Poetry essay: How much time should be spent writing a poem?

A question that can come up for a poet is, “How much time should be spent writing a poem?”

You may have heard poets say that they spent months on a poem.  You may have heard some say that they wrote something in five minutes.  You may have heard everything in between.

As a writer, you may have had experience with this yourself.  Maybe you write some poems that take a few minutes each and you write other poems that still don’t feel right after thinking about them for hours.

A question that may come up then is, how long should you be spending writing a single poem?

Unfortunately, like most questions, there isn’t one answer.  It’s not like someone could tell you that you should spend 15 minutes.  It depends on the situation.

In some cases, you may want to spend very little time on a poem.

For example, there is the idea, that if something isn’t flowing, that you should stop and change to something else.  If you are writing a poem, and twenty minutes later, it still isn’t working, you might think about stopping it and writing something else.

As another example, you might be submitting poems to magazines.  Given the reality of the situation, you may have to write and send a lot of poems to get a few published.  Because of this, efficiency might be of value.  If you find that you have to write and submit 100 poems to get 10 published, you might find that you can’t spend too much time on those 100 poems.

As another example, maybe you write many poems that are about light or impersonal subjects.  You might find that they are fine written in a just a few minutes each.  You might not see too much value in spending too much time on them.

As you think about how much time to spend on a poem, it is important to remember that quality and time spent aren’t always directly related.  Something that took two hours to write isn’t necessarily going to be better than something that took two minutes to write.

In other cases, you might want to spend more time on a poem.

Somethings a poet writes about are very personal.  If something is extremely important, you might want to spend more time on it to make sure it is right and says what you want to say.

In another example, imagine something you write is going to be public, very lasting or in some sense singular.  Imagine you are getting to have a poem posted in a public space and it will be there for a long time.  Or imagine you get to have just one poem in an anthology.  In these cases, you might want to spend more time on what you write.  It might not mean you spend all that time writing one poem.  You may write many or you may spend a lot of time thinking about or revisiting a poem.  Given the weight of what you are doing though, you might feel it is important to give what you are doing the proper time.

When deciding how much time to spend on a poem you should take different things into account and make a decision that fits the situation.  Sometimes you’ll decide that five minutes is enough, other times you feel that five hours isn’t.  It all depends on the situation.


Poem with an explanation: Don’t look, just listen, time will pass

Don’t look at the sand,
don’t look at the stone,
don’t look at the fire.

Just listen to bells,
just listen to flutes,
just listen to melodies.

Time will pass,
as eyes are closed.


This poem is about walking on a treadmill.  The idea of the poem is about not doing things and doing things to help the time go by faster.

The first stanza, has three don’ts.  It says not to look at the sand, the stone and the fire.  On the treadmill, there is a display.  It shows the time, distance and calories burned.  The idea is that if a person looks at these things as they try to reach some goal, that the time will feel slower.  Focusing on the numbers as they change has the psychological effect of making them seem to move slower.  The first stanza says not to look at them.  The sand, is symbolic of sand in an hour glass, which is representative of time.  Stone is symbolic of a road which represents distance.  Fire refers to burning which represents the calories burned.

The first stanza said what not to do.  The second stanza says what to do.  It is saying to listen to music as a form of distraction.  The first stanza was more symbolic than the second.

The last stanza describes the effect of the actions of the first two stanzas.  It is basically saying that by not looking at the display, and listening to music instead, that a person will be distracted, and their mind may wander.  When the person’s mind wanders, they may not see in a sense.  This can happen when a person daydreams.  The end effect is that the time exercising feels faster.

This poem is written as three stanzas and three sentences.  The first two stanzas are filled with repetition.  The first one repeats “Don’t look at the” and the second one repeats “Just listen to”.


Do you like poems with explanations?  Do you like to support writers whose work you enjoy?

M. Sakran has a self-published book of poems with explanations. It is called Understanding: poems with explanations and is available for purchase as an eBook for an available price of $0.99. If you like poems with explanations and like to support writers whose work you enjoy, then consider purchasing a copy today.

Artwork to inspire poetry: five minute tree

five minute tree

This is an artwork to inspire poetry.  It called five minute tree.  This tree was made using computer software.  Before the tree was started, a timer was set for five minutes.  The actual artwork itself was only worked on for the duration of the timer (the program was opened before the timer, and the artwork was saved and then used for this post after the timer).

The idea here was to have an arbitrary restriction on art and see the result.  In this case, the restriction was time.  Some things came from this restriction:

  • The tree has no leaves.
  • There are some areas of the tree, like very thick branches, that would have been changed if given the time.
  • The top of the tree is not shown.
  • There is no background around the tree.
  • The tree has few details.
  • There are only two shades of brown in the tree.
  • There are no extras, like birds’ nests, in the tree.

The fact that time was restricted, led to a different artwork than if it wasn’t.  This same idea could be applied to poetry.  A poet could set a time limit (or other restriction) on the creation of a poem and see what the result is.  Like using a form for a poem, having restrictions can change the outcome.

In addition to the restriction used to create this artwork, it can also inspire poetry by itself.  Poets could write about a tree with no leaves, for example.  They could, for example, compare the idea of a tree with no leaves in winter, with the idea of a tree with no leaves in summer.  In the first case, there is a sense of hope, in the second, there might not be.

Poem Series: Experimental Poetry Forms: Seven lines, random syllable counts, and a rhyming pattern: Flowers

Flowers that were planted some place in the past,
put there for a time thought not to last,
and yet one day before the even time,
from the dark they came up fast,
and though there was no memory they still did climb,
silently like a mime,
right through forgetfulness that was cast.


(29/40) Experimental Poetry Form: Seven lines, random syllables counts, and a rhyming pattern

Poem Series: Experimental Poetry Forms: Alphabetical order rhyme: The ships of time

Though some with hope wish they could block,
swift time that’s measured by the clock,
the ships of time pull into dock,
as minute birds fly as a flock,
above the sea nearby the loch.
And though the sea it does not mock,
the wind does blow and ships do rock,
as each moment the clock does tock.
(18/40) Experimental Poetry Form: Alphabetical order rhyme

Poem with an explanation: Today, Yesterday, Tomorrow or some other time

This is today,
but this is yesterday,
actually, in some way,
this is tomorrow,
from a certain perspective,
it’s today,
it could be yesterday,
or some other time in the past,
for now,
today is today.


This poem is about this blog post and time.  It is curious when blog posts are posted, because the date a blog post is written, the date it is posted, and the date it is read, can all be different dates.  So time varies.  That is the idea of the poem.

The more detailed explanation of the poem below, is somewhat confusing, because it deals with ideas like today, tomorrow and yesterday, which are variable depending on perspective (today, for now, is today, but tomorrow, it will be yesterday).  Hopefully it can be followed, and no mistakes were made in it.

The first line is about right now, as this is being typed (on July 20, 2015), but, this post, is for tomorrow (July 21, 2015), so, if this is posted tomorrow (July 21, 2015), then from the point of when it was posted (July 21, 2015), this is yesterday (the second line in the poem and really today (July 20, 2015)).

The next two lines in the poem [actually, in some way/this is tomorrow] reference the idea that this post is supposed to be posted tomorrow (July 21, 2015).  The next three lines though, [but/from a certain perspective, it’s today] references the idea that if this is read by a reader tomorrow (July 21, 2015) then from the point of the view of the reader, it is today (July 21, 2015, which is the date the post was (will be?) posted).

But, since this post could be read some time after tomorrow, from the point of view of the reader it could be yesterday (if the post was read on July 22, 2015 and the reader saw that the post was posted on July 21, 2015), which references the lines [although/depending/it could be yesterday], or it could be seen as [some other time in the past], for example last week, if a reader were to read this post on July 28, 2015.

Despite all of the time references above though, as the poem says [but/for now/today is today], meaning, before this is posted, it still is the present.