How to Write a Poem to Give to Someone

Grandparents Can Help Grandchildren Create Poems to Give as Special Gifts

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"I can't write a poem!" This is a common reaction from many, young and old, when the topic of poetry-writing is broached. The truth is that it's easy to write a poem. You're not going for a Pulitzer Prize or a spot in the Poets' Corner of Westminster Abbey. You just want to tell someone how you feel about them. This is a great way for grandparents to express their love for their grandchildren, but helping a grandchild to write a poem for someone else — Mom or Dad or another grandparent — can also be a wonderful bonding experience.

One way to prime your brain for poetry writing is to read some poems. Check out these five poems to read with grandchildren and these poems about being a grandparent.

Get Started

Don't procrastinate any further. Pick up a pen or pencil and start writing!

Step One: The first line is extremely easy: This is a poem for you, _____. Simply fill in the blank with the name of the person being addressed.

Step Two: The next step is to brainstorm different attributes of the person the poem is for. These can be physical attributes or personality traits, but they should be described as precisely as possible. Then choose the three most vivid attributes and add them to the poem in three separate lines. Begin each line with the word "for." Here's an example:
for your dancing brown eyes
for your happy dancing feet
for your smile that could light up New York City

Step Three: Repeat the first line. Then brainstorm a list of the good things that the person does.

Choose three and add them to your poem like this:
This is a poem for you, _____
because you love all living things
you gobble down life with gusto
you make us laugh every day

Pause and Notice

By now you will have begun to notice some things about the poem that you are writing. You can go back and polish it up a bit, or you can continue on to the end do the polishing later.

Here are some of the things to notice:

  • We're not writing a rhyming poem, because searching for words that rhyme tends to drive the poem. If a rhyme just happens, that's called random rhyme, and that's okay.
  • Another technique that makes a poem sound good is alliteration, or repetition of the sounds at the beginning of words. This may have happened naturally. If it didn't, it's easy to go back and put some in. Don't overdo it or you'll end up with a tongue-twister.
  • Don't worry about punctuation. Use only if needed for clarity of meaning.
  • Make your lines approximately the same length. Lines that vary greatly in length look awkward on the page.
  • Use line length to control how your poem is read. A longer line will be read more quickly, and a shorter one will slow the reader down and add emphasis.

Keep Writing

At this point, do not let yourself judge the poem. It's a work in progress. Go to the next step.

Step Four: Go back to your last list and choose three more things the person does. Add these to your poem as follows:
I love the way you
play the piano
put together your own outfits
show off your ballet moves

Step Five: Now brainstorm your wishes for the person. Choose three and add them to the poem like this:
I hope that you will
get most of what you want from life
keep your dancing shoes on
always remember your Grannie who loves you.

Step Six: Read your poem aloud. If you detect places where the poem doesn't flow, zero in on them. If you have used a word with a lot of syllables, that can create awkwardness. Think about replacing such words. Use a thesaurus if you need to.

Step Seven: If you find that you have more to say in a particular area, extend the thought. Add parenthetical comments if you like, as I did below.

Step Eight: Divide the poem into stanzas if you like. Ample spacing makes a poem less intimidating to the reader.

Step Nine: Add emphasis to your ending. Consider breaking your last line into two parts to slow the poem down. Think about adding a period at the end even if you haven't used other punctuation. That will add significance to the ending and make the poem feel finished.

Step Ten: Give your poem a title, which can be simply the person's name, or can be more complex.

Here's my finished poem for my granddaughter Helen:

This is a poem for you, Helen
for your dancing brown eyes
for your happy dancing feet
for your smile that could light up New York City

This is a poem for you, Helen
because you cherish all living things
you gobble down life with gusto
you make us laugh every day

I love the way you
play the piano
put together your own outfits
show off your ballet moves

I hope that you will
keep your dancing shoes on
and get most of what you want from life
though into every life some rain must fall
(it makes us strong)

I also hope that you will always
always
remember your Grannie
who loves you.

Do you like it? I do. Now it's your turn!

How to Help With Someone Else's Poem

If you are helping a grandchild to write a poem, be careful not to volunteer your own suggestions. Instead, ask leading questions. For example, if your grandchild gets stuck while writing a poem about Mom, you can ask questions like these:

  • What's your favorite thing about your mom's face?
  • What's your favorite thing that your mom cooks for you?
  • What makes your mom happy?
  • What is your mom really good at?
  • What is something funny that your mom does?

You can help your grandchild with spelling if you like. You can even write down the poem as your grandchild dictates it. If it is still a bit of a struggle for your grandchild to get things down on paper, being the scribe can help things along.

How to Give the Poem 

You can use the poems that you write in many ways. Handwritten poems have special personality, but for a more readable copy, you can type them up and print them out. Be sure to stick to a font that's not too fancy. You want the emphasis to be on the words. 

Your grandchild may want to illustrate the poem or make an audio or video recording of it. You can even turn the poem into a greeting card.

See more ideas for gifts for grandchildren, or consider creating a keepsake journal or a photo book as a special gift.