While Wordsmith Wednesday tends to focus on fiction writing, from time-to-time I find it compelling to write an article about poetry. This is because many of the people who visit my blog are from the poetry communities I participate in, but even more so because poetry is the handmaiden of superb writing, whatever the genre.
For today’s post, I would like to reflect on a few reminders that can serve poets as well as fiction, or for that matter, non-fiction writers.
- Don’t shy away from poetic forms. The discipline of adhering to prescribed forms such as those that define rhyme, meter and syllable count can serve as an aid when you run up against a brick wall. I turn to a haiku, an etheree, a quatrain, tercet or any number of “recipes” for writing when it seems as though my muse has gone into hibernation. This has never failed to help me jump-start my writing. There are a number of Internet references to teach you about form. Try Luke Prater’s Word Salad at http://lukepraterswordsalad.com/
- Write quickly but revise with care. Poetry deserves the same careful attention as prose. Often, words and ideas rush in at you and it pays to jot them down as they come. First drafts of poems will often pour out in mere minutes. I’ve dragged myself out of bed in the middle of the night and jotted down almost-illegible epics that I don’t recognize in the morning. But then the work begins. I once read about a poet who excused himself from a writing conference because he had to revise a poem. He returned hours later and when asked how it had gone told his colleagues that he spent a few hours before deleting a comma and then, a few hours later, added it back in. I hope my days will be a bit more productive than that, but you get the point. I belong to an online poetry critique group and the advice I receive is invaluable. But, as with fiction, remember that you have the final say.
- Sensory details make your writing come alive. Many beginning poets use their craft to probe emotion, to champion causes, and to express their opinions. Indeed, these are functions of poetry. But to be more effective, it behooves you to pepper your writing with devices such as metaphors or similes that employ those delicious sensory observations that you have picked up in the course of a day. I strongly suggest that you keep your senses, all of them, on high alert and then in the evening, take a few moments to jot down a dozen or so things you remember in your writing journal. You will be amazed at the inspiration you can cull from this exercise–for poetry or fiction.
- Don’t quit your day job. Most likely you will not get rich selling poetry. You will not find an agent to represent your tome or make the NYT’s best seller list. You will find joy in the writing process. You’ll find that your prose takes on a literary quality whatever genre you dabble in and you can build up a platform for marketing your work if you engage in Internet poetry communities. There are a myriad of these that invite both seasoned and budding poets to post their work. A few of my favorites include Poetry Potluck: http://jinglepoetry.blogspot.com/; One Stop Poetry: http://onestoppoetry.com/ and Poetic Asides: http://blog.writersdigest.com/poeticasides/ All of these sites offer prompts and a forum to post or link your work. I also post a writing prompt on Monday morning which invites both poetry and short fiction.