Advice for Poets 11: Writing Poetry is Like Baking a Cake

It’s true, you know. Don’t just take our word for it – read our advice, then have a go at baking your own poem and see how it turns out.

Photo by Better Than Bacon / CC BY
Photo by Better Than Bacon / CC BY

You Don’t Have To Follow A Recipe

As any baker knows, if you follow a recipe you get great results, especially if you use a little invention to add a little twist of your own – a twist of lemon here, a pinch of cocoa there, and voila! You have a traditional cake with just a little extra sparkle.

It’s the same with poetry – following a recipe, or a ‘traditional form’, will give good results, and even better ones if you add a little creative flair. On the other hand, sometimes the best baking comes along when you can’t find your scales and are having to guess the recipe – writing free verse feels a bit like that, but the more you know, the more likely it is that making up the recipe will result in a fabulous cake/poem.

Sugar and Butter

Let’s be honest – this is the good bit, the bit we all used to sneak big spoonfuls of when our mums weren’t looking. The delicious greasy heart attack that is the sugar-and-butter combo is the first stage of cake baking. Mixing together your ideas to come up with a delicious idea for a poem is usually necessary to start writing. You don’t have to have a fully formed idea to work on – sometimes a few vague ideas of which direction you want to go are enough to start adding the other ingredients to.

Eggs

Eggs add flow to cake batter. We can think of the narrative of your poem as being like the egg. How you get from a-to-b, we mean. A poem doesn’t have to have a linear story, that’s not what we necessarily mean by narrative in this context – but your poem has to go somewhere, has to have a point, even if that point is just to explore a single concept of second in time. Figure out what you want to achieve and you have your egg.

Flour

The main body of your poem is a bit like the flour. It may not be the most interesting or flavourful bit, but you need it to bind all the good bits together – just like in a poem, where you need some plain padding to carry all the interesting bits along. It does, however, have to be top-quality flour.

Photo by steamboatwillie33 / CC BY
Photo by steamboatwillie33 / CC BY

Chocolate Chips

The jazzy bits you add in last, or as you go if you prefer, to make your poem pop and sparkle are like the chocolate chips. They’re your real focus points, the bits that are weaved into the fabric of your poem / batter of your cake that make some bites a little more delicious than others – that’s all part of the journey of reading a poem.

If you take our (decidedly silly) advice and decide to ‘bake’ your own poem, you still have a few days left (until August 1st) to submit your creations to our poetry anthology. It’s all in aid of Cancer Research, so give it a go and see what you come up with!

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One thought on “Advice for Poets 11: Writing Poetry is Like Baking a Cake

  1. Reblogged this on The Wait Poetry Anthology and commented:

    Tonight its the start of the new series of The Great British Bake Off, and at least one of the team here at The Wait is ridiculously excited!! To celebrate, we’ve re-blogged our silly blog about why writing poetry is actually just like baking a cake.

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