People have been writing poetry for thousands of years. Egyptians built pyramids and wrote poetry, but it’s hard to imagine what they might make of a modern poetry blog. Contemporary poetry, the kind you may write, has a much more recent history. But a poetry blog would be no less a marvel to an early 20th-century poet than an ancient Egyptian.
All of this is to say that technology and society have changed quickly and dramatically during our lifetimes. Most of the ink-on-paper poetry magazines of the 20th century disappeared with the rise of the internet. Yet, the written word survives and thrives in the face of overwhelming change. It survives because poetry still has the ability to move us in ways that Buzzfeed or Facebook never will.
Whether you write traditional poetry or lean more toward Ginsberg or Bukowski, you may have considered starting a poetry blog. Now is the time to do it. Your people, your readers, are out there. You just have to make yourself known to them.
What Does It Take to Create a Poetry Website?
There are many different kinds of poets. Some write occasionally, and some write every day. Some painstakingly craft each word, others go for a more stream of consciousness, everything-but-the-kitchen-sink approach. Some poets write over a drumbeat. The best poets, regardless of style, are those who have to write and fully believe in what they’re doing. Their desire is right there in their words.
A blog is a piece of software, after all, nothing but technology. But it’s a technology that’s within anyone’s grasp. If you’ve never started a website on your own, you may have the idea it’s beyond your abilities. It isn’t. I’ll show you how you can DIY a blog in less time than it takes to write a good poem. All of the tools are readily available, and many of them are free.
A Thick Skin
This has to be said because we live in a strange world. When you present your creative work to an audience, some members of that audience aren’t going to like it. Maybe a few centuries ago, the Chinese poets had to deal with critics of their work. But it’s unlikely they ever had to deal with anything as negative and destructive as an internet troll.
But it is worth considering your feelings. If negative feedback throws you for a loop, a poetry blog might cause you more discomfort than it’s worth. You’ll likely receive praise and compliments, yes, but it’s best also to be prepared for less positive reactions.
Here’s How to Start a Poetry Blog (Spoiler: You Don’t Need to Hire a Developer)
I write a lot of articles about starting websites for different topics or interests. I always make a point of saying, “You don’t need to hire a developer. You can do it yourself!” That’s true for almost every kind of site, but especially for a poetry blog. Or any blog that focuses on the written word.
You want your writing to be the point of interest. The words are the most important thing, not the animated pinwheel graphics of flying unicorns. Okay, no one does that anymore, but you get the idea. You can set up a very bare-bones blog, and it can be the perfect home for your poetry.
But the beauty of WordPress, which I’m about to recommend, is that you don’t have to settle for bare-bones. A writing blog should be clean and readable, yes, but it doesn’t have to be boring. And you can do it all yourself.
Your Poetry Blog Needs a Home on the Web
A website is like a home. Sure, you can rent an apartment in an anonymous high rise somewhere, but wouldn’t you rather build a house? Blogging platforms like Blogger or Tumblr can seem attractive, but they have a lot of drawbacks. They are apartments. You don’t own them, and you don’t control them, you can’t knock out a wall to open up the view.
When you build your own website at a web host, you are in control. It’s your house to do with as you please. It’s also much better for Search Engine Optimization (SEO) and branding. You can use your own domain name. When you need to expand and grow, it’s easy to do.
So where is the perfect home for your site? GreenGeeks! One of the best things about us is that GreenGeeks specializes in WordPress hosting. If you ever have a question, the friendly and knowledgeable support staff are there to help at any hour of the day or night.
We’re called GreenGeeks because we are the most eco-friendly web hosting company in the world. If you’re the kind of person who is concerned about the resources your website uses, GreenGeeks is for you. But even if “green” isn’t your thing, you want to choose a host with experience and integrity. When your poetry blog is hosted at GreenGeeks, it’s safe and secure and has room to grow.
WordPress, It’s All You Need to Know
WordPress has been around for 17 years. Blog software is all they do. They didn’t invent it, but they perfected it. Their motto is, “Code is poetry,” so you can see they’re on your wavelength already.
WordPress prides itself on being easy to install, and setting it up in your GreenGeeks account is a breeze.
Choosing the Right Theme Will Make Your Poetry Blog Stand Out
The theme you choose controls a lot of the appearance of your WordPress blog. They are starting points; you’re not locked into the theme’s appearance. You can customize any theme to make it your own.
Here are a few suggestions to get your blog started.
ElegantWriting is a clean and uncluttered theme (as are all of these suggested themes). Your theme should spotlight your poetry, and this one can help do that. It’s responsive, which means it looks great on phones, desktops, and tablets. The typography is excellent, and it’s full width by default.
If you really want to go minimalist, Fluid Basics is for you. It’s responsive and SEO-friendly. One thing I should mention is this is a child theme. That means it’s based on another theme, in this case, ResponsiveBlogily. So you’ll have to have both themes installed.
Web Log has a kind of old school look, which will serve you well if that’s appealing to you. The looks are a throwback, but the functionality is all modern and up-to-date. Did you know “web log” was what the first blogs were called back in the day? Embrace history!
Writings is a Gutenberg-ready theme, which just means it works with the modern WordPress block editor. If you’re new to WordPress, that won’t mean much, but it’s a good thing. Another simple theme, it has all the essential features you could want or need.
Bloge is easy to use, modern, and according to the author, elegant. Personally, I think elegance is in the eye of the beholder, but I admire making a bold statement like that. Like all modern themes, it is responsive, cross-browser compatible, and, of course, SEO friendly. More on that in the plugins section. Which is next up on our plate.
WordPress Plugins, the Engine Under the Hood of Your Blog
One of the many cool things about WordPress is you can install plugins to expand its horizons. Plugins provide functionality beyond the core WordPress goodies. I mentioned that all you need is a bare-bones blog for poetry, so I’m not going to recommend any elaborate gizmo plugins. These are all solid building blocks for your blog.
Rate my Post
Rate my Post makes it easy to add rating functionality to your blog. Readers can rate your posts (poems) and even send private feedback after they leave a rating. Google likes star ratings, so this plugin will also give you a leg up with the search giant.
All of the themes say that they are “SEO-friendly,” but that doesn’t mean they are. And even if they are, they can always use a boost. That’s where SEOPress comes in. It can help optimize your blog with sitemaps, breadcrumbs, and schema/structured data. There’s a more popular SEO plugin out there, but SEOPress does the job with less intrusion and more privacy.
Embed Any Document
Do you have a lot of poetry in existing Word files or PDFs? If so, the Embed Any Document plugin lets you embed them in your poetry blog. It works with doc (and docx) files, PDFs, even txt files.
If you have a book (or books) to sell, or you will in the future, MyBookTable is a great tool. MyBookTable is essentially your own bookstore that links to other online bookstores where readers can buy your book. You can enter all the publication details, and the plugin structures the data to make it more discoverable on Google.
Social Media Share Buttons
In a minute, I’m going to talk about how important social media is in establishing your blog. So you’re going to want to provide links to let your readers share your work. There are a lot of social sharing plugins, but I like Social Media Share Buttons. It enables you to add icons for Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and a lot of other social platforms.
An Open Mic Night Is a Good Way to Get Your Work Heard, but These Are Better Ways
I’m listing this first because it’s an up and coming platform for poets. I know it seems odd, but check out #poetry – there are over 40 million posts. You’ll have to make images of your poems to post to Instagram, but a program like Canva makes that easy.
You may not have heard of Ello yet, but it’s a lively social site. Its membership is made up of creative people, so it’s an excellent place to promote your poetry blog. They call themselves “The Creators Network,” after all. Building a presence there can get people to visit your website, and that’s what it’s all about.
Discussion forums about writing or poetry and general forums like Reddit can drive traffic to your blog. The “poetry” subreddit has over 700,000 members, so Reddit can drive a lot of traffic to your site. Build and maintain a presence there, and you can grow an audience for your blog quickly.
Your Local Community
I claimed these promotion suggestions were better than an open mic night, but local is a viable strategy. Hit that open mic or workshop and let people know about your new poetry blog. You won’t gain a vast audience locally, but they will likely be a more engaged and loyal audience. Face to face contact works wonders that way.
Don’t Forget to Blog
You’re building a blog to feature your poetry. But make sure to give visitors more than just poems. If you don’t already have a blog with content other than poems, start one. You’re using WordPress for your site after all, so blogging is built-in. You don’t have to post every day, but do it often enough to give readers a glimpse of who you are.
Some of the Benefits of a Poetry Blog
You’ll Gain Satisfaction
I mentioned before that most of the printed poetry magazines folded when the internet came along. For pre-internet poets, a good deal of satisfaction came from publication. Receiving your contributor’s copies of the magazine in the mail, and knowing your work was out there being read. When you create a blog for your poems, you can get the same satisfaction in a slightly different form.
When you’re getting started online, clicking the “Publish” button will be exciting. Receiving comments will make you feel like you’re getting across to people, and they’re paying attention. Something a poetry blog can do that print magazines never could is create a dialog between you and a reader. You’ll have direct contact with readers that poets fifty years ago couldn’t have imagined.
You Can Be Published
While most of the print magazines and anthologies are gone, some still exist. If you promote your work diligently, some of those publishers may find you. When they do, you could chalk up a few print publications and have something to put on your shelf. And speaking of promoting your work, if you can build an audience, you can self-publish a book.
Self-publishing used to be looked down on. It was considered the last option for writers that were rejected by all of the “real” publishers. Recent years have changed that perception quite a bit. Now, it’s a badge of honor to be independent and DIY. Most corners of the creative world have taken control of their own production and distribution—writers, artists, and maybe most notably, musicians.
You Can Even Make Money
When you build an audience for your poetry blog, you also build a customer base. If you can create something to sell to them, many visitors will buy it.
In the years before establishing an online presence, I earned exactly $100 from my writing. When I set up a site and made it easy for people to buy things from me, I made $100 the first week. (Disclaimer: the first week was the best sales week I ever had. Just keeping it real.)
The reality is you won’t get rich selling poetry to people online. But then you won’t get rich if the University of Wherever publishes a collection of your poetry either. You can, however, easily take in enough money to offset the cost of keeping your blog online. And if you can build a large enough audience, you can write that novel that will buy your beach house.
Most mainstream publishers expect new authors to arrive on their doorsteps with a built-in audience. If you can build a sizable audience that really likes your work, publishers will want to talk to you.
Blog Poetry Is Real Poetry
You’re probably thinking, “Of course it’s real poetry!” But there are those out there who cling to the old notions of poetry. That it’s rare and precious and belongs in dusty books on dusty shelves. That a university or publishing house has to anoint poets. They can’t anoint themselves.
That’s not true, of course. If you say you’re a poet, you’re a poet. Poetry is alive and modern, and every generation leaves its mark on it. In 20 more years, poetry that isn’t online will seem antiquated. So get out there and stake your claim now.