Since I’m participating in A to Z next month, I have to get the word out early that April is National Poetry Month.
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.
To honor April’s National Poetry Month, here are fifteen tips from those who have no trouble delivering this concise-but-pithy form of writing:
- avoid cliches. 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.
- 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?
More tips about genres:
Jacqui Murray is the author of the popular Building a Midshipman, the story of her daughter’s journey from high school to United States Naval Academy, and the thriller, To Hunt a Sub. She is also the author/editor of over a hundred books on integrating tech into education, adjunct professor of technology in education, webmaster for four blogs, an Amazon Vine Voice book reviewer, a columnist for TeachHUB, monthly contributor to Today’s Author and a freelance journalist on tech ed topics. You can find her books at her publisher’s website, Structured Learning. The sequel to To Hunt a Sub, Twenty-four Days, is scheduled for May 2017. Click to follow its progress.