Start your poem with a piece of advice

Today is the last day for 30 Poems in 30 Days. Summer has turned to fall. The modifiers have turned from evaluative to descriptive. The metaphors are glistening with dew. The air is filled with hyponyms and slant rhymes. The grass is has become iambic and the chapbooks are flying south for the winter. Welcome to the end of the project. I hope that those of you who played along enjoyed yourself, learned a little something, and wrote a few poems that you can be proud of. If I can sum up the knowledge I hope you gained from this … Continue reading Start your poem with a piece of advice

Write a poem about a contest, a win, or a loss

If it looks too good to be true, it probably is. Before I discuss the good side of entering poetry contests, I want to get the basic warnings out of the way: Contests offering big money for poems ARE too good to be true Any “prize” that requires payment by you is not a prize Any gathering of “finalists” is a glorified vacation package Contests with “reading” or “entry” fees use that money for the prizes (and keep what’s left over) Beware of any contests that “suggests” you use one of their editors or teachers Most legitimate poetry contests are … Continue reading Write a poem about a contest, a win, or a loss

Write a poem that demonstrates strong emotion without ever stating what that emotion is

I write poetry when I’m sad. I write poetry when I’m angry. I write poetry when I’m happy. I do my best though, not to write poetry about being sad, angry or happy. I believe that the emotions in poetry must come from what happens in the poem. People want to smell, hear, taste, feel and see things when they read. If they understand from the imagery and the descriptions what is being felt, it will have a far more lasting impression than if they are told that you are sad, happy or angry. I am not advocating a cold … Continue reading Write a poem that demonstrates strong emotion without ever stating what that emotion is

Write about the first time you did something

We tell ourselves stories in order to live.  The princess is caged in the consulate.  The man with the candy will lead the children into the sea.  The naked woman on the ledge outside the window on the sixteenth floor is a victim of accidie, or the naked woman is an exhibitionist, and it would be “interesting” to know which. Joan Didion – The White Album I used to write persona poems fairly frequently, back when I was in my late teens and early twenties and everyone’s life seemed interesting but mine. Now that I am in my forties, I … Continue reading Write about the first time you did something

Find an original way to describe a chair and make that the first line of your poem

Earlier, we discussed specificity and description and poetry. Here are a few more thoughts on the subject of what makes a good description. One of the most common pieces of advice you will see is to use all five senses. Writers tend to rely on the visual almost exclusively. It is a good idea though, to think about how things smell, taste, sound and feel. You can train this by training yourself to write without visual descriptions. If you leave visuals out, you force yourself to think in terms of the other senses. If you do this long enough, you … Continue reading Find an original way to describe a chair and make that the first line of your poem

Write about something you can see from the window of your home

I wrote earlier about how we need to embrace our own experiences. Every poet needs to find what is unique about their writing. Many younger poets, especially students, find themselves imitating other poets. That is one of the key ways that people learn, through imitation. At some point though, to progress as a poet, you need to move beyond imitation and find your own style and your own voice. Imitation can become a problem early on because people find themselves imitating the styles and patterns of classical poets. This is especially problematic when a beginning poet embraces “poetic” words that … Continue reading Write about something you can see from the window of your home

Using Hyponyms to Structure for Your Poem

I’d like to talk about hyponymy for two reasons. The first reason is that it can be a fun thing to play with in your poetry. The second reason is that it is the only word I know with three Ys in it. Hyponymy is the use of subsets of related words, most of which have a superordinate (parent) term. For example, color has many hyponyms, some of which are blue, red, yellow, green, black, and white. There isn’t always a superordinate term, however. Aunt and uncle are hyponyms, but there is no parent term in English that they roll … Continue reading Using Hyponyms to Structure for Your Poem

Write a poem that ends with the word “quiet”.

I’ve had a hard time staying focused lately. I’ll admit it. Work has been a series of interesting but taxing steps backwards and forwards. There are days when I have four or five straight meetings. Writers and meetings don’t mix well. I have a habit of saying whatever is on my mind. We call it meeting Tourettes. I always expect it to bite me on the ass, but it almost never does. I’m starting to think people invite me to meetings just to see what I will say. In my spare time at work I try to produce the technical … Continue reading Write a poem that ends with the word “quiet”.

Write a poem that uses exactly the same number of characters on every line

Editing a poem is in many ways like editing any other work of writing. The central goal is to eliminate any errors you have made, to improve on words and passages that aren’t quite as good as they could be, and to work to make the poem hold together as a single unit. You would follow much the same process with an essay or a short story. It is the differences though, that matter. Here are some things to look for when you are editing a poem. If your intention was to use a particular meter, how well did you … Continue reading Write a poem that uses exactly the same number of characters on every line

Find a comfortable spot and write a poem

Tanka is a Japanese poetic form that is closely related to haiku. It has been Americanized and given syllable counts that make it even more like haiku, but the syllable counts don’t truly translate from the Japanese, so they can be considered somewhat loose and optional. A tanka is meant to be a meditative poem that focuses on the external natural world and the internal emotions of the poet. Shadows on my wall They drift as the sun rises Forming new patterns I lie in bed and watch them Teaching patience to my soul As you can see, a tanka … Continue reading Find a comfortable spot and write a poem