may not want to share as much of yourself. If the poem is only for you, on the other hand, all bets are off.
Here are some tips to help you get started:
- Brainstorming can be an excellent place to start. Simply gather some ideas and write them down, on paper or on your computer. This will help you narrow the precise subject of your poem down, because “yourself” is usually far too broad! If you’ve already chosen a particular topic (such as, for instance “my gender identity”, “life after grandpa passed away”, “home-made food”, or “my broken knee”), you can brainstorm further and jot down combinations of words that sound good together.
- Freewriting is another approach to poetry. It’s exactly what it sounds like. Get a pen and some paper out, or get your keyboard ready, and allow any words that come into mind to find their place in your poem. Yes, you’re allowed to edit it later, but don’t worry about that as you write.
- Formatting your poem is also important, because poems make a visual impact. You want to do this even before you edit, and you can experiment with line length as well as alignment. Whether you write your poem by hand or on the computer is up to you, but word-processing software allows you to quickly experiment with different formats.
- Editing should be straightforward, especially if you aren’t rigidly following a particular style. Keep what sounds good and resonates with you, work further on parts you think are not ready yet.
- Reading your poem aloud at all stages of the process can be extremely helpful as it allows you to discover the rhythm.
Examples of Poems Written About Oneself
To really get inspired, and to see what’s possible, you will want to go down the Google rabbit hole and explore poems famous poets have written about themselves. We’re here to help you get started with some examples.
Bio poems follow a simple formula. Because this type of poem was designed for classroom use, teachers (who need to show students an example) and students are most likely to write bio poetry. Here’s an example we just cooked up.
Funny, stubborn, energetic
Lover of Minecraft, mashed potatoes, and his sweet cat Dino
Who hopes to one day invent something really cool
Who fears a robot apocalypse
Who’s happiest when playing board games with his family
Who cares about all the world’s stray animals
Who dreams an exciting future
and sometimes of that one amazing cake he once had five years ago
Once again, you’ll find much better examples elsewhere, but for what it’s worth, here’s one our team just put together.
One word every day
Just six tries to get it right
I just love this game
For a powerful poem about the self, have a look at Maya Angelou’s When I Think About Myself. Countee Cullens’ short poem For Myself is also incredibly impactful, as is Edgar Albert Guest’s Don’t Quit.
Tips to Avoid Being Self-Conscious About The Process
The one thing that will help you avoid feeling self-conscious as you write a poem about yourself is this — nobody else ever has to see it, and if you’re embarrassed after you’re done, you can freely erase all evidence that you ever wrote it. Are you writing a poem about yourself because you’re in school and you were told to, or for any other reason that involves sharing the poem with others? The same tip still helps, because you only have to share final work you feel comfortable with. For these kinds of poems, you absolutely don’t have to reveal your deepest self.
What is a good way to start a poem?
Any way you feel like. Unless you are following a specific format, you should start in a way that makes sense to you, and keep going once you tap into your inner authentic self.
How to stop feeling intimidated about writing about yourself?
There’s two ways to do this. The first is to practice — a lot. You will absolutely get better over time. The second is to let go of your fear, and knowing that nobody else has to see your poetry if you don’t want to share helps with that.
Who should write a poem about yourself?
Anyone can write a poem about themselves, or more specifically, a part of themselves. Write about your experiences, your state of being, something you feel strongly about, or your everyday activities. Writing poetry about yourself can help you grow as a writer, and as a person.