I will start this post by demonstrating my own skill level with what I consider my best poem:
It was upon the sunset that I thrived
When the leaves caressed my cheeks
The bees made pillows of their hives
And, with their buzzing, sent me off
To sleep; and they fed me of their
Honey, and I became their King, and
This went on for days, until the storms
Of spring, when the soldiers took off
With my Queen and, not recognizing
Her, killed her in her sleep.
In my poetry, I like to use run-on sentences along with enjambment to create a “story-mode flow” that has you feeling as if you’re turning the pages of a novel you can’t put down. This creates what I call “broken poetry”. I wrote this poem by emulating the structure of a sonnet, like a pillar that stands on its own but could fall any second. It creates the expectation that the poem should end at some point but holds its breath until the last line.
I believe that these are the best practices for the beginner poet –
- COMPARE YOURSELF TO OTHER WRITERS
This advice is often debated against, and I agree with the opposing side to an extent. The opposition claims that each writer has their own voice; that a poem should be unique to you. This, I agree with, but the best way to build upon your writing is by reading and analyzing someone else’s. You should be asking “What is it that makes this poem great, and how can I use this in my writing?” The emphasis here is the word “how”. You do not have to use the same tone of voice, mood or word choice, but you can become more aware of of those devices in your poetry so that you can use them with mastery. Pick a movement or age in the history of poetry and find one that you connect with and try to emulate that.
Your poem doesn’t become yours until you’ve read enough. It does not matter how much you’ve ‘stolen’ from other writers, as long as you learned from them, you will grow into your style.
- WRITE AND READ CONSCIOUSLY
Your teachers have probably told you this already, as mine did back in my high school piano classes. It isn’t enough to enjoy poetry. You have to put yourself through the struggle of reading the intentions of the poet. The same goes for your own poetry; it’s a struggle to use rhyme and meter while communicating your message. It’s a delicate balance where the use of one method could hinder the other. If you decide not to rhyme in your poetry, it’s a good idea to put all your weight on one side of the scale, where tone of voice, mood and word choice all coalesce into something eloquent and, though it may lack a pattern, beautiful.
- WRITE FOR THE AUDIENCE, OR FOR YOURSELF?
I’ll answer this one with the question…
Why not both?
It’s great to write for one’s own good, but don’t cheat yourself of the learning process. You don’t have to be afraid of losing yourself to your critics because, with every poem that you write, you’ll be finding more about yourself by learning to express yourself clearly and with a style all your own. Asking yourself “Do I want to get better at writing poetry?” should not have you questioning whether you should choose between yourself or your critics. Writing should be a relationship between you and the outside world, and to strengthen that relationship, you must explore yourself through a world that inhabits people with opinions. It is with these people that you will refine your sense of beauty and cultivate an appreciation of the world you live in.
There are other pieces of advice that might help unlock your potential as a poet –
Remember your literary devices… and break the rules!