The Blog of John Hewitt

Break the rules – 31p31d

Day 22 of 31 Poems in 31 Days

Doing What You Can’t

“Can’t” is a word that should rarely be applied to poetry. There is very little that “can’t” be done in a poem. The beauty of poetry is that the risks are so low. While it would be stupid of me to say that you “can’t” get on the bestseller’s list with a book of poetry, I can tell you that the market for poetry is significantly smalleR than the market for fiction. You can choose to be saddened or frustrated by this, or you can embrace the minuscule size of the market. If you

aren’t writing poetry to get rich, then you don’t have to worry about the demands of the market. You don’t have to write “marketable” poetry, because most poetry isn’t very marketable anyway. You are free to indulge you wildest and most experimental ideas (or your strictest and most conventional ideas) precisely because the consequences are so minor.

So what if most poetry doesn’t rhyme anymore? If you like the way it sounds, do it.

So what if nobody reads epic poems anymore? If you have that much to say about one thing, then you should say it.

So what if sestinas don’t sell well? Nothing sells well. Write it if you like it.

There is nothing wrong with taking risks and breaking rules. Just remember that broken rules don’t make a poem good or bad. You aren’t going to impress someone with your combination enjambment, alliteration and tetrameter unless the poem is actually good. you don’t break rules just to break rules. You do it because it is what produces the poem you want to produce.

Today’s Poetry Assignment

Try something that scares you (just a little) and then write a poem about it.

Today’s Recommended Poet

Ken Rumble’s book, Key Bridge, is either an epic length poem or 79 different poems about the same subject, depending on your point of view. The subject is Washington DC, and he captures the life and spirit of that city in just about any way you can imagine. He plays with style, language, line, rhythm, placement and any other poetic concept you can think of as he weaves through the city from multiple perspectives and styles. Whats more interesting, to me, is that shortly after it’s publication he moved from Washington DC, the city of his birth, to Greensboro North Carolina. I guess he was finished.