Learning how to write a poem with emotion is a skill that takes time. However, once you develop the skill, the standard and quality of your writing will significantly improve.
1. I am always honest.
Emotive writers are honest writers.
To date, one of my most powerful pieces is a poem I wrote called ‘End Of You,’ which I performed at Joshua Domefeh’s Ronnie Scott’s headline show. The poem is about my experience with suicide and how I overcame that season of my life and began to rebirth a version of me that was honest and true to who I was.
When I performed that poem, the room was in tears (in a good way.) People were touched because they could connect with what I was communicating. After all, suicide is unfortunately all too familiar. We all know someone who has struggled with mental health, suicidal thoughts, has been depressed or failed to communicate those feelings. I didn’t sugar-coat my experience, so the audience didn’t have to downplay theirs.
2. I use specific words to evoke specific emotions.
Descriptive words (ecstatic, melancholic), Evocative Verbs (crumble, soar, tremble), metaphorical language, and power words (words with solid associations that can evoke emotions) are all word categories that encourage an emotional response.
Learning how and when you use them is a skill. Since 14, I have learned that overusing specific words can create the opposite reaction.
Sometimes, asking your audience a direct question can be better than using a word to force an emotion. Writing emotive poetry is the perfect balance of leading your audience into the story yet allowing them to experience the emotions in their own context.
3. Cacophony and Sibilance.
These two devices are two of the most underrated literary devices out there. The use of harsh consonants (cacophony) can evoke unpleasant feelings. I like to remind myself every now and again that creating ‘emotive’ poetry pieces doesn’t necessarily have to result in someone sobbing (although that is a perfectly acceptable response if that is their reaction), but my role as a poet is to evoke some kind of response, which will initially be expressed through an immediate emotion.
Sibilance encourages intimacy. Frequently, when I have used it, this is when the audience is most quiet. This is the perfect reaction for this technique, as the role of sibilance is to push the story forward and promote a reflective atmosphere. Depending on the topic you are writing about, sibilance is one of the best techniques for sharing complex stories through poetry, as it creates a sombre environment that causes healthy reflection. I think of sibilance as the ‘counsellor of literary techniques’. The softness of sibilance balanced by the complex topic communicated through poetry can encourage catharsis for an audience.
4. I read other poems.
Some of my favourite poems to read (outside of my own) are from Rudy Fransisco, Nikita Gill, and a handful of Shakespearean Sonnets.
The poem that perfectly conveys emotion is called Love by Lloyd Schwartz. The poem conveys the honest reflections of a relationship, challenges, and all. The woman in this love story dies prematurely, and the man in the love story kills himself in his desire to be with her. Tragic, I know. Yet, there is something about this poem that feels familiar. They accepted that love wasn’t perfection; instead, love was found in trying to be better for the other person. Eventually, they only find peace in death. Schwartz’s poem is a sobering reminder that love, for the most part, doesn’t feel like love at all; sometimes, it looks more than it feels. It looks like commitment, honesty, planning, making mistakes, and learning to forgive again. Love is chaos. A cataclysmic endeavour. It is one of the most insane but most relatable events in life because most of us will fall in love at some point; and despite how sobering this poem is, creating a poem filled with emotion is not always about fancy words, but it is sometimes just about how you choose to approach the topic and the form you choose to convey it in.
While learning to write with emotion takes time, feel free to download my free list of emotive words below so you can start adding them to your own poems. Check out my poem, End Of You, on all streaming platforms. Who knows? You may gain some inspiration.