When your kids leave the nest, or when you retire, you may find that you have more time on your hands. If you want to explore a new hobby – one that doesn’t cost much, require any equipment or the involvement of other people, you should try writing poetry. Writing poetry after age 50 is a great way to discover a new side of yourself.
Poetry is an art—a form of creativity and most of us continue to be incredibly creative throughout our lives.
According to a survey by Pew Research Center, the older people get, the younger they feel. In other words, the older you become, the more you’re willing to take up creative activities.
What Are Some Reasons to Write Poetry?
Writing poetry is primarily a way to express your feelings and thoughts. Whether it’s about a person, place, or thing, poetry allows you to communicate what you feel uniquely. But that’s not the only reason. Other reasons to consider poetry include:
- You can write poetry about anything you want, including your life experiences or things you’ve always wanted to say but haven’t had the opportunity to say before.
- It’s a good way to keep your mind active and engaged as you age; this can help with memory retention and even prevent Alzheimer’s disease in later years.
- You don’t have to be an expert in art or literature to write well; it’s all about using your imagination.
- There are no rules when writing poetry—so feel free to experiment with different styles and techniques if you’re stuck.
What Are Different Types of Poetry to Consider?
The truth is that different poems appeal to different people, old or young. Some poems will resonate more with you in writing, while others will not. The reason for this can be structure, form, or style. If you’re thinking about the best types of poetry to try out for a start, the following should do it:
- Freeverse: Free verse is poetry without rhyming words, syllable counts, or line breaks. It’s about letting your thoughts flow freely and expressing yourself through verse in a natural and unforced way. Examples of free verse poems are ‘America‘ by Walt Whitman and ‘Lady Lazarus‘ by Sylvia Plath.
- Sonnets: A sonnet is a poem with 14 lines (called quatrains) followed by a couplet at the end. The lines must have certain rhyme scheme requirements (for example, abab or cdcd). Examples include William Shakespeare’s ‘Sonnet 18‘ and Robert Herrick’s ‘Of Love: A Sonnet.’
- Haiku: These are short poems that originated in Japan. They typically consisted of three lines with 5-7-5 syllables each. They’re also traditionally written in Japanese, but they can also be written in English. Famous examples include ‘The Light of a Candle‘ by Yosa Buson and ‘Haiku Ambulance‘ by Richard Brautigan.
- Limerick: The limerick is a short poem with five lines with an AABB rhyme scheme and an internal rhyme (where the second and fourth lines rhyme). It tends to be funny or silly because of its structure, but it can also be severe. Famous examples are ‘A Young Lady of Lynn‘ by an unknown author and ‘There was an Old Man with a Beard‘ by Edward Leah.
Should You Take Classes or Join a Writing Group? What Resources Are Available?
If you’d like to learn more about poetry writing from an expert, there are plenty of classes available online and in person. It’s easy to find online courses on sites like Udemy or Skillshare or even one-on-one tutoring from local experts with MeetUp groups. You can also find local workshops hosted by universities and other organizations around town.
Writing groups are another great way to connect with other writers who share your passion for poetry. These groups may meet weekly or monthly at local libraries and coffee shops, depending on availability. Some groups even host retreats where they go offsite together for a few days at a time.
So, should you take classes or join a writing group? It depends. Some factors will help determine whether taking classes or joining a group is right for you. Take a look at the table below.
What’s a Good Daily Practice Look Like?
First, to write poetry, you must set aside time in your day to do so. Start by committing to one hour a day. That way, it won’t feel like such a big commitment. Also, try to make an appointment with yourself. This will help you prioritize your poems and avoid feeling overwhelmed.
Next, set up a writing space where you can be comfortable and focused. This might be at home or the library—whatever works best for you. If possible, try to get a quiet space where no one else will be around (or at least not too close by).
Finally, write every day! Even if it’s just for ten minutes at first or there isn’t anything happening in your life that feels particularly poetic right now—even if all you have is a blank page. The point is not necessarily getting published or becoming famous. It’s about connecting with yourself through words and discovering what stories might be hiding in your mind.
What Are Some Key Milestones or Goals in the Poetry Journey?
Beyond learning how to start writing poetry after age 50, you need to track your progress. Below are key milestones and goals you can expect in your poetry journey:
- Writing your first poem
- Publishing your first poem
- Getting published in a print publication
- Being published online or in an online journal
- Publishing a book or chapbook
- Getting paid for your poems
- Winning an award for your work
- Hosting a masterclass or fellowship
- Becoming an editor or guest editor for a top journal
- Curating a press or magazine
What’s Involved with Getting Your Work Published?
Established poets will tell you recognition begins with publication. Once you’ve started writing poems and become consistent with them, you should submit them to literary journals for more reads. Here are things to look out for to get started:
- Prepare Your Poems: You should edit, proofread, and organize your poems into folders. It would help if you also created packets of similar poems. This way, when looking at submissions, you can see everything you’ve written that fits a particular theme or topic and make decisions based on those groupings.
- Have Cover and Biography Ready: Have a cover and biography ready so that when you submit your work, you can include them with no problem. A good cover letter has an introduction, a body, and a conclusion. Biographies are often between 50 to 100 words, written in the third person pronoun.
- Find a Journal Open for Submissions: If you’re familiar with the journal, you can visit its website and look for information about its submission process. Most journals will have a page dedicated to submissions. If you don’t have any journal in mind, look for mags open for submission through social media hashtags: #subsopen, #litmags, and #openforsubs. Alternatively, explore online resources such as Submittable Discovery and Poets & Writers.
- Read the Guidelines: A journal’s guidelines will usually tell you about line count, poetry genres, response turnaround, publication date, compensation (if any), and other details that improve your chances of acceptance. Therefore, reading guidelines helps you know what you’re supposed to do and how you should do it.
- Understand the Channels: Most journals will ask you to send your poems for publishing through the body of an email, submission managers such as Google forms and Submittable, and the inbox of a social media page. It will help if you’re familiar with each one of them.
- Submit and Track: When you submit a piece of work for publication, three things can happen: 1) it gets accepted quickly, 2) it gets rejected quickly, or 3) nothing happens for a while (but this doesn’t mean it’s been rejected). Be sure to track submission dates and the outcome for each poem, along with the expected feedback date. You can do this using a spreadsheet.
What Else Do You Need to Know?
Learning how to start writing poetry after age 50 can be daunting, but it’s a rewarding experience. Poetry helps you express yourself, connect with people around you, and sharpen your creative skills.
There are reasons to write poetry and many types of poems you can write. Whether it’s your first time or you’ve been writing for years, there are practices and milestones you can try—and they’re all accessible to anyone.
Also, writing poetry is supposed to be fun. It’s not something you have to do every day (though if it works for you that way, go for it!). It doesn’t matter if what you write is perfect or even good at first—what matters is that you’re doing it because it makes you happy and fulfilled.
Feeling inspired? Don’t wait another discover your inner poet!
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