If you start reading poetry, you may notice a certain style in some poetry you read. For example, you may read poetry in literary magazines, in published books, from famous poets, poetry that has critical acclaim, or poetry that has won awards.
As you look at this poetry, you may notice that the style might differ from your own. You may be wondering if, given the fact that this poetry is in magazines, books, seems important, and so forth, if your poetry should be like what you read. You may wonder if you should change your style to match what seems like “important” poetry.
The short answer to this is no. You shouldn’t change your poetry to match a perceived style. You should write what you want. Still, there is more to it.
First, this idea of some disconnected group deciding something, is familiar in society.
Think about fashion. Who decides fashion and what is fashionable? Who decides what people should wear or shouldn’t?
As another example, think about movies. Some movies get talked about in the media, win awards, and have critics talking about them. Does this mean they are good? Does it mean you should watch them?
There is sometimes this notion in society of “people who know” deciding what is good. There’s nothing really wrong with the idea taking in the views of people involved in an industry or activity, but you shouldn’t let it influence you too much.
When it comes to fashion, movies, poetry, or anything else, you should do what makes you happy, even if it differs from what you perceive to be the way things “should” be. You shouldn’t change your poetry just because you think others think poetry should be a certain way.
Second, poetry is meant for you and your audience. There is no one out there judging your poetry (unless, of course, you send it in for a contest or something). While you may sometimes feel that your poetry isn’t serious or important or literary or something else, don’t feel like there is someone out there looking down on your work. There isn’t. Of course, not everyone will like what you write, but it’s not like there’s some poetry establishment shaking their heads at your work.
When you write poetry it should appeal to you and the audience for your work. You shouldn’t write it to appeal to some idea or some perception.
Third, don’t get into feeling that there is some intellectual standard for poetry. Don’t think, for example, that a free verse, obscure poem about war is somehow more important than your rhyming sonnet about puppies. While some may view your poem as less serious, there is no objective measure of importance. Your poem that makes people smile, can be just as important as a poem that makes people think.
Fourth, when you write poetry, there will always be someone who doesn’t like it. Don’t let that bother you though. No poetry is liked by everyone. If you and your audience like what you write, that’s what’s important.
Generally, when you write poetry, write what you want. If you like inspirational poetry, silly poetry, poetry about unicorns, rhyming poetry, sonnets, poems about dating, sad poetry, or whatever, go ahead and write it. Don’t worry that you work doesn’t match some outside perspective that you perceive.
Now, there are some times though, when you might want your poetry to conform to an outside perception. While this might seem bad, given the ideas above, it isn’t necessarily.
First, if you send poetry submissions to publications, you will probably have to meet some sort of guidelines. These could be things like the length of the poems, the number of poems you send, the topics of the poems, and so forth. If you want your poems to be considered by publications, you’ll have to meet the guidelines they set.
Second, different publishers of poetry have different poetry styles. Although they might say they accept all types of work, if you read over some of what they publish, you should start to see trends. Editors can be consistent in what they like and what they don’t even if they don’t realize it.
If you want to get published in these publications, it could help if you poetry matched the style they published. If they publish short, free verse poems, about social issues, then your long, rhyming, iambic pentameter poem about the death of your cat, might not get accepted.
If getting published in certain publications is important to you, you might find that you have to match their style, even if it is different from your own, if you want the possibility of being published.
Third, you might have an audience for your poetry. This could range from your best friend, to a poetry group you are part of, to readers of your blog, to readers of a book you publish. In each of the cases, you want your audience to like your work. Part of this can be giving your audience what they like.
It can be hard sometimes when you write poetry and you feel it doesn’t meet the standard of “important” or “real” poetry. Don’t let that bother you. Write what you like. Write what makes you happy. Write what your audience wants. Write what you want to express.
At times, you might have to conform your poetry for specific reasons, but don’t let that overwhelm your work. Write what you want.