Poems by Jakob Zaaiman on Medium

Writing a poem: the mechanics

(Just one approach, of very many)

Jakob Zaaiman
10 min readNov 1, 2022


Collage artwork by Jakob Zaaiman.
(Artwork by Jakob Zaaiman)

And underpinning this whole discussion is a rough but very important distinction I draw between ‘verse’ — meaning traditional formal short prose, from epigrams and limericks to sestinas and Miltonic ramblings — and ‘poetry’ proper — meaning concentrated poetic prose designed to reveal and reflect on aspects of ordinary existence, especially the difficulties and enigmas and horrors and wonders we encounter in everyday life. ‘Verse’ — in this conception — tends to be celebratory, sentimental and lightweight; whereas authentic ‘poetry’ is interested in going deeper and darker.

Now it’s important to make clear at the outset we’re not laying down the law: there are countless different ways to write a poem, and my approach is only one of them. The fact is, most people who like traditional verse will probably not respond positively to the idea of poetry actually being required ‘to tell us something of value’; there seems to be a much greater appetite for flowery language and wordplay and complexity even if it is all completely trivial. So be it.


Making a start (can be quite an ordeal)

Some of the key nuts and bolts of poetry, in no particular order; writing a poem is not about following rules; it’s about using a loose form to express an idea.

Sometimes topics for a poem come as a surprise out of nowhere; sometimes they have been floating around for a while but haven’t quite crystalised. For me poems don’t come with a form; they come with content, and my work as a poet is to find the right words to express the ideas in plain and simple and accessible language. Versifiers like to exercise their technical skills, flaunting their supposed ability to manipulate words in such a way that the ‘poeticity’ (meaning the formal and manifest ‘wordsmithery’) of the verse predominates, and the conveying of actual ideas is secondary.

So we start with words on a page. Any words will do, just to get things going. The question of ‘writer’s block’ is something every creative has to face, and everyone has to find a strategy to marshal their resources such that a ‘block’, or series of ‘blocks’, can be…



Jakob Zaaiman

Artist and writer; artworks, prose and poetry.