What Inspires Writers To Write Poetry

Poetry, just like any other form of writing, is a reflection of a person’s thoughts, feelings, and observations. Through words and language, it expresses what one might not be able to with speech. But, what inspires a person to write poetry?

Authors of all ages, genders, and backgrounds have expressed their inspirations in many forms. Novelists, biographers, songwriters, and even scientists, have described the driving force behind their passion for writing. Reaching back to antiquity, from Homer to the authors of the Bible, writing motivated by the divine has often been expressed.

Eminent authors such as David Mamet, Toni Morrison, and Harold Pinter have previously shared their insight on what inspired them to write. Their stories touch on loss, love, memories, adventure, and struggle. They have also described their writing as a way to make sense of their experiences, as a form of resilience and for its creative insight.

John Keats once wrote, “If poetry comes not as naturally as the leaves to a tree, it had better not come at all.” For Keats and many other poets, writing was often an extension of their personality, rather than an arbitrary activity. That said, much of the inspiration behind writing was often ethereal and individual.

Rather than being a tool of self-expression, some writers have used poetry as a vehicle for gaining insight and knowledge. Philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche is renowned for his philosophical works, and many of them are expressed in poetic form. Nietzsche believed that ‘poetry speaks of the most universal truths and realities, more so than everyday language’.

Others have described inspiration for writing as a necessity; one either writes or one dies, as Henry Miller famously said. For him, writers must share their unique and indescribable inner emotion. Many of his works express his spiritual and intellectual journey.

The ambiguous relationship between emotion and logic is an integral part of writing poetry. Research empirically suggests that emotion moves the muscles of the body and those of the mind. This connection between emotion, meaning and language is often the basis of inspiration for writing poetry.

Element of Surprise

Surprise is a powerful agent in human experience and triggers writers to write poetry. It stimulates imagination, curiosity and often results in self-discovery and expression. Pulitzer-prize winning poet Octavio Paz, himself a practitioner of surprise, famously said that ‘poetry is a brutal surprise’. For Paz, surprise has a distinct ability to move away from the mundane, the known and to open the possibilities for understanding the unknown.

Surprise can also be an act of consciousness, an experiential step between what we understand and don’t. By looking at the world with fresh eyes, sensations and insights, that poetry enables, surprise begins to make sense of things which were previously hidden. Few poets have described it better than Rumi, “What you seek is seeking you”.

Prize winning Arab poet Adonis, describes surprise and its relation to the process of writing poetry. He believes that ‘each poem must offer some kind of surprise, whether it comes from language or imagery’. Like any artist, Adonis believes that a poet must find a way of expressing their ideas in unexpected and exciting ways. He also mentions that ‘a poet should also be a discoverer’.

In writing poetry, risk-taking is an important element. Taking a chance on an unknown word, an unconventional idea or structure can mean the difference between creating a poem of greatness or one of mediocrity. By putting oneself out there and at risk, the possibility for something special is generated.


Reflections, introspections and observations are often cited as essential and essential elements to writing poetry. By using them, writers are able to see their experiences, emotions and relationships as a source of inspiration. This has been expressed in Poe and Shelley, as well as modern poets such as June Jordan and Anne Sexton.

Reflection and introspection often guide poets in their understanding of consciousness and self-realisation. Postmodernist poet, Charles Simic argues that ‘poets are always looking for hidden truths and realisations in their experiences.’ Simic believes that poets often appear to write outside their conscious control and that these moments of insight often lead to the most profound and, often, beautiful works of poetry. By expressing their emotions and experiences, poets are able to realise their potential and potential in general.

George Herbert, an English poet of the 17th century, understood the importance of reflection and introspection in his writing. In his poem entitled ‘Reflection’, Herbert declared ‘Doubt not, the lives of saints live in their books’. He believed that those who read and experienced those books could understand their own spirituality, life experiences and potential.

Reflection and introspection are often a means of expression and exploration, whether they take the form of an internal dialogue or an external search. Many of the greatest works of poetry, fiction and biography have been sparked by moments of contemplation, seeking and reflecting. In this way, poetry is able to express the depths of understanding, interpersonal relationships, and self-realisation.

Creative Thinking

Creativity is a key component of writing poetry and has produced some of the most successful poets in history. Writers such as Erza Pound, W.B. Yeats and Ezra Jack Keats used creativity to explore their thoughts on topics ranging from politics to love. This creative process has produced some of the most iconic works of poetry in history.

Creative thinking can be a difficult exercise for many writers; it involves searching for the unexplored and unexpected. Roethke once wrote ‘I learn by going where I have to go’. He believed that by pushing ourselves to think creatively, and to break away from familiar paths, a much deeper understanding could be gained. For Roethke, this was his form of creative thinking.

Creative thinking is often about taking risks and avoiding boredom. Originality and creativity involve stepping outside what is known and accepted; by pushing the boundaries of convention, the writer can make something truly unique. Nobel Prize winning poet Seamus Heaney encapsulates this thought in his poem ‘Clearances’: ‘We were the heretics of the here and now,Inventing our own humanist renowned’.

Experts in the field agree that creative thinking ultimately allows poets to find unique voices and visions. It helps them to challenge preconceived notions, typical language and explore the unknown. Poet Czeslaw Milosz suggested that allowing ourselves creative licence can help us ‘illuminate what is real and what is illusion’, embracing the unknown and unpredictable.

Cross-Disciplinary Connections

Cross-disciplinary connections are essential in the writing of poetry, helping poets to develop their understanding and appreciation of the craft. By connecting with other forms of art, literature, music and film, poets can gain valuable insight into how to create and innovate.

Cross-disciplinary thinking also allows poets to gain inspiration from countless sources. Abundant sources of inspiration draw from literature, film, visual arts, and music. They offer a platform for understanding the complexities and nuances of language; something that is often overlooked.

Cross-disciplinary connections can help poets to reach a deeper level of understanding of the world, and their own ideas and experiences. Poets often explore the complexities and nuances of language through connecting works of literature, music, film, and visual arts. Poets can find creative spark, counter metaphors and sensory expressions within cross-disciplinary works that can otherwise be difficult to achieve.

Cross-disciplinary exploration has been a major tool for some of the greatest poets in history. Ezra Pound, an early modernist and iconoclast, believed that ‘all the arts must contribute and not be left to the poets alone’. He embraced the use of music, philosophy, and literature to create an understanding of aesthetics. The cross-disciplinary approach has been influential in creating new ideas and inspiring reinterpretations of old works.


Archetypes are patterns of thought which are universal to most human societies and ages. They explore timeless themes which many authors use to express their understanding of the world, or explore it. They often contain symbolism and meaning centred around heroes, death, transformation and love.

Through archetypes, poets use the language and symbolism to explore deeper levels of identity, morality, and spirituality. These patterns of thought have been used by many authors and poets for centuries, influencing literature and poetry in ways that are often difficult to describe.

Archetypes allow poets to explore the difficult subjectivity of language, as well as providing an imaginative platform to explore the unknown. They can be a powerful source of inspiration and readers often find them clarifying and insightful. Many poets, from Robert Frost to Joseph Campbell, are often inspired by the themes and symbolism found in archetypes.

Poets must tread a fine line between imagination and reality, the timeless and the timely, the objective and the subjective. The use of archetypes allows the poet to explore these unknown aspects, allowing them to escape the boundaries of everyday life and gain insight into the more elusive, yet universal, aspects of life and human relationships.


Dreams often appear as inspiration for poets, providing a wealth of ideas and topics to explore. They touch on the subconscious, emotion, memory and the unknown, all of which are essential elements of poetry. Dreams allow poets to explore and gain insight into inner depths of experience and understanding of the world.

Dreams provide authors with a gateway to explore the abstract, imaginative nature of human consciousness. They can provide detailed subjective descriptions into how one as an individual experiences different emotions and ideas. They allow authors to discover new forms of simulation and understanding of consciousness.

Dreams can also provide authors with insight into history and the world beyond. By exploring its surrealistic nature, dreams can explore and provide insight into the soul beyond everyday life. They can provide an insight into the depths of emotion and understanding, ideas and stories, which are often difficult to articulate in waking life.

Dreams often create some of the most profound subjects for poets to explore. The ability to express them as a form of reflection allows people to gain an understanding of the human condition, life, and relationships. It is in this way, that poets know to explore the elusive nature of the human experience which otherwise remains unknown.

Dannah Hannah is an established poet and author who loves to write about the beauty and power of poetry. She has published several collections of her own works, as well as articles and reviews on poets she admires. She holds a Bachelor of Arts in English, with a specialization in poetics, from the University of Toronto. Hannah was also a panelist for the 2017 Futurepoem book Poetry + Social Justice, which aimed to bring attention to activism through poetry. She lives in Toronto, Canada, where she continues to write and explore the depths of poetry and its influence on our lives.

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