poetry writing tips

poetry writing tips

Mastering the Art of Poetry: Essential Tips and Techniques

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1. Introduction to Poetry Writing

Poetry is the art of making every word, every mark on a page, count. The ideal is to say just enough to mean something and no more. The writer is in a hurry with poetry. Characters, plots, locations, and certainly subplots, favorite hobbies, every nuance of weather, detailed family histories, the generations, the sub-genres of family quarrels or traditions, culinary habits or habits of dress, all can be crucial in a short story, a play, or even a novel, but in poetry, they are usually stages for exposition: essential and overly well-known. Yet in a poem, you want the subject to include the possible feelings involved and reading a word such as apple wants you to think you have heard a new definition of apple! That is poetry’s holy mission, the job of the poet.

I have two essential pieces of advice for anyone writing a poem. The first is: if you do not feel driven to write a poem, you do not need to write it. The second is this: your urge to express yourself will remain easy, powerful, and persuasive if you observe certain golden rules of poetry. There are ways to put the craft into your creativity. Here they are.

2. Crafting Powerful Imagery and Metaphors

An excellent style dictates that you arrange your phrases carefully and in an orderly way; the thing which you have begun and the thing which you say second ought not to seem unconnected, just as in a legally drafted will a codicil is added to explain what might seem obscure in the original text. In a word, always preserve for yourself some solicitude of spirit and never put on the indolent negligee when indulging in the lyric art. Keep a firm rein on your style, it easily strays and becomes confused if it is not held in by a somewhat just and firm rein.

Consideration for objects and care in detail will win you the highest position in poetry. Just as poor questions can’t make it to the front in debate, so a vast number of things can’t make it in poetry. Go for a compact plot, one which has a beginning right in the thick of things, boots and all. Don’t leave many unsaid things behind when you have finished. Tell one thing before and at the same time suggest that another thing is on the eve of happening, so that at one and the same time the mind may be feeling now the pressure of what has been and the expectation of what is to come. When saying something which may savor of amusement, it is necessary that a whiff of solicitude should be mingled with it; in this way, you will preserve the grace of intimate discourse.

3. Playing with Sound and Rhythm

The two most important tools in the sound and rhythm toolbox are meter and rhyme. Meter means a strong rhythm within the poem and is made of patterns of stressed or emphasized syllables that give the poem a particular sound when read out loud. There are four predominant types of meter in poetry: rising meter, falling meter, duple meter, and triple meter. Rhyme is the repetition of the sound of words that appear at the end of two or more lines. It is something people often look for in poems and something they would learn in school as important in poetry, but the best rhymes don’t sound forced or unnatural. They sound almost accidental when done correctly. Other important tools of sound and rhythm can be used to create other types of musical effects in poetry. Language credited as caesura and enjambment are both grammatical tools used in poetry to slow down or speed up a line.

Strong poems sound better when you read them out loud. This is where all the instruction about meter, school, and stress falls away, and clunky lines tend to stand out.

4. Exploring Different Poetic Forms and Structures

To explore form is to make a broader set of artistic choices about pattern and limitation, and in this sense it encompasses the issues of structure, punctuation, and rhyme. While the interplay of these aspects can vary, form can involve elements of each of these aspects to give a particular kind of structure to a poem. But even free verse isn’t free; every poem contracts some of the infinities of spoken or written sound. Whether the form is a fixed one, or something freer, a poem’s diction is also a form choice. Each affords its own technical challenge, and the ability to work in occupied territory betokens the versatile living practitioner, the poet who commands much more than a single repeated trick, and his collection of twenty similar tricks.

Each of these form types adds to the technical challenge and enjoyment of writing in new ways, and each may invoke characteristics, tone, and content themes that are typically invoked in that form. Writing often in a given form allows the student to explore its limitations and its potential, ideal preparation for any future complex use of the form. Each affords excellent preparation for coming to know other tough aspects of skill: structure, punctuation, and rhyme.

5. Editing and Refining Your Poetry

As you read through your draft, ask yourself which images and words are most essential to the feeling and meaning you’d like to convey. Many beginner poets find that their lines have become cluttered with unnecessary words. If you find that your poem has become too complicated, take a break for a day or two and then give it another read. What details are most essential? Many experts advise cutting your first draft by at least one third to find your most essential poem. Other questions to keep in mind include: What is the most precise word that could convey my image or meaning? Have I used clichéd or predictable words, or attempted to make the ordinary words more striking and unpredictable? Are my images clear and fresh? What could I tweak to bring the poem to life?

Editing and refining your poetry after your initial draft can be a very satisfying part of your creation process. It’s a time to take a fresh look at the rhythms and patterns you’ve created in your poem and add a few finishing touches.

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