Let’s get one thing established here before this lesson starts: there’s no wrong way to write a poem. Although there are ways to make a poem stronger, to give it more impact, to help it connect with a broader audience, and to improve its word selection, there’s no such thing as a wrongly written poem. Like a song that burbles up in your throat, poetry is an art, an emotion, a state of being. And no one can tell you you’re wrong about that.
So with that said, here are some ways that you can make your beautiful poems stronger and more resonant. Pick and choose what works for you and remember that for poetry, advice isn’t always one size fits all.
Write with Purpose
Have a goal for your poem. Are you trying to convey a thought, idea or concept? Or are you trying to evoke an emotion? Whatever your intent, keep it high of mind so that every word you write down is a step in that direction.
Speak From the Heart
Sincerity helps poems stand out. You can often tell how a poet feels about his or her poem based on how close they are to the subject. A heartfelt poem can elicit all sorts of emotions and really get your point across.
Imagery is a great way to build the picture that you want in readers’ minds. Experiment with different ways of “painting” that picture, and make sure you’re thinking clearly about what you want it to be before you start explaining. Whether you’re describing a certain type of flower or a memory, your reader will never understand what you’re referring to if the image keeps changing in your head – and in your poem’s language.
Give yourself this challenge: Try to eliminate every cliché that you possibly can from your writing. Not only will you have sharper and more specific language, but you’ll also have less risk of boring your audience.
But Use Wordplay
The one exception to the “avoid clichés” suggestion is if you’re going to turn a cliché on its head. Then it’s okay to include the phrase, provided you’re putting a new spin on it that will grab people’s attention. In fact, any sort of wordplay is ideal to include in a poem, as it keeps the reader engaged and amused.
Join a Poetry Group
Sometimes it really helps to hear someone else’s perspective on your writing. You’ve probably been playing around with the same concepts and words in your head for so long that it’s all starting to mush together. Getting a fresh perspective could give you just the sort of kickstart you need, whether you’re trying to revise the finish of your poem or trying to find the right opener.
Balance Simple and Complex Language
Flowery language can be a wonderful part of a poem, but it’s like a rich chocolate mousse – have too much of it and you’ll regret it. Balance big words with little, complex descriptions with exclamations, and so on. Remember that variety is not just the spice of life; it’s also a pretty good poetic device.
Read as Much Poetry as You Can
Just as you can’t ride a bicycle without practice, you can’t write a poem without reading a few first to get familiar with the cadence, the rhyme (or lack thereof) and the language. You don’t need to read 300 poems a day. Start with one a day and make note of what you do and do not like. Chances are you’ll find yourself doing the same in your own poems.
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