Poetry essay: writing poetry in isolation

Today’s poetry essay is about writing poetry in isolation.  This differs from writing poetry about isolation, which was the poetry topic idea from March 27.

Writing poetry in isolation can be difficult.  Things that would have inspired poetry ideas like going out, meeting people, dating, traveling, working, talking, and so forth aren’t there.  It can be difficult to write about what is happening when little is happening in a personal sense.

Despite this though, writing poetry in isolation can be helpful.  It can help a poet express what they are feeling and what they are going through.  It can help people who read a poet’s words by giving them something that expresses how they feel.  It can give the poet something to look back on when things get better.

When writing poetry in isolation, it can be difficult to find ideas.  Although a poet might want to write about their situation, they might not want all of their poetry to focus on it.  Even in situations where they wanted their poetry to focus on their isolation, they might want to express different views and ideas about it.

Writing poetry in isolation might be a bit like trying to explain something without speaking.  How do you get across what something feels like when the experience is drawn out and there isn’t interaction?  How does one day differ from another?  How do you express things like worrying about food or being afraid when you get the mail in a way that gets the idea across without saying too much or sounding as if you were trying to be dramatic?

One helpful thing might be for a poet to read what others write about periods of isolation.  There are many examples of isolation a person might experience.  These could include prison, being lost, being shipped wrecked, being unable to leave a home because of something such as a physical handicap, and being ill and not being able to leave a hospital.  A poet could seek out work on things like this and see how the isolation was related and see how they could relate their own isolation.

Writing poetry in isolation isn’t easy.  The days can blend and there aren’t the normal inspirations a poet might have.  Still, writing poetry in isolation is important.  Somehow, expressing isolation, can make it feel less so.

If you write poetry and you are having a difficult time writing poetry during this time, there are some resources on this blog you can use.  There are the poetry topic ideas, artwork to inspire poetry, photography to inspire poetry, and experimental poetry forms.  These things can give you ideas and ways to express them.  You can use them to relate what you feel about isolation or to take your mind off it.

Poetry essay: Remodeling a poem

Sometimes as a poet, you might want to remodel a poem.  Maybe you wrote a poem, but think it could be better.  Maybe you wrote a poem, but your view on the subject has changed.  Maybe you want to write a poem, and are having trouble thinking of ideas, so you look back at an old poem you wrote for inspiration.  Whatever the situation, remodeling a poem can be an interesting exercise.  It can lead you to a poem that is very different from what you started with.

For this essay, the poem from the post Artwork to inspire poetry: Shelter will be used to illustrate how a poem can be remodeled.  The original poem was:

all the time
he kept wondering
if civilization
were just over
the next hill

In the poem, a person is lost in the wilderness.  They have been lost for some time and have built a shelter.  They have doubts about their situation though.  The wonder if in some place nearby, that they can’t see, there could be civilization.  They wonder this from a number of perspectives.  They wonder if they should keep moving rather than building a shelter.  They wonder if they might be rescued soon.  They also are self-conscious in that they wonder if they will be judged by people for their actions given that civilization may be very close by.

In starting to remodel the poem, one thing that could be changed is how long the person wondered.  In the original poem, the person wondered all the time.  A change could be made to say that the person only wondered after a certain point.  The first line could say some like, “after so many days”.  This implies that the person didn’t initially have doubt, but that doubt developed over time.

With this change, as can happen with remodeling, another change would have to be made.  This is in the second line.  In the original poem, the first two lines express the same idea.  Since the first line is changed, the second would have to be as well.  It might be rewritten as, “he wondered”.

Another change in the poem, might be the gender of the character.  In the original poem the person is male.  In the new poem, the person could be female.  In this case, “he” of the second line, could be changed to “she”.

The original poem was based off of the idea of a shelter.  That led to the notion of civilization in the poem.  As part of remodeling though, a different idea could be looked at.

The basic idea of the poem is that of wondering if something good might be nearby but unseen in some way.  That idea could be applied to other things.

Rather than looking at the idea of being lost and wanting civilization, something else could be looked at.  An example might be a person who is looking for a new job.  They might wonder if a new job was near in some sense.  This could be written in the poem as, “if a new job”.

In the original poem, civilization was described as potentially being “just over/ the next hill”.  The new job, could be describe as, “just in/ the next email”.  The idea is that as the person is trying to make ends meet, and looking for a job, they might wonder if their next job offer will be in the next email they receive.

After the changes, the poem so far becomes:

after so many days
she wondered
if a new job
were just in
the next email

While this expresses the idea, it does lose some of the depth of the original poem.  In the original poem, there was an idea of survival and civilization.  In this poem, depth could be added with a few small changes.

First, the first line could be rewritten as “after so much time”.  This adds more significance than focusing on days.

Second, instead of referring to “a new job” a more profound description could be used.  Something like, “if something new”.  This is more ambiguous, but adds depth, and still contains the same idea.

Third, rather than describing something as “in” it could be described as arriving.  The line “were just in” could be “would soon arrive”.

Fourth, instead of saying “email”, the poem could talk about a “message”.  A message is a deeper sounding idea than an email.

Fifth, instead of describing the message as arriving “next”, it could be described as something that is “awaited”.

With these changes, the poem becomes:

after so much time
she wondered
if something new
would soon arrive
in an awaited message

Again, the original poem was:

all the time
he kept wondering
if civilization
were just over
the next hill

The new poem has depth, has some ambiguity, and expresses an idea.  It follows the basic idea of the original poem, but shows something new.

This poem remodel was an example.  It shows how the process can go.  A poet can go line by line and examine words and ideas as they work to change the poem.  As they do, it’s important that the overall poem be kept in mind so that it continues to make sense.

Remodeling a poem can be a good learning exercise because the action of it causes a poet to think about their writing and what they want to say.  It can also be a good way to come up with a new variation on a poem because a poet might not know where the remodel will lead when they start the process (as was the case with this poem remodel).

As an exercise, find a poem you’ve written and try to remodel it.  Start with a short poem and work through process, maybe taking notes as you go.  You might post both poems on social media and see what people think of the changes.

Poetry essay: Poetry expressing a point of view that differs from the perceived societal viewpoint

Sometimes as a poet you may want to express views in poetry that differ from the way you perceive society to feel.  For example, maybe you are a vegan and believe that eating animals and using animal products is wrong.  You might feel that society overall disagrees with you on this issue.  You may feel that society generally accepts the eating of animals and the use of animal products, even if it doesn’t necessarily speak out against veganism.

In situations like this, you may be wondering what you can do as a poet.  While you want to express your viewpoint, you don’t want to be the recipient of negative comments or get into arguments or debates with people.  You may be wondering how you can express your viewpoint without in some sense clashing with others.

There are a variety options.  Some of them include:

  • Writing obscure poetry. You could write about how you feel in a covered way.  You could express the ideas in such a way that, without delving into the poem, readers might not know what you are expressing.

  • Writing symbolic poetry. You could express an idea with symbolism.  You could write in such a way as to express the main feeling you have without specifically referencing it.

  • Writing analogous poetry. You could express your point of view with an analogy.  You could find an analogy that expresses the idea you want in a way that you feel your audience might accept.  You could make your point in such a way that they accept the idea at least in the situation you present.

  • Writing about common ground. Sometimes when you have a point of view that differs from the way you perceive society to feel, you can find aspects of what you feel that you believe will be accepted.  You could write about those areas that those who disagree with your main idea might still accept.

  • Writing for a friendly audience. There are a variety of outlets for poetry.  If you feel that there is some portion of society that might disagree with your point of view, you could instead present your point of view to those who would agree.  This could be through publications, with various groups, or with simply people you know who feel the same way you do.

  • Writing in a conciliatory tone. Writing in this way expresses an idea while acknowledging a difference of opinion.  It reinforces the idea that while you may think differently than someone else, but that doesn’t mean you think the person is bad.

  • Write positive poetry. Sometimes when you have a point of view that differs from others, you might consider writing negative poetry.  This is poetry that says why the differing view is wrong.  Instead of this, you could write positive poetry.  This is where you describe some aspect of what you believe as good, without basing in terms of something else being bad.

Post Series: Advent: Poetry essay: Presentation

During Advent, Christmas gifts are often wrapped.  The idea is to have a sense of surprise as well as presentation.  The idea of presentation is something that can be applied to poetry.

How a poem is presented can affect how it is received.  There are a number of aspects of this.

One aspect, is the poem title.  The same poem, with a different title, can come across differently.  A poem’s title can affect its tone and what is emphasized for the reader.

Another aspect, is the poem that preceded the poem, if there is one.  A poem can be affected by what preceded it.  The ideas and emotions of the prior poem can affect how the current poem is read.

A third aspect is the physical presentation of the poem.  Is it printed or on a screen?  What does the background look like?  What colors are used?  What fonts are used?  How is the poem laid out on the page?  If the poem is part of a printed collection, what does that look like?  These physical aspects of a poem’s presentation can affect its reception.

A fourth aspect can come into play if the poem is read aloud.  Who reads the poem, how they read it, and under what circumstances they read it, can all affect how listeners feel about and interpret a poem.

When developing a poem, a poet should take presentation into account.  Just like a gift can be impacted by the box it is in and the wrapping that is used, a poem can be affected by how it is presented.  Poets should take some time and think about presentation and develop a presentation that they feel best puts forward their work.

Poetry essay: Rhyming poetry can be serious poetry

Sometimes rhyming poetry can be viewed as lacking seriousness.

For example, poems for children sometimes rhyme.  Advertising jingles can rhyme.  Simple poetry forms can rhyme.  Also, old poetry forms, like sonnets, can rhyme.

Additionally, rhyming poetry, with its predictable sounds, might not seem appropriate for certain subjects.

Rhyming though doesn’t have to be viewed this way.  Rhyming poetry can be serious poetry.  Here are some ways that you can make your rhyming poetry serious.

First, you can focus on having a serious subject matter.  Although serious subject matters are often viewed synonymously with negative subject matters, it does not have to be so.  Something can be serious and positive.  An example might be the first person of a certain category to achieve something.

Second, you can focus on complex rhyming patterns.  Basic rhyming patterns are things like ABAB or ABAC or ABCB.  You can focus on patterns that are more complex.  More complex patterns include more rhymes, less adherence to stanzas, and greater variation.

Third, you can look for non-traditional rhyming words.  By finding words that are unexpected, you can add a different sound to your poetry.

Fourth, you can write in a serious tone.  A serious tone can have rhymes.  The rhymes can blend with the tone and enhance it.

Fifth, you can add other poetry elements to your poem to give the look of an unstructured experimental poetry form.  These elements might include: stanzas of different lengths, line breaks, line indentions without a pattern, single word lines, and lack of sentence structure.  A poem written in this way, though rhyming, can appear more serious.

Sixth, you can add elements of overtness to your poem.  If you write about a serious subject, in a serious way, and don’t cover it too heavily with metaphor, the seriousness can come through and balance with the rhyming.

Seventh, you can use literary elements to add a serious tone to your poem.

Here is an example poem that is serious and also contains rhyme.  The pattern is: ABCDEAFCAE.

You say the words with such ease
like you’re saying there’s something wrong with an engine.
But here, in this chair,
the engine runs.
It’s not in some car in some lot.
These are the pistons that seize.
But you’re detached.
You’ve been taught not to care.
It’s never you who cries on your knees.
Your heart beats like it’s been taught.

Poetry essay: How you can try to get a person to change their mind about poetry

Sometimes you might encounter someone who doesn’t like poetry.  They might even speak badly of it.

In these situations, although you would never want to argue with someone, you might feel the need to try to get the person to change their mind about poetry.  You might like poetry and feel the person doesn’t really understand it.  You might think that if you can explain something about poetry that the person might come to appreciate it.

If you think this could be so, here are ten ideas for how you can try to get a person to change their mind about poetry.

First, you could point out that the person might actually like some kinds of poetry.  For example, you could tell them a funny limerick and see if they laugh.  If they do, you could point out that the just enjoyed a poem.

You could also point out poetry on greeting cards.  Maybe the person liked some they have seen.

Additionally, you could point out that songs and poems have a lot in common.  You could read them some song lyrics from songs they like and show how they resemble poetry.

Lastly, you could point out poems from advertising.  Sometimes advertising has rhyming jingles and similar things and you could point out that these are poetry if the person likes or remembers some of them.

Second, you could point out to the person that not all poetry is the same.  While they may not like some styles of poetry, there are numerous others.  You could show them different kinds of poetry and see if there is a style they like.

Third, you could ask the person what they don’t like about poetry.  They might say things like, “It doesn’t make any sense” or “It is silly” or “It is just a bunch of flowery words”.  Whatever they say, you could find poetry that isn’t like that and introduce the person to it.

Fourth, you could focus on poetry that is more mainstream.  Find poets people have heard of even if they don’t think they like poetry.  Poems from these poets might be more appealing to the person.

Fifth, you could find poetry that relates to something the person has experienced.  For example, if the person had a disease, you could show them poetry by other people who had the disease.  The connection might help them to appreciate it.

Sixth, a person might not like poetry because they don’t see it as being written by people like them.  For example, if the person is conservative, realistic, and masculine, they might feel that poetry is written by liberal, intellectual, feminists.  Whatever the disparity, you can find poets that resemble the person.  You can show them that people like them do write poetry.

Seventh, you could try to find poetry about topics the person likes.  If the person likes golf, for example, you could find poetry about that.  If the person likes cars, you could find poetry about that.  Whatever the interest is, if you can find poetry related to it, the person might be more likely to enjoy it.

Eighth, you could remind the person that reading poetry and liking it doesn’t necessarily change the person.  You could remind them that it doesn’t affect their identity.

Ninth, sometimes people who don’t like poetry associate it with certain emotions.  They might think, for example, that most poetry is serious and somber.  If that is the case, you can find poetry that is the opposite of their perception, that they might enjoy more.

Tenth, you could remind the person that it is all right if they don’t like all poetry.  You could remind them that not all poetry is for all people and that is okay if they don’t like certain kinds.  You could remind them that there is no “poetry authority” judging them for what they read.  You could remind them that the poetry they happen to like doesn’t have to conform to some perception they have of what poetry is.

Poetry essay: Are poetry forms restrictive or do they inspire creativity?

In writing poetry you may have used poetry forms.  You may have written, for example, haiku, sonnets, rondeau, and poetry in other forms.  You may have also used poetry form elements such as rhyming, meter, and syllable count.

In writing with a poetry form you may have wondered how it affected your work.

You may have at times found forms restrictive.  For example, you may have wanted to use a certain word in a certain place, but because it didn’t fit the form you were using, you couldn’t.

Alternatively, you may have used forms that helped inspire creativity.  The form elements, for example, may have caused you to think of a word or phrasing that you wouldn’t have without them.

In writing poetry you may have thought about this.

Poetry forms can be restrictive

At times, poetry forms can be restrictive.  Some examples of this include:

  • As mentioned above, not using a particular word in a particular place because it didn’t if a form.

  • Writing lines that were longer or shorter than necessary to fit a form.

  • Struggling with a form element to the point of distraction from the expression.

  • Finding yourself stuck in a poem because you couldn’t find an expression that fit a form element.

  • Using words you didn’t really want to use because they fit a form.

  • Using awkward phrasings because they fit the form.

Poetry forms can inspire creativity

Alternatively though, poetry forms can inspire creativity.

First, as mentioned, the form may inspire you to use certain words or phrases you may not have thought of without the form.

Second, trying to fit something to a form can cause you to think more and you can sometimes find better ways to express ideas.

Third, some forms are easy to use and can become familiar.  This ease of use and familiarity can make writing poems in the forms easier.  Since you don’t have to focus as much on the mechanics, you can focus more on the expression.

Fourth, some poetry forms can sound very nice if used correctly.  Achieving this can require creativity.

Fifth, working with forms can be like mental exercise.  Learning to use meter, syllable count, rhymes, and so forth, can serve as poetry training that can help you write poems in the future and do so in a more creative way.

Some thoughts

Whether a form is restrictive or inspires creativity depends on the form, the expression, and the poet.  Sometimes a form can be a hindrance.  Other times it can be a starting point for something new.  It depends on the situation.

Sometimes it takes practice with certain forms to move them from being restrictive to inspiring creativity.  The increased familiarity with the form elements can make them easier to use.

When writing poetry with a form, at first they can at times feel restrictive.  Sometimes it just takes a bit more time working with the poem before a creative idea appears.

Alternatively, sometimes writing with a form is just not the best idea.  Having the freedom that free verse provides can sometimes be very good inspiration.

Again, whether a form is restrictive or inspires creativity depends.  Sometimes, in some situations, they will restrict your writing.  In other cases, they will help you to write better.  It depends.  You should work with forms, learn to use them, and learn to understand when a form is restricting your writing and when it is helping it.  When you do, you can make the best decision about whether or not to use a form for a particular poem and idea.

Poetry essay: Polishing a poem

Sometimes when you a write a poem, you may think it is all right, but you also think that it could be improved.  Below are ten ideas to help you polish a poem you’ve written.

1. Shorten it.

With poetry, less is often more.  Look for places where you can remove words without changing the tone or meaning.  If you can take something out without changing things, look at taking it out.

2. End lines at natural sounding places.

This idea was written about before in an essay on this blog.  Altering a poem so that the lines end in natural places can be a good way to improve it.

3. Conform to form.

If your poem has a form, either a traditional one, a modern one, an experimental one, or one you invented just for the poem, and you deviate from the form, try to alter things so that you conform to it.

For example, if you have a poem where odd numbered lines rhyme, but you couldn’t find a rhyme for one of the lines so you left it without one, correcting that can be a way to make your poem better.  It will sound better to readers as it will fit the sound they are expecting.  A similar idea holds for other form elements.

4. Take time away from it.

One way to improve a poem, is to take some time away from it.  This might be ten minutes, a few hours, or a few days.  The idea is that when you come back to the poem and read it again, you may see things differently and know what to do to make the poem sound better.

5. Use a thesaurus.

Sometimes changing a word can help a poem.  For example, changing “happy” to “joyful” or “sad” to “despondent” can cause a change in style and can improve how a poem sounds.

6. Use new rhymes.

Rhyming can be a common poetry form element.  Using it can add predictable sound to a poem.

When using rhymes, sometime the words chosen can change how a poem sounds.  Because the rest of the words in a line and surrounding lines have to fit with the rhyme, changing just one rhyme can have an impact on a poem.

If you are rhyming a word, you can try to find rhymes that you don’t normally use.  For example, if the word you are rhyming is “gold” and you normally use “bold” “cold” and “sold” as rhymes, you can change things by using words like “fold” “hold” or “told”.  By picking new rhymes you can find ways to improve your poem.

7. Use literary elements.

Literary elements include things like similes, metaphors, irony, satire, plays on words, and mirroring.  By using literary elements you can add more sophistication to your poem.

8. Change the person.

Sometimes a poem can be improved if you change it from first person to third person.  By writing in a slightly detached way, you can speak about larger ideas and that can improve your poem.

9. Be more overt.

Sometimes poems can contain too much symbolism and metaphor.  The meaning can be lost.  You can improve a poem by being clearer and more overt in places so the reader knows the idea you are trying to get across.

10. Remove outside references.

Sometimes poems contain outside references.  These might be things like specific geographic locations, product names, celebrity names, song titles, book titles, book characters, and so forth.

These things can be good if the reader is familiar with them, but they can be a distraction if the reader is not.  If a reader has to look something up to understand the poem, it isn’t a good thing.

Additionally, outside references often don’t add anything to a poem.  Stating a specific brand of soda for example, might not change the meaning and intent of a line in a poem.  If something doesn’t add something, as mentioned above, you might consider taking it out.

Poetry essay: Expressing ideas: prose or poetry

As a writer, you want to express ideas.  It could be ideas about something you care about, something that happened to you, or something you want to communicate.  When you set out to express ideas, you have two choices among others: you could express the ideas through prose or through poetry.

Expressing ideas through prose

Expressing ideas through prose can have some advantages over poetry.

First, you can write something lengthy.  Although a poem might be limited to a few lines or maybe a page, prose can be many pages long without seeming to be long.

Second, you can express ideas directly.  You can write plainly about what you want to communicate without ideas being hidden by the metaphor and symbolism that can be found in poetry.

Third, with prose you can reach a different audience than poetry might reach.  Your prose can take the form of an essay, an article, a short story, or something else.  You can find different outlets for these types of communication than you can with poetry and through that you can reach a different audience.

Fourth, with prose you can write about details related to something.  You can go in depth into a topic and touch on all the points about it that you want.

Fifth, because prose isn’t subject to form elements like poetry, you can focus fully on the idea you want to express without focusing as much on how you express it.

Expressing ideas through poetry

Just as prose has some advantages over poetry, poetry has some advantages over prose.

First, with poetry you can focus on just one aspect or scene of something.  You can focus on one thing without having to tell the whole story.

Second, poetry has the benefit of the idea of less being more.  When you only use a few words to describe something, the succinctness can add impact.

Third, you can write many poems about the same idea.  You can cover different aspects of the idea or present things in different ways.  This is harder to do with prose which can be a longer form of expression.

Fourth, because poetry focuses more on how something is said relative to prose, the words you use to describe an idea can have greater impact.

Fifth, you can utilize metaphor and symbolism to a greater extent in poetry than in prose.  This can be important if you don’t want to write directly about something or want to emphasize an idea.


The method you choose to convey an idea will depend on what you are writing about, how you want to write about it, and how you want the message to get across.  Prose can be better for some situations and poetry for others.  It depends on what you want to accomplish.

Poetry essay: How to improve the experience of reading poetry aloud in public

If you write poetry, the time may come when you want to, or as a requirement for something like a class, have to, read poetry aloud in public.  For example, maybe you are going to be part of a poetry reading at a coffee house.

This can be a trying experience.  Many people have trouble speaking in public normally, and reading poetry, something that is subject to interpretation, can be even harder.  Will the audience understand it?  Will they understand it in the same way intended?  Will it be received well?

There are some things you can do to make this a better experience.

First, if you know whom you audience will be and can choose whatever poem or poems you want to read, then choose poems that will fit and appeal to your audience.  Pick something that fits with how they understand things, is something they will understand, will match their perception of poetry, and they will like.  If you like serious free verse poetry, but your audience likes funny limericks, present funny limericks.

Second, choose a poem that isn’t too obscure.  You will have a better experience if your poem is understandable.

Third, practice.  Practice a lot.  Don’t just practice reading the poem, but also practice how you will read it.  Where will you pause?  What words will you emphasize?  How will you move?

Fourth, if you are writing the poem for the reading (as opposed to reading one that has already been written), then write what you say instead of later saying what you wrote.  In other words, as you compose the poem, say it aloud first.  Compose it by speaking it.  Write what you speak.  Make sure the words sound nice when spoken.  Make sure there is flow.  If you do things the other way around, you may end up with something that might sound nice when written, but sounds long or doesn’t flow when read aloud. (As an example of this, this essay might sound nice read on the page, but would be too cumbersome as it is written to be presented aloud.  It is written in complete sentences without normal speech transitions.  This might make it sound like text instead of speech if presented.)

Fifth, test your reading of your poem in front of one or more people you know.  This will give you a taste of the experience and you can gauge how the poem comes across.  If you don’t have anyone you can test your poem for, then record it on a camera.  Watch it when you are done and see how it sounds.  This can also be a good exercise, because the act of reading your poem to something can make you feel like you are being heard.  It can give you a sense of the experience.

Sixth, pick a subject matter for your poem you are knowledgeable about and are comfortable with.  Don’t present something you don’t have knowledge of.  You may be asked questions later and you want to know you can answer them.

Seventh, similarly, read a poem you can explain if asked about it.  Some listeners may want to know what a certain line meant for example.  You should be able to tell them.

Eighth, some people when they present something publicly, either speak slower or faster than normal, and either quieter or louder than normal.  If this is you, and you can identify what you do, then practice doing the opposite before you present.  For example, if you identify that you read too quickly and quietly, then practice reading slowly and loudly.  When you present, the experience may cause you to speed up and be more quiet, but since you are trying to compensate for this, you speech may come across normally.

Ninth, if you can go to the place you are going to read beforehand, go.  See what it is like.  See what the space is like.  Look at it from the place where you will be speaking.  Try and make the place and the view of it become familiar.  This can make presenting there easier.

Tenth, try and found out what the expectations are of the person putting on the event.  How long do they expect poems to be?  What content is acceptable?  What kinds of poetry are they expecting?  What’s normal for the event?  If you can read or listen to poems that have met expectations at previous events, that would help as you decide what to read for the event you will be in.