Write a poem about completing something

We are near the end of our 31 days. Tomorrow will be the final post. Many of the people I have talked to over the course of this project have planned to turn their 31 poems into a book, or at least use the poems toward a book. I am very hopeful that this happens, and I hope people drop me a line and let me know if they publish any of their poems. One of the great joys and terrors, is the completion of a long project. it is wonderful to sense that accomplishment, and also a little terrifying to lose a purpose you have stuck to for a long time. My advice is to think about what is next.  What do you want to do now?

You can publish, you can keep writing poetry, you can work on that novel. You can get on with your life. You can go watch TV. The possibilities are endless. I plan to get moving on National Novel Writing Month. What about you?


Today’s Poetry Assignment

Write a poem about completing something.

Write the final line of your poem first, then figure out a way to get there

Six Quick Tips

We are almost to the end of our 31 day journey through the world of poetry. I still have several poems left to write and I am determined to do it, so I am not going to delve too deep tonight. Instead I am going to leave you with six quick tips to take forward with you.

  1. Nobody said writing poetry was easy. If they did, they probably weren’t very good at it. Accept the challenge. Embrace the challenge.
  2. Set aside time at least once a week to write poetry. It is easy to get out of the habit. I know.
  3. Poetry is therapeutic. Poetry can be a great way of dealing with anger or sadness. It is good to write your way through something, whether the poem itself is good or not.
  4. Buy at least one book of poetry a month. Try to support new poets and don’t be afraid to try someone you don’t like at first. You CAN learn from poets you don’t like.
  5. Look for ways to do something unexpected in your poetry. It is good sometimes to take a poem someplace that the reader did not see coming.
  6. Sometimes when you are stuck for something to write, it is because you are not doing enough things that are worth writing about. Take the time to live and embrace life, otherwise you may well run out of material.

Today’s Poetry Assignment

Write the final line of your poem first, then figure out a way to get there.

Write a poem that includes one or more descriptions of sounds – 31p31d

Day 28 of 31 Poems in 31 Days

Choose Your Words

Some poets write what they feel and spend very little time thinking about which word to use. They rely on instinct. Other poets spend a considerable amount of time trying to choose exactly the right words. They analyze and consider every word. I’m not going to advocate one method over the other. In my opinion, it is up to the poet to determine their approach to word choice. I am certainly in the middle of the road with my approach. I care about word choice, and I will often consider the benefits of one word over another, but I would consider myself completely sidetracked if I spent more than a few minutes deciding on whether or not one word is more perfect over another.

There are six general ways to influence and analyze your choice of words. The type of poem you write can make a difference in your choices. A poem with a metered form is going to involve choices about rhythm. A visually structured poem will entail a greater emphasis on appearance. A persona poem will require an increased focus on style. Beyond form, there is the individual style of the poet, which leads to subconscious word choices. Below are the six methods that you can use to determine word choice.

Meaning: The meaning of a word can be important in several ways. Obviously you want a word with the correct definition, but there are other considerations. Sometimes you want to reflect on the alternate meanings of a word in addition to the contextual meaning of a word. For example, you can say “we were filming the movie” or “we were shooting the movie”. Both phrases are correct in context, but the word shooting brings in other images because it has alternate meanings. Filming is the more precise word, which may be what the poet wants, but shooting has connotations of both violence and achievement (shooting a gun, shooting for the stars) that filming does not. These differences can have an overall effect on the poem, especially if reinforced with other word choices elsewhere in the poem.

Style: Another consideration is style and usage. Some words are more formal than others. For example, “cannot” and “can’t” are essentially the same word, but cannot is the accepted formal usage and can’t, like all contractions, is considered informal. Even more informal usages, such as slang or colloquialisms like cain’t, create a much different effect.

Rhythm: The rhythm of a word is essentially its meter, which I have discussed in earlier posts. It is the general pattern of the word, stressed syllables versus unstressed syllables. Even if you aren’t attempting to write a poem with a formal meter, you may find that you want a particular rhythm, especially for words on the same line.

Sound: The way a word sounds is always a consideration in poetry. The following words all mean essentially (though not exactly) the same thing: apron, bib, smock, pinafore. Each of these words has a different sound. Apron and pinafore have softer and longer sounds compared with bib and smock. If the exact meaning of the word isn’t your primary concern, then you might choose one of the four because it fits your sound requirements. It may rhyme, be alliterative, be assonant or add any of a number of other qualities to your poem.

Length: The length of a word can have very definite effects on a poem. The eye and even the voice tend to move more quickly over short words than long, even if the total number of syllables per line is the same. Short words tend to present as more active than long words. Long words tend to present as more formal and intellectual than short words.

Appearance: The final consideration in word choice is how the word looks on the page. For some poets, especially those who work with visual structures, this can be important. The words “little” and “modest” have similar meanings, the same number of letters and the same stresses, but the letters of the word little are (overall) taller and narrower than the letters in modest. For a visually-oriented poet, this can determine which word gets used.

Today’s Poetry Assignment

Write a poem that includes one or more descriptions of sounds.

Use an inspiration tool

The Search for Inspiration


Sometimes I get stuck for ideas to write about. It is easy to get stuck in a rut as a poet. Staring at a blank page or a blank screen can be intimidating. Here are a few ways, presented in the tried and true list style, which can help you get started.

Call a friend and talk about old times
Collaborate with another poet
Give yourself a deadline
Give yourself permission to write badly
Go someplace new
Interview yourself
Just start writing anything that comes to mind as fast as you can
Listen to your favorite music
Look at old photographs
Read a magazine or a newspaper
Read someone else’s poetry
Read your own poetry
Review your old work
Start with a title
Take a swim, bath or a shower
Take a walk
Try another medium such as drawing or painting
Try something new

Today’s Poetry Assignment

Use one of the methods from the list above as inspiration for your poem. If you post your poem, be sure to write down which method you chose.

Today’s Poetry Assignment

If you truly want to get the poetry world all riled up, write a book of prose poems. If you don’t believe me, just read some of the reviews of Karen Volkman’s work. Better yet, go read the work yourself and see if YOU get riled up. What do you do to follow up your prose poems… sonnets!

Interview with Karen Volkman
Karen Volkman: Poetry’s Latest Punchline
Karen Volkman – Vacancy’s Ambassador



Write the first draft of your poem in paragraph form and then change it into a free verse poem

Trading Safety for Freedom

I’ve touched on the subject of free verse before, most notably in the article about the pros and cons of meter. Free verse is poetry that does not use a regular meter or rhyme. While poetry without rhyme dates back many centuries, the practice of using neither meter nor rhyme was a poetic movement that began in French and Europe during the 1800s. The first popular American poet to write in free verse was Walt Whitman.

Free verse does not mean that there are no patterns or rhythms at all. Instead, the rhyme is determined, sometimes subconsciously, by the poet. The lines come in the form of thought patterns, breath patterns, visual patterns, and syntactic patterns. More to the point, the form tends to mirror the voice of the poet.

While in some ways, free verse does not require the discipline of metered and rhymed poetry, it creates new requirements. The poet must determine, without the crutch of form, when the line ends and what makes for the best line. They must find a way to make the poem still feel poetic without relying on some of the most accepted tools. With free verse, you cannot defend the use of a word or phrase simply because it fits the meter. You must determine where to end the line because there is no set length to fall back on. Even the length of the poem is now completely up to you. So, while you have less limitations and restrictions, you have more responsibility.

While free verse is ultimately freeing, it is not for the lazy of for those who think it will be easier than writing metered or rhymed poetry. There is no safety net without form. There is no literary excuse for a mistake, because you have all the power. If you choose to write in free verse, you sill have to learn to be confident in your own voice, because that is what you will be relying on.

Today’s Poetry Assignment

Write the first draft of your poem in paragraph form and then change it into a free verse poem. Don’t be surprised if you have to change lines, words and phrases. That will probably be a part of the process.

Today’s Recommended Poet

Bruce Bond is a highly respected poet, teacher and the poetry editor for the American Literary Review. In this interview, he explains part of his poetic philosophy. “white space is one way of suggesting a kind of silent listening, an openness to the strange and what the language longs to accommodate, how words are taken to their limits. I like poems with silence in them, both the formal resonance of literal silence, and silence as a metaphor for the unknowable, the erotic, the sublime.”

Poems on the Web

Books of Poetry