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!
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.
- Write the moment. Try the first exercise we did, word balloons, free-writing, doodling, or finger paints.
- Form the words of your moment more poetically. If you feel comfortable following a form, do so. If free verse appeals, try that.
- 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.
- Next, fix the meter. Even free verse poetry follows a meter.
- Last and most difficult, murder the unnecessary.
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.
©2021 Chel Owens