Poetry essay: Having poetry with impact

When a person writes poetry, there’s the idea of impacting the reader.  The impact might be small.  You might want a reader to laugh, see some point, or just understand the message.  In other instances though, a greater impact is desired.

When you think about impacting a reader with your poetry there are two areas that you could look at that are often intertwined: emotion and action.

When you impact a reader emotionally, they feel something.  They might feel sad when they read your poem.  They might have a new sense of understanding.  They might feel angry at some idea.  They might have a moment of reflection.

Sometimes when you write poetry, you want the emotional impact to be big.  You might be writing about something personal to yourself and you want people to understand what you have experienced.  You might be writing about a social issue and you want people to understand it from your perspective.  You might be writing about a group of people and you want your readers to feel empathy.

In these instances you want your poetry to “hit”.  You want your poem to have an impact.

Some ways of doing this include having:

  • A clear message.
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  • A clear presentation.
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  • A poem with buildup to some idea.
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  • A poem with timing regarding the moment of impact.
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  • Some element of surprise regarding the moment of impact.
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  • Clear yet present symbolism and metaphor.
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  • A concise poem.
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  • The poem presented in the appropriate context.
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  • The poem focus on a subject with some inherit emotion.

In addition to having an emotional impact on readers, you might also want to impact readers in such a way that they take action.

Think about a poem about a political or a social issue.  You might want to impact your readers so that they become engaged and take some step.  You might want them to vote, protest, volunteer, donate, write letters, share your message, make a change in their lifestyles, or something else.  You want them to do something that furthers some idea because of your words.

When writing a poem with this type of impact, you have to take into account where along a spectrum your readers are regarding what you are writing about.

Depending on the subject, some readers might be very in favor of your point of view and others might be very opposed.  Some readers might be very active and some not.  There is also a lot of space in between both ends of both ideas.

When writing a poem that impacts a person to take some action, the poem has to reflect the position of the reader.  Appealing to someone who feels the same as you is different from convincing someone who feels differently.  Also, getting someone who is very active to feel inspired to take more action, is different from getting someone who isn’t active to start.

Poems that impact people to take action can be about social or political issues, but they can also be about other ideas.  You might want people to become more informed and active regarding a disease.  You might want people to change some aspect of their lifestyles, like stopping smoking.  You might want people to do something small in their lives, like plant more flowers.  Poetry can impact people to take action regarding many different things.

When writing a poem that impacts people to take action, the above mentioned ideas of focusing on where the reader is regarding the idea and how active they already are, are both important.  Other important ideas include:

  • Presenting the poem in the right context.
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  • Having the poem focus on one main idea.
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  • Having the poem express some idea of action.
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  • Possibly presenting the poem with some option for action available (e.g. a donation button or a call to sign a petition).
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  • Having the poem make a consistent appeal.

In writing poetry with impact, there will of course be times when you want to impact a reader emotionally and have them take some type of action.  In some cases, an emotional impact can be important to impacting a person to do something.

One thing to be careful of when combining the two ideas is not to have the emotional impact overshadow the impact for action.  Sometimes a reader can be very moved by a poem, but they might not take any action.  Think about a news story you saw that either made you feel very sad or possibly upset about some situation.  You might have felt very emotional about the subject for a short time, but you might not have done anything.  The story about someone with a disease, for example, might have made you feel bad for the person, but you might not have donated toward the disease or done something else.

Another thing to remember, is that it might take more than one poem and more than one approach to impact readers.  If some idea is important to you, it might take you regularly writing about it from different focuses before you get through to people about it.

A last thing to remember, is that poetry that has an emotional impact can sound very different from poetry that impacts a reader to take action.  In some regard, appealing to someone’s heart can be different from appealing to someone’s head.  This is important to remember as you write poetry with different impacts.