i. Read Some Old and New Poetry This Month
Read some poetry or write some. April is National
Poetry Month, but you can read or write any time; and
everybody should get in on the action. June is the month for
weddings and love poems. People write poems in all
seasons to fit the holiday or weather. If you are not ready to
write it or read your own, go to a poetry reading, or check
out some poetry books from the library. Look up some
poetry sites online and see what is being done in poetry
these days. If you are a writer, read on, and maybe pick up
some tips about the direction you want your poetry to go.
Try the Internet link at the end of this
chapter to read some poetry online.
ii. What Is Your Overall Purpose In Writing?
Do you consider yourself a potential master of poetry
or a dabbler? You may be trying to add to the conventions
and traditions of meter or forms. You may try to invent new
forms better than sestinas or haiku, or go beyond free verse.
You may be trying desperately to interweave all the poetic
devices such as alliteration, metaphor, aphorism, conceits,
or to go to the next logical step into the untrammelled
territory of the twenty first century. You may be overly
involved with the lives of recognized poets instead of your
own life. You may be trying to live the life of poetry itself. It
may be a living organism to you, an evolving life form....
If you don't know about alliterations and aphorisms,
look them up at a poetry glossary online. Or get a poetry
teaching book from your public library or bookstore, or at an
iii. Are You a Dabbler in Doggrel?
If you consider yourself a dabbler, you may be having
so much fun that you don't think of whether your poetry has
any critical merit. You may be all wrapped up in what
academicians call contrived rhymes. You may find yourself
more at home around cowboy poets than at a university
You won't be able to intimidate a cowboy poet by
pointing out that he writes doggerel, or by telling him he has
manure on his boots.
iv. Is Entertainment a Goal?
Do you try to entertain yourself or others with your
writing? If you are into poetry as entertainment for either
yourself or others it makes little difference. It is still
entertainment. It has been said that the people who are
most highly regarded in our society are the people who
provide diversions for others. Poetry as diversion definitely
has a secure place. There may not be much money in it but
we haven't yet got to poetry as money.
v. Poetry as Money?
Ok, poetry as money, What is there to say? You're
kidding of course?
Actually, poetry can conceivably make you some
money, too, if you devote your energy to marketing instead
of writing. Even Bill Gates showed himself to be able to
function primarily as a marketer for awhile. A poet could do
the same thing. It will surprise everyone if you make as
much as Gates has done, and do it with poetry. You can
learn something about marketing poetry, but you may have
to choose how you ration your time, if money is a top
vi. You Are an Artiste Perhaps?
Is poetry an art form to you or a means of
communicating with your classmates and other poets. Artists
create for artists, mostly; and for themselves. They barely
tolerate their patrons, unless they are lucky enough to find
one who encourages them to do what they were planning to
do anyway. Communicating with your classmates is exactly
the same thing. People love to toss ideas and artistic efforts
around among peers of similar interests. Painters can hardly
wait to show another artist their latest painting. Poets are
just as eager to show their work to a peer.
vii. Seriously Now, Are You Joking?
Do you take writing too lightly or too seriously? By
whose standards? Everybody but Edgar Allen Poe will
consider you too morbid if you lean a little to the somber.
You will have your work cut out for you to get lighter than
Ogden Nash or Edward Lear. If you are anywhere else in
the spectrum you will alternately be accused of being too
serious or too trivial. If you are fairly consistent you will be
identified as one or the other. If you write all over the
spectrum you will be labelled as inconsistent.
viii. Horror of Horrors, Do You Love Tragedies?
Are you attracted to people who live tragic lives? You
may be one of those who loves to read Kafka and Sylvia
Plath and watch movies like Amadeus and Lust for Life. You
may have an autographed copy of the writings of Poe and
be in ghoulish heaven with the contemporary trend toward
horror in every aspect of art. If you want to think just a little
on death you can read Emily Dickinson for a lighter dose.
You will find plenty of morbidity everywhere you look.
Morbidity can be found from the beginning of art history to
the present and with no signs that it is losing ground. You
can find morbid stories in Homer as well as Stephen King. I
can't name the modern epitome of horror poetry as it is not
one of my preferences, but you fans of the macabre can, I
ix. Love, Requited and Not
Are you primarily motivated by love? What, another
Browning? You may be one of those people who dwell in
thoughts of your beloved and think up rhymes in their praise
from midnight tryst to aubade. Maybe your butterfly is your
only peer of consequence. You could be crushed if your
latest poem misses its mark.
x. Religion is a Real Topic of Poetry Despite Censorship
Is religion your main topic? Are all your thoughts of
God and righteousness? You may be one who is devoted to
exploring eternal values and rejecting the temporal plane.
You will find plenty of company in the great poets of history
from Blake to Eliot and beyond both. Shakespeare was well
versed in scripture. Of course that is where the saying well
versed comes from. You will also find a lot of poets on the
web with similar or strangely different slants on your point of
view. You will certainly find people who are rabidly angered
by any mention of such things. You may also get ideas for
sermons (if you are a minister.)
xi. Following the Rules, As Teacher Says...
Are you mostly interested in following the rules of
poetry taught you by a teacher? Cultivating the process of
developing as a poetry student in this way is fun and will
lead you to greater heights as you continue to develop.
There is no end to the conventions and critique of poetry; so
you will have a long road to travel if you choose. You can
also jump off into a personal expression at any time.
xii. Do You Have Your Own Reasons For Writing?
What is your reason for writing this poem? I am not
about to assume that I know. Whatever it is, it has much
potential. Chances are it has been tried in some form many
times. If you read a lot of poetry you will find others so
remarkably similar in some way that you will be amazed.
Your reason is partly an outgrowth of your place in history
and partly a rejection of it. It is your frustration with or calm
acceptance of paradox.
xiii. Why This Particular Form? Have You Considered Others?
What is the form of this poem, and how does it
enhance the reason for writing it? Maybe you have never
considered writing in different forms from the one you have
always used. If you have taken a class in poetry you have
probably tried at least a few different forms. If you haven't,
you could benefit from knowing the expected limitations of
the form you have been using.
Are you just playing with words to see what turns up,
And will you decide later whatever the purpose might be.
Just having fun, are we? Recording a few thoughts for
posterity or just taking notes on life as it swiftly passes by.
Those are certainly valuable things to do. You can make
poems or essays from them later if you like. All you have to
do is write on any topic that interests you at the moment.
xiv. Does Everything Become a Poem?
Do you try to make a poem out of everything you
write? You may be working too hard or maybe you are up to
the job. It may be important or not. You can certainly cram
more importance into almost anything you write. But, after
all, how many poems do you need? How about two like The
Iliad and The Odyssey?
xv. How About Work as a Topic?
Does your work get into your writing? They say write
what you know. It may be pretty interesting if you are writing
from professional experience. There are a lot of us who
don't know much about your field. Most poets have other
xvi. What Sticks Are in Your Bundle?
Your writing may include more than one of these
topics. If you are an adult, it probably will include a few of
them over time. If you are very young, you may be having a
lot of fun just making up rhymes. If you are in love, you
probably are too involved at the moment to have much
interest in all these other possibilities. But there comes a
time of grief, too, and you should still write. It will ease the
pain to write about it. If you keep a record of all your life
events and ideas you will be able to scan back through them
and remember. Preserve the levity and the pain, the love
and the loss. Your love of words will also grow; and words
are great companions in whatever you do.
xvii. Sorting It All Out
Poems for publishing may include everything at first;
but you will become more discriminating later, and want to
select just the best to publish. Any mature poet only
publishes a small portion of total output. When you begin,
you need help from someone who has good instincts. They
will be able to help you avoid publishing something that may
otherwise forever embarrass you. Although there is a
danger of that for all poets, they must also develop
toughness and resistance to criticism. There is a lot of
personal disclosure poetry being written.
Here is a poetry link for your enjoyment and
information. They include several types of poetry for you to
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