How to Write a Good Break-Up Poem (or any Good Poem, really)


Break-ups suck. Whether they are with a significant other, friend, or family member, the process of ending a relationship is never easy. However, if you are an aspiring writer, you may be wondering not so much as to whether you’ll ever find love again, but rather how to write a break up poem as scathing as Shakespeare’s “Sonnet 137” or as full of grief as Pablo Neruda’s “Tonight I Can Write the Saddest Lines.” Well, luckily for you, here are 25 easy (and by easy, I actually mean really, really hard) steps you can take to unlock the full potential of your heartbroken, angst-ridden, and appropriately melodramatic poetic voice:

  1. Write how you feel. Write as fast as you can without editing as you go. Don’t think. Don’t give yourself time to categorize your writing as verse or prose. Don’t criticize yourself for being too emotional. Don’t shy away from profanity or hysteria. Just write.
  2. Wait a week. Eat some chocolate.
  3. After the week has passed, read over what you wrote. Don’t edit anything out.
  4. Write objectively about what you observe around you. Choose an object in your room and write a description of it. Go to a public place and write about what you see. You can even write about the break-up itself, if you want. Once again, write as fast as you can without self-editing. Try and keep all emotion out of your writing; focus purely on the five senses: sight, sound, smell, taste, and touch.
  5. Wait a week. Eat some more chocolate.
  6. After the week has passed, read over everything you’ve written in the first and fourth steps.
  7. You’ve done a good job so far. Reward yourself by eating some chocolate.
  8. Take a break and buy yourself some more chocolate, as you’ve probably eaten your entire stash.
  9. Write a haiku to your former partner/friend/family member. Title it creatively (suggestion: “Fuck You, You Fuck”).
  10. Stash this poem away where nobody else will ever find it. This isn’t the break-up poem we’re building up to; this is a warm-up that you can look back on in a few months and titter to yourself while reading it.
  11. Edit what you wrote in the first and fourth steps. What are the differences between feeling and observing? What are the similarities? How does thinking tie them together?
  12. Everyone has a different process of writing. Some people sit down and force themselves to write, while others wait for inspiration to strike. Don’t panic if you try to start writing about your break-up (and I don’t mean a colourfully-titled haiku, I mean a serious, eloquent break-up poem) and find that you can’t. The intuitive place within you will let you know when you are ready to start writing. Feel free to repeat steps 1-11 as many times as is necessary in the meantime.
  13. Eventually, you will find yourself writing a break-up poem. Enjoy yourself. Beauty is beauty, even if, in this case, it is also pain. Don’t edit too much. Don’t worry about embarrassing yourself by sounding like a sixteen-year-old teenager devastated because you couldn’t find a date to prom. Just write. Write as little or as much as feels right to you. Trust yourself to know when you are done.
  14. Wait a week. Eat some chocolate.
  15. Read over the poem you wrote in step 13. You can edit if you feel like it, but you don’t have to. It actually doesn’t matter, at least not at this stage, as this still isn’t the break-up poem I’m guiding you towards.
  16. Rage. Cry. Heal.
  17. Repeat steps 13-16 as many times as you feel a calling to write.
  18. Wait some more. This may be the hardest step for many of you, as you’ll want tangible proof (i.e. a break-up poem you can proudly show to others) of all the effort you have put into writing. In fact, many of you might look at the poem(s) you have written and think that you don’t need to wait. You might think that they are the best you can do. I’m not saying that you’re entirely wrong – what you’ve written will be heartfelt, poignant, and personal. But it’s just the beginning. In order to truly capture the depth of your break-up experience, you need to be able to objectively examine your emotions. In other words, you need to wait until you have moved on from the break-up before you can look back at all you have written with the critical distance you need to maturely and honestly examine your work. This could be a matter of weeks, months, or even years. Keep repeating steps 13-16 in the meantime, and try your hardest not to become impatient. Eat lots of chocolate if you feel discouraged.
  19. Eventually, you’ll look back at what you’ve written and start thinking of all you want to change. Perhaps you have gained a deeper understanding of your ex and want to write them not only as the breaker of your heart, but also as a human. Perhaps you’ve found that you’re happier without your ex in your life and you want to add an undertone of hope to your poems. Perhaps you even want to thank your ex for making you a stronger person and you find yourself changing one of your poems into an ode for her/them/him. Repeat this step as many times as you feel is necessary until you think that you are finally, finally, finally capturing the full journey you completed in the course of recovering from the beak-up. Editing is never completely done, of course, but hopefully by now you will have gained a sense of what you want your final(-ish) draft(s) to look like.
  20. Write another poem. It doesn’t have to be your last poem on your break-up – in fact, it probably won’t be – but it should be a poem about finding closure.
  21. Put the first poem you wrote in step 13 and this poem side-by-side. Compare.
  22. Find the break-up haiku you wrote. Laugh.
  23. Fall in love again. Write good poetry if it’s requited. Write good poetry if it’s not.
  24. Repeat.
  25. Eat some chocolate. Share it with somebody you care about and who cares about you.


JOANNA CLEARY has been part of the Inklette team since 2015 and is pathetically in love with poetry. Her work has previously appeared in Cicada Magazine, Inklette Magazine, Glass Kite Anthology, Parallel Ink, Phosphene Literary Journal, HIV Here and Now, and On the Rusk. She is the 2017 recipient of the 2017 University of Waterloo Creative Writing Society Award for Poetry