Saddle Up Saloon: Anyone Can Poem

Written by Chel Owens

Chel is a person, much like you. She also writes occasionally, reads often, mothers daily, and sleeps and eats in her free time.

September 6, 2021

If’n your summer (or winter) has been as busy as mine, I shore do ‘preciate your comin’ back for more poeming.

Still, I didn’t get many volunteers in last month‘s offer to send me your poem needing a bit of meter-tinkering. The offer is open, even if you’re reading this months or years after its posting.

Now, on to more FUN poetry specifics:

If my #1 pet peeve is meter, my #2 is when people write poetry for entirely the wrong reasons and are therefore showing off.

Their work is flowery, superfluous, showy, fluffy, wordy, adverby -in short, too much tell AND show in some of the worst ways possible. Their poem ends up a mash of obscure words and emotional pleas that lack a concise theme.

If a poet is new to The Game, s/he will do this innocently.

If a poet is old to the game, s/he will do so because swaths of followers are wowed by a naïve misunderstanding of what really makes poetry good. What will make it memorable. What makes it timeless.

How do you avoid this pitfall? The same way you do with regular writing exercises: brutal murder of useless words.

“When your story is ready for rewrite, cut it to the bone. Get rid of every ounce of excess fat. This is going to hurt; revising a story down to the bare essentials is always a little like murdering children, but it must be done.”

Stephen King

This is one reason why I believe Dr. Seuss is among the poetic masters. How many words does he use in The Cat in the Hat? And yet, I love it. And yet, with my kids, that book I still get…

This is also why, in intentionally ignoring the other rules haiku must follow, I had us try 5-7-5 for our first form. I am sorry to those who felt stabbed at my casual treatment. It had to be done.

Make your poem concise!

Compact!

To a point -please, please have a point to your poetry!

Easier said than done? Nah.

The way I see it, the most common reason a poet strays too far is because the poem doesn’t feel special enough. We have a misconstrued idea that poetry must be mysterious (obscure), beautiful (flowery), long (wordy), and impressive (vainglorious). It DOESN’T; at least, not in the blundering way we try to get it there.

The purpose of a poem is to capture the feelings of a moment and then use the artistry of words and meter to convey that exact moment and its feelings to another.

So, take your moment; your idea.

  1. Write the moment. Try the first exercise we did, word balloons, free-writing, doodling, or finger paints.
  2. Form the words of your moment more poetically. If you feel comfortable following a form, do so. If free verse appeals, try that.
  3. Follow the first two steps a few times. Let someone else read what you’ve got and tell you what they think you’re writing about.
  4. Next, fix the meter. Even free verse poetry follows a meter.
  5. Last and most difficult, murder the unnecessary.
  6. Polish.

And, I want you to use the attached form to send me what you’ve got at any step along the way. I’m happy to give pointers and I NEVER judge writers negatively. Writing’s difficult enough without worrying about judgment.

If you feel up to it, comment with what you end up with after step 6.

I’m waiting.

—–

©2021 Chel Owens

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34 Comments

  1. D. Avery @shiftnshake

    I also do not like reading obscure poetry where too much deciphering or decoding is required. And sometimes the flowers become weeds and detract from the garden.
    I appreciate these first Mondays and knowing the Saloon is in good hands.
    This Labor Day Monday I not only have the day off from the Saloon (thank you!) I also have the day off from work so I will try and catch a poem for you. It has been a busy summer and very little writing. But off I go, I know a spot where some poems hang out.

    • D. Avery @shiftnshake

      Seeing the Trees

      Leaves mutter, scattered comments on the weather
      Trunks, twisted, bent, tell of prevailing trends
      Low voiced roots hold counsel together
      Refrained verses of beginnings and of ends.

      • Chel Owens

        Lovely, D. Nature’s conversations.

      • D. Avery @shiftnshake

        Thanks. Not sure if there’s a point but I at least tried to keep it short and focused; ignored the forest for the trees.

      • Chel Owens

        😀 That you did.

  2. Myrna Migala

    To submit does it have to be a poem we self-published on WordPress in the past or something original we write currently not yet seen? I wonder!

    • Chel Owens

      I do not mind which you choose. I would even take restaurant napkin poems. 🙂

      I want everyone to be comfortable writing a poem and knowing there is help if they would like some.

      • Myrna Migala

        Okay I submitted one! Thank you in advance.

      • Chel Owens

        Great!! Thank you!

  3. robertawrites235681907

    Hi Chel, I hope you’ve had a good summer. There is nothing worse than pretentious an pointless poetry. I try to make sure mine, if nothing else, is understandable and about something I care about.

    • Chel Owens

      I know you do!

    • Myrna Migala

      I am new at poetry, recently I commented to my daughter, that I feel when I read other poetry many times I don’t understand it, she said, well not to worry mom, they probably don’t understand your poetry either. lol!

      • Chel Owens

        😀 I doubt that’s true!

      • robertawrites235681907

        Hi Myrna, it depends on the poetry. I understand most poetry if it is intended to be understood. There are people whose intention is to show others how clever they are with words. Perhaps those poems don’t have any other meaning.

  4. Charli Mills

    The Big Read this year is a book of poems — American Sunsets by Joy Harjo. Hers is poetry that makes a point. Sometimes we have to decorate to figure out what we have to say. 🙂 Thanks for helping folks poem!

    • Chel Owens

      That sounds lovely! Thank you, Charli.

  5. Norah

    Welcome back, Chelsea. I know what you mean about those poems with flowery words and obscure meanings. I like the meaning to hit me straight on. I don’t like to have to go digging for it, though I was always called on to do that at school and at college and remember being good at it. Now, I don’t want to work it out. I just want to know. 🙂
    Thanks for you offer of poetic help. One day … or year …

    • Chel Owens

      😀 Just do it, Norah! And I’m glad you agree.

      • Norah

        Time …

      • Chel Owens

        Time is an illusion; lunchtime, doubly so.

      • Norah

        So true!

  6. D. Avery @shiftnshake

    Reblogged this on ShiftnShake and commented:

    Yep, anyone can poem and Chel Owens will help you along. She is the Verse-atile host every first Monday at the Saddle Up Saloon. Come by for the prompt, stay for the chomp.

  7. reading journeys

    Hi Chel,

    I’m enjoying reading your blog, even though I’m not a poet — flowery or otherwise!

    I just wanted to share some thoughts that came to mind about how reading poetry became for me an experience about what the poem means to me, the reader, apart from its meaning or significance to the poet.

    So I’m taking this from many essays on “how to read a poem” written by various poets. One perspective that has stayed with me is by Edward Hirsch. Basically, one can think of a poem as a landscape, to be explored by the reader.

    When I first read a poem, I make a note of something I particularly like or find puzzling or beautiful, etc — its images, metaphors or sounds, rhymes or rhythm or a word or sentences, etc. I start to reread that poem from that one feature, and I repeat with some other features. I often find a picture emerging of the poem that means something to me. I end up reading the poem from time to time and with more than one interpretation. If I cannot make any connection to the poem after this, then I let it go!

    Saifun

    • Chel Owens

      Beautiful, Saifun.

      Yes, poems are able to convey so much! I’m trying to address common errors I see in poetry and to put new poets at ease in avoiding similar pitfalls.

      I love what you say about needing a connection. That’s so true!

  8. SelmaMartin

    Thanks, Chelsea. I just sent something through the form you provide. In my best cowgirl imitation: Much oblig’d, Ma’am.
    I bless you. xo

    • Chel Owens

      😀 I’m lookin’ forward to it!

      • SelmaMartin

        Hi, Chel. How are you? I wonder if you ever received that little trio I sent a week ago, Thursday.
        Also, newbie here that I am, don’t know what to expect after that? Please let me know what happens next. I’d hate for those words to get lost and alone in a faraway land. Looking forward to hearing back from you at your earliest. Thanks for everything you do. Be well. xo

      • Chel Owens

        Sorry, Selma! We’ve moved to a fixer-upper and I’m just getting ’round to emails. ? You’ll hear from me soon!

  9. ellenbest24

    I popped it on the form, but not on my Blog x P. S. I have no patience with sewing machines so this would be just my luck. ????

    • Chel Owens

      Hi, Ellen!! I will look for it. ?

      • ellenbest24

        ????

  10. larry trasciatti

    Are you saying, unfortunately, you don’t like rhyme and meter? I was reading something about Edna St. Vincent Millay recently. It said she has been neglected among modernists because they don’t like old fashioned rhyme, meter, ,and poetic conventions in general. I find that so very sad. I’ve always been so fond of those practices, and want to start paying more attention to New(Neo) Formalism in poetry

    • Chel Owens

      Heavens, no! I am very fond of rhyme and meter.

      I think that’s an excellent goal.

      • larry trasciatti

        That’s so especially good to know but I’ve met many people who’ve complained about those kinds of things

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