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How to Write a Personalised Poem

There’s something about special occasions that makes people suddenly develop a love of poetry, no matter how much they hated it at school!  

Personalised poems are growing in popularity.  More and more, we want to give gifts that are thoughtful and tailored to the individual.  We want gifts that create a memory.

Personalised poems are created out of thin air using just knowledge and words about another person.  They are completely and utterly unique.  To me, this is the ideal present for the person who has everything and just wants to know that their family or friends are there for them. 

I’ve heard of recipients that read their poem every day and even learn them off by heart.  Many are read at funerals, years after they have been received.  One lady even described her poem as ‘the gift of a lifetime’.

What better wedding reading than a customised poem all about the couple - a reading that nobody else had ever used and makes the guests sit up and smile?

And if you write your own, then your gift costs nothing - except your time of course!

Over the years, I’ve developed a house style for our personalised poems, which all the Bespoke Verse poets use.  However, it’s important to remember that you don't need to stick to a formula for your poem, especially if it is being read out loud.  Well chosen, thoughtful words and a performance with a bit of gusto is all that is required.

Here’s some suggestions about how you can get started with your own poem:

  • First of all, make some notes about the person or couple you are writing about – what would they take to a desert island, what ten words would you use to describe them? What are their likes and dislikes?  Their nicknames and sayings?  It can be really tough if you try to write a poem about someone from birth onwards, so aim to pick out key moments or events instead.  What team do they support, what is their hobby, what do they do at work?
  • Another important thing to think about is what message do you want to give the recipient?  It always helps to write this down in your notes so that you can use it somewhere in the poem.  I like to put the ‘big’ message at the end.
  • As I’ve said, customised poems most certainly don’t have to rhyme, and if they do rhyme, they need to do it well.  One useful tip is, before you even start, make a list of useful words that you might want to include in the poem and see if they rhyme with any other words that are relevant.
  • Never force the rhyme – by that I mean don’t put things in the poem that don’t really make sense just to get the rhyme to work.  If a word is hard and won’t rhyme with anything and you want to use it, try putting it at the start of a line instead. 
  • Try googling 'what rhymes with...'.  You’ll get so many fantastic suggestions, it’s a great resource.  I do this all the time.
  • Once you begin writing, I strongly advise you not to start at line 1 of your poem, because that's a recipe for giving up!  I often write the beginning and the end of my personalised poems last of all.  Start with putting some experimental pairs of lines down and eventually, when you have enough, you can swap the order about and what  emerges.
  • I suggest you avoid telling any long and complicated stories in a personal poem, unless you’re sure you can make them entertaining.  If you’re stuck as to whether to include something or not, don’t include it!
  • If you don’t want to be restricted by rhyme, try using a pattern for your words eg. start every line with ‘You are…’ or write a series of questions and answers.  Patterning of words always sounds good read aloud.  You can also use words beginning with the same letter (alliteration) for effect. 
  • If you want something already half-written to work on, consider rewriting the lyrics to a song.  You could try rewriting a poem by another poet, but be aware, you can only do this if the poet has been dead more than 70 years or you’ll be infringing copyright.
  • Come back to your personalised poem every day and add a little more or make changes.  This is really important thing to do.  I never write a personal poem in one sitting.  I get my best work by coming back to a poem a few times after I’ve created a first draft.
  • I’d definitely advise getting someone to read it through and tell you if it made sense.  Sometimes you can get so caught up with what you’re writing you don’t appreciate that it might not make sense to anyone else!
  • I’m well aware I’m making this sound easier than it is, but I do believe everyone has poetry inside them.  Just sit down and give it a try.  Don’t let your fear get in the way of you getting started.  The person receiving the personalised poem won’t care if it is perfect or not.  They will be moved by the effort you have put in.
  • Finally, when you’ve finished, you can find a company like ours to format and frame it for you – or you can find a friend who has a little bit of graphic design training under their belt.  The recipient is bound to want to display their poem, so after all your hard work, great presentation is worth the extra effort.

Here’s a poem I wrote about my husband for his birthday card using some of the techniques I’ve listed above.  It took me about 30 minutes.  In my poems I like to create a character sketch of the person, mixing in humour and sentiment.  I write in rhyming couplets as that style feels really comfortable to me after writing nearly 3,000 personalised poems.  And after all those poems, the one thing I have learned above all else, is that the word golf does not rhyme with anything useful!

To my Grumpy, Fishing, Yorkshire Man
 
From Yorkshire hails a grey-haired dad
A rugby coach who’s fishing mad
He’s fond of golf, of sleep, of beers
And smiles when Dairy Milk appears.
He can be grumpy, can be sweet
Is famous for his ‘fragrant’ feet
He’s confident, uncomplicated
And reluctantly domesticated!
He wasn’t made to be alone;
He’s always on his bloody phone
He loves his mates, supports his wife
And gives his kids the best in life.
He’s loyal, loving, sporty, proud
A snoring git who’s very loud
Who spends his wage in Costa Coffee
And frankly, couldn’t give a toffee!
This Silver Fox that I adore
Is now the age of 44
He’s still a handsome man, I find,
With rather round and pert behind.
So Happy Birthday Mr M
And thanks for being my best friend. x
(c) Joanna Miller

 

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