poetry writing course

poetry writing course

Unlocking the Power of Poetry: A Comprehensive Course on Writing and Appreciating Poetry

1. Introduction to Poetry Writing

However, taking poetry a step beyond the more light-hearted or seemingly simple process of turning words into poetical format, the primary goal of many poets is to dive into deeper reflection, to react to life experiences with intensity, courage, and many times, sensitivity. There are ages of comparison one struggles to communicate, the impact of mere words, all simply placed. Survey the spectacular spectrum of written and performed verse and appreciate it for its amazing variety and its power to provoke emotion, to elucidate profound truth, and teach the various ways of finding treasure in the language arts. Have faith that you will grow, as the multiple forms of this course explore and stretch your creative efforts, and consequently contribute to your writing enhancement in other forms and genres. During the next semester, keep a journal of your thoughts and your drafts as a reminder of your writing heritage.

When we say poetry is a form of expression, we should clarify that poetry is not just one form of expressing thoughts and feelings. It involves rules, both in the choice of words and in the general make-up of a poem. Of course, rules are meant to be bent or even broken, so this course will examine the standard rules and explore various ways of either altering them to create new poetic structures or breaking them to create verse we may refer to as “modern” or “alternative.” Also, we can define poetry as “compressed language,” for a gem that sparkles with facets from many angles. Yes, like a diamond—and that is why poetry, which is made of words, will be the stuff we cover, picking up the different feelings of a sparkling piece no stone could ever offer. Poems embody complex structures that are inherently musical—to read aloud, as well as in the reader’s head. Adding poetic elements to an otherwise pedestrian bit of prose too often leads to considerable awkwardness unless the techniques are competently implemented.

2. Crafting Poetic Forms and Techniques

End Rhyme: Probably the most common type of rhyme, end words sound the same from the last stressed vowel sound to the end of the word. Some people are very skilled at coming up with unique phrases that end in rhyme. Most people are quite used to clichéd end rhymes such as one/fun/etc. How can you make yours more unique? Try to avoid clichéd rhymes, but at the same time don’t try too hard to make original phrases. If a common end rhyme works best with your poem, use it. Form is pure, unadulterated support for what you’re saying, and when the meaning of the poem is understood best by a form that the reader may hear as old and tired, employing the form as is would be better for your poem.

In this chapter, numerous poetic forms and techniques are introduced with accompanying exercises. This chapter is essential, mandatory preparation for the later sections. If a student is particularly knowledgeable in a certain form or feels most comfortable working within specific guidelines, work on exercises in the a la carte chapters that follow. Write one example for each form/technique to the best of your ability. These are drafts and don’t need to be perfect! Only once may you choose to reinterpret the assignment and be creative with it. Give it your all and, as always with poetry, never be too hard on yourself. Good luck!

3. Exploring Themes and Imagery

Imagery includes the use of very detailed colorful language and sensory details to give meaning to words and convey sense beyond the basic definitions of the words used in order for the audience to imagine the poem as a “genuine experience”. This is successfully accomplished by appealing to our senses of taste, touch, sight, hearing and smell – visual, auditory, tactile, gustatory, and olfactory images, accordingly. These create sensory details which make a poem more vibrant and easy to connect with because they evoke emotions from the reader, who experiences the abstract situation.

Themes exist at the heart of any great work of art. Through this, poets (or any other artists) convey their ideas and feelings about life, without coming out and directly saying them. Essentially, themes are the general ideas that a form of art tries to express. Sometimes, it’s left for the audience to discover; while other times, certain specific elements and lines point to the message that the poet hopes the poem will convey. For the audience to figure out what a poet is trying to say, the poet devises the use of imagery. This means that unlike merely wasteful language, poetry serves as an efficient and imaginative means of communication. According to an old Latin quote, “a picture is worth a thousand words,” and like any piece of good art should always do, poetry operates on this principle: the images can convey a lot of meaning, not merely of fashion.

4. Workshopping and Receiving Feedback

First things first: You, the writer, are in control of the writing. This is your work. You will ultimately be the ones to turn in the final draft for presentation or publication. You want your voice, your conception, your style to shine through. If you do not believe in your vision well enough to defend or explain it in a workshop, the critique you receive won’t be received as an opportunity to improve your writing, but as a threat. And if you do not believe in your vision adequate to be able to stand up for it, your words will likely fall flat. If you are too timid to defend your vision, then how will your voice be heard? You have the control. What we can do in a workshop is give you concrete feedback on how to improve your writing. How much of this feedback you choose to act on is in your hands. Drop what you don’t find helpful, and take advantage of whatever you find was useful.

We define workshopping as the group effort of responding to written work (e.g. poems), based on a given set of guidelines. The quality of a workshop discussion of someone’s work will depend on the amount and quality of the preparation that has gone into the critiquing and in the meeting. Later, we will be looking at how to workshop specific genres of writing. Your objective in workshopping is to receive constructive feedback on your draft in order to successfully revise it yourself. Ideally, you will be learning enough about writing throughout this process to break the dependency on a group and be capable of revising your writing on your own. Workshop participation is a requirement for this class, and beneficial even if you are not currently workshopping your own work.

5. Publishing and Sharing Your Poetry

Once again, remember that Poets & Writers is an excellent resource. Their database offers comprehensive information about calls for submissions from literary publications. Duotrope allows users to search their database of more than four thousand publication options. A brief annual subscription fee is requested. Maintaining a record of your submissions through a comprehensive, user-friendly, and expert database is a smart practice for professional poets. It’s a great way to organize and submit your work as well as keep track of your submissions (e.g. poem titles, date submitted, date of acceptance, and timing for each publication) and your publications. Keep in mind that your poetry readers can value poetry widely, strongly, and deeply no matter the size of the publication and its readership. The recipient(s) of your poems will appreciate your toil, your considerations of them, and the sharing of your heart and creativity. Happy poetry publishing!

Publishing your poetry can be a powerful experience. You affirm your identity as a writer and share your work with an audience of readers who may be deeply moved and empowered by your poetry. Most poetry publications pay a nominal fee (which can be quite modest) for each published poem. Payment for “reprint” poetry (poems that have been published before) is typically less than payment for “first rights” or “simultaneous rights” poetry. Many publications accept simultaneous submissions. These are poems that you are also submitting to other potential publishers at the same time. However, no publisher wants to be submitted the exact same package of poems that another publisher is currently reviewing. If you are submitting the same poems to multiple publishers, you can simply list the other publications reviewing the poems in the “Cover Letter” area of your submission and notify publishers if your poem is accepted elsewhere. A publisher will only pay for first-time publication rights of a poem if they are the first to publish it. There are often specific restrictions on when, where, and how poets can subsequently publish their poems if they do grant first rights to a particular publisher.

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