Poetry is not something I’m good at writing, so I enjoy it vicariously through online friends like this amazing poem by Diana over at Myths of the Mirror or Andrew’s (at Andrew’s View of the Week) poem about the River. I’ve been following them for several years and always find their poetry startlingly personal, quick peeks into a world ruled by emotion and heart. I’m way too structured for that so only enjoy it through someone else’s eyes.
Here are fifteen tips from those who have no trouble delivering this concise-but-pithy form of writing:
Too often, they are unoriginal thoughts on a subject. Instead of using these pre-packaged descriptions, create your own. Instead of:
Her scowl looked like she had sucked a lemon.
She watched him like he was a car accident.
Rhyme with caution
It can become singsong. Beginners are (surprisingly) more likely to find success with free verse.
Describe something or someone
No plot necessary. Unless you’re writing Narrative Poetry or an epic poem like Beowulf, poems are more about characters, setting, or theme.
For example: Instead of
She was boring.
She didn’t like salt in her food or spice in her life.
Make your poem a response to a line in someone else’s poem
This is a great way to get started (remember to credit the original poet).
Tap into your own feelings
Research, so often critical in novels, will not rescue a poem. Focus more on your personal take, your unique voice.
Use excited and exciting language
Words that draw the reader in and keep them trapped in the world you’ve created.
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Use sensory details
Focus on the small–as in observations, events, activities, or consequences. Leave the big stuff (like War and Peace) for long long novels
Read lots (and lots) of poetry
Especially the type you want to write.
Expand your vocabulary
Poetry is about using precise words that say a lot. In a novel, you get an entire scene to communicate an idea. Not true in a poem.
Don’t be afraid to write a bad poem
You’ll write a better one later.
Eliminate unnecessary words, phrases, and lines
Make every word count.
Titles are important
Make yours substantive, maybe even the poem’s first line.
Use your imagination.
It’s your unique take on the world, why readers will fall in love with your poems.
Let readers interpret your work as they wish.
There’s no right or wrong, just how it resonates with them. A phrase out of the Urban Dictionary allows readers to see what they will see without being told: “I see what you did there.” It’s become a favorite of mine even in casual conversation, to let people know I get what they’re trying to say.
If you’re a poet, what is your top tip for an aspiring writer? What made the biggest difference in your journey?
This guest post was contributed by Jacqui Murray. Jacqui is the author of the popular Building a Midshipman and is the author/editor of dozens of books on integrating tech into education, an Amazon Vine Voice book reviewer, a columnist for Examiner.com and TeachHUB, and Editorial Review Board member for Journal for Computing Teachers. You can find her book on her publisher’s website, Structured Learning.