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.
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  • Writing lines that were longer or shorter than necessary to fit a form.
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  • Struggling with a form element to the point of distraction from the expression.
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  • Finding yourself stuck in a poem because you couldn’t find an expression that fit a form element.
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  • Using words you didn’t really want to use because they fit a form.
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  • 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.

Poetry essay: different persons

When you write poetry you can write it in first person, second person, third person, about an implied person, about an ambiguous person, or in some combination.  Each way has pros and cons and affects a poem differently.

First person

When you write a poem in first person, it comes across personally.  You are writing about what you did.  This has a way of making the poem smaller in a sense.  The poem isn’t about an idea, but rather about how that idea affects you.

First person poetry can be good in this way in a sense.  When the topic is personal, writing about it from a personal perspective can make a greater impact.  There is a difference between writing about a disease, for example, and writing about a disease that you have.

This though, can be limiting in some sense.  Some readers might not be able to relate as well to the poem.  The poem can sometimes be too particular to your condition and not have a wide enough impact.

First person poetry also can be narrow in its scope.  There’s a difference between writing about traffic, for example, and writing about the traffic you experience.  You are touching more on an experience rather than an idea.  Some readers might like this approach, whereas others may not.

When you write first person poetry, there can sometimes be an inclusion of details.  This is because you are writing about something you know.  This can be good in the sense that it makes a poem more authentic.  It can be limiting in the sense that not all readers may understand the details.  For example, if you write a poem about traffic, and mention a particular road where you live, the ideas implied by that particular road might not come across to readers who aren’t familiar with it.

Second person

This essay is written in second person.  It is written to you, the reader.  Writing in second person can have a more conversational tone than writing in first or third person.  This tone applies to poetry as well as prose.

When you write a poem in second person you are communicating with a reader.  It may be all readers (like this essay) or it might be directed to a particular reader (even if others read it as a well).  It is a one way communication, although through the use of anticipating a reader’s response, this can be lessened some.

When you write a poem in second person, because it is directed at a reader, it, like first person poetry, has a way of focusing on a person rather than an idea.  Similar to the situation with first person poetry, this can limiting in some sense.

Second person poetry can be a good style if you want to say something.  It is a good style to use to get a point across.

Additionally, when you write in second person it can sound less formal than when you write in third person.  Depending on the goal of the poem this can be positive or negative.

Third person

When you write third person poetry, you write poems about another person that isn’t the reader.  This other person could be a real person, a fictional person, or more specifically, a symbolic person.

A symbolic person can be used to represent an idea.  An example might a symbolic patient in a hospital.  You aren’t writing about a real, particular patient, or even a known fictional patient (like a character from a story) but rather you are writing about the idea of a patient.

Third person poetry can be good for writing about bigger ideas.  It can be a good style when you want to expand the scope of your poem and the audience that it can impact.  This can especially be the case if the third person is symbolic.

Sometimes you might write third person poetry about a real person.  In writing about someone, you can impart your perspective of the person and write around the person.

Implied person

An implied person is a first, second, or third person that isn’t named.

When you write about an implied person, you leave an overt mention of the person out of the poem and write instead about their experience.  The person is still understood by the reader, you just don’t say who it is.

For example, look at this poem:

watch the clouds
feel the air
a storm is coming

This poem is written to second person.  It is implied that you watch the clouds, you feel the air.  It is a poem written to the reader.

The verbs used indicated the person.  Had “watch” been “watches” and “feel” been “feels” the poem would have been implied to be about a third person.

A poem written about an implied person can have the benefits of a poem written overtly in the person, but the style can make the poem feel broader.  As a negative though, the poem might not have as much impact because the person isn’t mentioned.

Ambiguous person

When you write a poem about an ambiguous person, the subject of the poem isn’t clear.

Here is an example poem:

walking home
each dark night
when will it be morning?

In this poem, who is walking home?  Is it M. Sakran or a third person?  It isn’t clear from the poem.

When you write a poem about an ambiguous person, there can be some benefits.

First, you can write about something personal without it sounding overtly as such.  This can be good if you want to express something indirectly.

Second, you can write about something that isn’t personal, in a style that feels somewhat so.  You can write about an experience you haven’t experienced in a way that still can sound authentic.

The ambiguity of writing about an ambiguous person can confuse some readers and depending on how you write it can be hard to have a poem sound like it could apply to first, second, and third person.

Some combination

You can write a poem in a combination of persons.  Think of a poem written in both first and second person.  This would be poem where you write to someone but also speak about yourself.  An analogy would be something like a letter.

When you combine persons in a poem, you have to be careful that you are clear at each instance which person you are writing about.  Additionally, you don’t want to switch to an unintended person (for example switching from second person to third person).  It can sound off to readers.

 

When you write a poem you have a number of options to choose from when deciding the subject of the poem.  Who you choose can impact the style of your poem and how you express the idea.  When you write poetry, you should try to write with different persons and express ideas in different ways.  As an exercise you might write a poem in each of the persons above and see how the poem changes with each.

Poetry essay: Poetic twists

One poetic effect, is the idea of a twist.

Here is one example:

After struggling,
and sweat,
and endless hours,

he lost,

 

 

    fifteen pounds.

 

In this case, the first part makes the loosing seem like a bad thing.  There was a great deal of effort and then the person lost?  The twist though, was that the loosing was actually good.  He lost weight, which presumably, was a goal.

Here is another example:

they roamed the street
with eyes and teeth aglow

they approached the home
seeking to consume
that which was within

and at the door
as those within came forth
they shrieked their horrible call,
“Trick or treat!”

This poem is about Halloween.  The poem at first sounds like some monsters are about and they are going to eat people in a home.  In reality, they are trick or treaters dressed up for Halloween hoping to get candy.

Here is a third example:

the sun was shining
and the flowers,
just blooming,
filled the air with fragrance

everyone gathered
dressed in their best
as music played

nearby
doves cooed
waiting to be released

and
as a hush came over the crowd
someone gave
the slightest of signals
and the funeral began

 

This poem seems to start off happy.  It sounds like it is describing an outdoor wedding.  It’s a sunny day, there are fragrance filled flowers, there are lots of people who are dressed up, music is playing, and doves are going to be released.  In the twist though, this happy scene is really sad.  The scene is of a funeral.  All the bright things are in some way a cover for sadness.  The sadness of the scene is revealed at the end.

 

Here are some tips for using twists in your poems:

  • Have a lead in. For a twist to work there needs to be an appropriate lead in.  It needs to be long enough and effective enough that the reader forms an image and emotion in their mind.
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  • Consider offsetting the twist. One way to create a pause for a twist, is to have it indented, after some number of line breaks, or both.  The idea is to have a dramatic pause to emphasize the twist.
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  • Consider your title. The title can be part of the lead in or it can be a twist as well.  You can have a title that alludes to the reality of the poem while seeming to fit with the lead in.  If done correctly, this can amplify the effect of the twist.
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  • Don’t go too far with a twist. Be careful not to turn off your audience with a twist.  Turning something happy to something sad is all right.  Turning something happy to something disturbing, might not be.
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  • Know the twist before you start. This can make setting it up easier.  If you just write a scene with some emotion, but aren’t sure what the cause of the emotional change will be, it can make the lead in difficult to write and less effective.
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  • Consider multiple kinds of twists. You can twist from happy to sad, from serious to silly, from large to small, from calm to excitement, and many other things.  Also, you can twist the other way, for example sad to happy or silly to serious.
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  • Make sure the twist makes sense. The twist should be an opposite.  You can twist from happy to sad, but happy to serious might not work as well.  In the third poem above, the happy scene of a wedding was twisted to the sad scene of a funeral.  If this happy scene though had twisted to something like the opening of an office building, it might not have worked as well.

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Poetry essay: Is it okay for a poet to write poetry about things they aren’t connected to?

Today’s poetry essay tries to give an answer to the question: is it okay for a poet to write poetry about things they aren’t connected to?  This idea was mentioned in the post from Friday, Poetry essay: The experiences of a poet aren’t seen.

Many circumstances and experiences can be written about in poetry.  Some things include: diseases, war, plights of certain groups, marriage, having children, being unemployed, natural disasters, and other things.  Some things are bad and others are good.

This idea raises a question: is it okay for a poet to write about something they aren’t connected to?  In other words, is okay for a poet to write about homelessness if they’ve never been homeless?  Is it okay for a poet to write about marriage if they’ve never been married?  Is it okay for a poet to write about a flood if they have never been through one?

This idea of being “okay” is a perception of the audience and those who might criticize a poet’s work.  It is the notion of questioning if the poet has the authority, legitimacy, or connection to something to be able to be perceived as permitted to write about it.

Think of a poet writing about being homeless.  They might write about what it is like to be homeless.  Is it okay for a poet to do this if they themselves have never been homeless and don’t know anyone who is?  Do they have any “right” to write about it?

A poet who writes about something they aren’t connected to might come across badly.  They might seem disingenuous.  They might seem like an outsider.  One could imagine a critic commenting, “What right do have to write about this?  You’ve never gone through it.”  They could be viewed as talking about something illegitimately.

In this essay, the answer to the question, is it okay, will be supported as being yes.

First, people comment on things they aren’t connected to all the time.  Think of any innumerable political discussions.  People often take very ardent positions and argue passionately about things they aren’t directly connected to.

As an example, think of a situation where people are arguing for or against an increase in the minimum wage.  People who argue this might not be earning minimum wage.  They might not directly know anyone who is.  They might only be connected to the minimum wage in a broad economic sense.  Does this mean they can’t have an opinion on it?  Does this mean they can’t argue one side or the other concerning it?  Are they illegitimate when they talk about it?  Do people question their right to speak on it?

The answer to this is no.  People often speak about issues they have no direct connection to and others don’t criticize them for speaking about them (although they might criticize the positions they take).  This happens all the time in political discussions.  If people only talked about things they were directly connected to, there would be very few political discussions.

This same idea applies to poetry.  People can have opinions about things they aren’t directly connected to, and they can express them.  Just as not being connected to an issue doesn’t mean a person can’t talk about it, it also doesn’t mean they can’t write poetry about it.

Second, think about people trying to support a group that is suffering in some way.  Think about refugees or the oppressed.  These people might protest, give speeches, and try to raise awareness, even though they aren’t part of the groups.

Are these people seen as not having the connection to do this?  Are they seen as disingenuous?  Are they criticized with comments like, “You aren’t part of these groups, so you can’t talk about them?”

The answer is generally no.  People support groups that are suffering all the time, without being part of those groups.  They might feel a general empathy and connection to humanity that motivates them to take action.  The fact that they aren’t part of the groups doesn’t delegitimize them.

This same idea applies to poetry.  If a poet wants to write about a group that is suffering in some way, their lack of direct connection to the group doesn’t preclude them from doing so.  A person can care about people even if they aren’t in the same group as those people.

Third, people can learn about things they have never experienced.  Although the learning might not be as complete as it would be had the person also gone through a situation, it can still be sufficient for a person to speak about something.

Imagine a poet who has never had cancer wanting to write about it.  Maybe they wanted to help people with the various diseases feel emotionally better.  They could learn a great deal about cancer by reading about.  They could learn about the different kinds of cancer, the different stages, the different treatments, and so forth.  Although they won’t ever know what it is really like, they can learn enough to be able to write about it.  The fact that they have never been through it, doesn’t mean they can’t know at least enough to be able to write something about it that impacts people.

Fourth, sometimes when a person is criticized for writing about something they aren’t connected to, what they are really being criticized for is the position they are taking.

Think about any polarized social issue.  If a poet writes about something like this, without having a connection, and a reader agrees with the position the poet takes, the reader might not criticize the poet for their lack of connection.  Because the poet is supporting what the reader believes, the reader might not question the poet’s right to express the support.

On the other hand, if a poet writes about something they aren’t connected to, and a reader disagrees with the position the poet takes, one way to argue against the poet would be to claim the poet doesn’t have the right to speak on the subject.  It can be a way to dismiss the person, without having to show why their argument is incorrect.

This notion can in particular be the case if the reader is directly connected to an issue.  If the reader reads a poem by a poet not connected to the issue, and the poet expresses a point of view the reader disagrees with, they can take offense at it.  They can question the poet’s right to speak on the subject.  They might consider the poet an outsider to the issue and therefore not qualified to write about it.

This though, might not be the case if the poet expressed a point of view the connected reader agreed with.  In that case, the reader might appreciate the poet writing about the issue and commend them for taking a position despite their lack of connection.  If a reader agrees with what a poet says, they might not criticize them for saying it.

Fifth, poetry is supposed to be open.  It is supposed to be about expression.  It isn’t supposed to have boundaries and limits imposed by perception.

Think of the countless things a poet might write about.  If every poem was subject to a test of connection – poets could only write about something if they were directly connected to it – there would be little poetry out there.

Think of the countless things a poet might write about.  It could be anything from the very serious to the very silly.  Imagine if every poem was subjected to a test of connection.  Would there be any poetry?

When writing poetry about things they aren’t connected to, poets might worry how they come across.  They might worry if people will see the poet as bad in some way.  They might wonder if they will be seen as a fraud, a usurper, or an outsider.  They might wonder if they will be seen as illegitimate or not having the right to speak about something.

Although a poet will be viewed negatively by some readers for writing about something they aren’t connected to, this doesn’t mean the poet shouldn’t write about it.  A poet should feel free to write about the issues they want, regardless of their connection to them.  Poetry is about expressing ideas, and a poet should feel free to do so.

Poetry essay: The experiences of a poet aren’t seen

Yesterday’s essay was about what goes into a poem that isn’t seen by readers.  It focused on the work of writing and changes to a poem that happen before it’s finished.

This essay focuses on something else that goes into a poem that isn’t necessarily seen by readers – the personal experiences of a poet.

Sometimes poets write poetry that express ideas and emotions and are about situations to which they aren’t connected.  For example, a poet might write a poem about having a heart attack, even though neither they nor anyone they know has had one.

This idea isn’t bad.  A lot of knowledge of experiences can be gained without direct experience.  A poet can successfully express things even if they haven’t been through them.  Also, the emotion and ideas a poet gets across aren’t somehow less just because the poet hasn’t been through something.

In other cases though, a poet has gone through something before they write a poem.  Maybe the poet had a heart attack.  Maybe the poet went through something else.

Sometimes readers can tell that a poet has personal knowledge of something.  The poet might include details and ideas that someone who hasn’t been through something might not know nor understand.  This can come across to readers, especially if the reader has been through the thing the poet is writing about.

In other situations, a poet may directly tell readers about their experience in addition to the poetry they write.  For example, a poet may let readers know they had a heart attack before the readers read their poems about them.

In other situations though, readers might not know what a poet has gone through.  Sometimes a poet doesn’t tell readers, and sometimes readers can’t tell when they read a poem.

These types of situations can affect both the poet and the reader.

From the poet’s perspective, it can feel somewhat unfulfilling to have their work seen as just another work, when to them it is very personal.  Imagine a poet went through a traumatic experience.  It might feel bad to them to have people read their poetry about it as if the poet had no connection to what they were writing about.  It might make them feel bad to think that readers might view their work as if it was written with an outside perspective of something.  There is something about going through an experience that makes expressing ideas about it personal.

From the reader’s perspective, a reader might not fully appreciate a poem if they don’t understand the poet’s circumstances.  A poem about homelessness, for example, would be read differently if a reader didn’t know the poet had been homeless, than if they knew they had been.  In these situations, a reader might not get the depth of emotion the poet is trying to express.

For poets writing about something they personally have been through, there are some steps they can take to improve the situation.

First, as mentioned above, a poet can tell readers about their situation.  This telling can take various forms.  It might be many pages of explanations or just a short note before a poem.

This can be a good way to explain things in some situations.  Sometimes what a person has gone through is so significant that readers should overtly know about it before reading the poet’s work.

Second, a poet can try to include details and emotions in their work.  They can focus on those things that only someone connected to an experience might know.  They can write about what particular moments were like and what particular experiences felt like.

If a poet does this well, readers should be able to understand that the poet is at the very least knowledgeable about what they are writing about, as well as potentially connected to it.

For poets, having readers understand the connection to your work can be important.  It can be important for both the poet and for the reader.  If a poet can in some way get this connection across, both will be better for it.