How to get started writing poems?

I am not claiming to be a great poet, but I have won a couple of poetry contests and have had dozens of poems published. So I think I am qualified to offer beginning poets some tips that will help their poetry sing.
It is easy to write a simple rhyming poem, just about anyone can do it, hence “Roses are red, violets are blue–anything after that will need to rhyme too.”

But what separates a run of the mill poem from a great poem are several factors:

1. Find a way to express your message with uncommon words–sometimes what makes the difference in a great poet and an average poet is a simple matter of laziness. Take the time to use your thesaurus or dictionary, put your thinking cap on and engage your heart in finding just the right word instead of settling for what anyone else would use in its place.
2. Read a lot of poetry–Learn from the masters. I am not saying that you should copy anyone else’s style, but I think you will find that your favorite poetry will end up being similar to the style that you write. A great place to start reading classic poetry is at Poets.Org.
3. Be bold and honest–now when I say this I don’t mean spill your guts all over the page. What I am talking about is being genuine, not being afraid to show who you really are, and what your true feelings are. Believe me, your readers will be able to tell if you are being sincere. That is what makes a great poem, touching people, connecting with them.
4. Don’t fear criticism–One of the biggest obstacles for many writers is the fear of failure and the fear of being judged as lacking by their peers. Put this notion aside when you begin to write your poem. In fact, try not to even think about what someone else will say about it, just tell your truth and tell it well. I can’t count the number of poetry forums online where the snooty so called “poets” will take every opportunity to slap down a newbie’s work. Ignore them, or better yet, don’t join their club. They get off on criticizing and think great poetry is that which makes no sense.
5. Use metaphors sparingly but effectively–I believe this is one of the most important tips I have for you. Just the right metaphor in the right place in a poem can make the whole difference between a good and a great poem. The way I come up with great metaphors is the use my heart and to really feel what something is “like”. Think it out. For instance, how can you say something about how a snowflake is like something else without repeating what others have said a million times? This is the fun part to me, coming up with unique and beautiful metaphors. You want your readers to think “ah, yes, it IS like that!”
6. Write with clarity–Express your message clearly so that it can be understood. This really is a skill that takes every effort with poetry because you want it to be beautiful words, however, the words have to be understood by your reader so that the message is more than the sum of the words.

I hope these tips will help you in your new found love if you are a beginning poet. I have been writing poetry for over 36 years and it’s made a world of difference in who I turned out to be. Writing poetry is therapeutic. Believe me, I know. It has saved my sanity on several occasions.