As we did for short stories, we now do for the poetry side of our Scrawl writing competition. Poetry, we think, is more difficult to write – if only because it takes a more refined knowledge of grammar, form, cadence, feel and other factors. Anyone can write a poem, but few can produce a really good one. The best ‘vicbooks general poetry rule’ is: if you’re searching for something that rhymes with Nantucket, you’re likely on the wrong track. The most baffling professional piece of advice (from an actual poet) was, “avoid using rhyme”. Really? Gods help you all.
On to the advice. Here is the guidance of the general; tips and hints and processes that may help those drawn to the beautiful oubliette of poetry.
- Experiment with form (sonnets, haiku, villanelles, etc.).
- Embrace metaphors but avoid cliché.
- Buy a thesaurus.
- Study rhythm and meter.
- Revise and rewrite, again and again.
- Clever words do not make a clever poet.
- Eliminate all unnecessary words, phrases, and lines.
- Write a poem every single day.
Follow this link to 10 poetry writing tips, it offers depth as well as aphorisms: 10 Tips
One tip that was quite intriguing is this one: “Take the last line of one of your poems (which needn’t be good). Carry on from there, ignoring entirely what you drafted before.”
While this tip seems very sensible as well as sonorous: “Read what you write out loud. How does it sound? How could it sound better?”
Poets themselves are somewhat more scant on the specifics, painting around the point in order to illustrate:
‘Use no superfluous word, no adjective, which does not reveal something. Don’t use such an expression as ‘dim land of peace.’ It dulls the image. It mixes an abstraction with the concrete. It comes from the writer’s not realising that the natural object is always the adequate symbol. Go in fear of abstractions.’ – Ezra Pound
‘I have never started a poem yet whose end I knew. Writing a poem is discovering.’ – Robert Frost
Like the sand and the oyster, it’s a creative irritant. In each poem, I’m trying to reveal a truth, so it can’t have a fictional beginning. – Carol Ann Duffy
‘Poetry is a deal of joy and pain and wonder, with a dash of the dictionary.’ – Kahlil Gibran
‘I’ve had it with these cheap sons of bitches who claim they love poetry but never buy a book.’ – Kenneth Rexroth