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.

P. S. If you like M. Sakran’s blog, please consider following it.

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Poetry essay: Some tips for writing better poetry

Below are some tips for writing better poetry.  Of course, “better” is a subjective idea.  Some may agree with the tips below, others may not.  They are just “tips” though.  Even though things are written in absolute terms (i.e. Poetry should …).  It doesn’t mean that is necessarily the case.  Poetry can be whatever a poet wants it to be.  In fact, many poems on this blog don’t stick to all of these tips.  That being said, hopefully these tips can help you improve your poetry.  You might not apply them all of the time, but hopefully, if you do apply them sometimes, you may find that your work is better received by readers.

Keep it short

Poetry should be short.  If you write anything over a page, it is possible the reader could get lost.  They might not remember ideas and they might not have the interest to keep reading.  People might be more likely to read a poem that is half a page than they would one that is five pages long.

Having short poetry also encourages the idea of conciseness.  It’s the idea of saying what you want to say with as few words as possible.  Sometimes, with poetry, wordiness can be a bad thing.  It can detract from an idea when you over explain it.  Having short poetry can help with this issue.

Keep it clear

Readers should understand your poetry.  They should get the broad idea and not get lost in any lines.  If your poetry is too obscure, readers could lose interest.  They might not want to read something they don’t understand.

Part of poetry is expressing an idea.  If the idea is obscured with language though, it might not get through.

Use metaphor and symbolism

Although poetry should be clear, it can still have metaphor and symbolism.  Metaphor and symbolism are a significant part of poetry and they make poetry better.  The idea though is to have metaphor and symbolism that readers understand.  It needs to make a point.  It needs to express an idea.  If readers don’t understand the meaning, then the effectiveness of the metaphor or symbolism was lost.

Line endings that matter

There was a previous essay on the blog about this.  In short, where you end the lines of your poetry should work with the wording and ideas of the poem.

If you have form, have it matter and stick to it

In some sense, all poetry has form.  Even free verse is a form.  That being said, not all poetry has specific form elements or uses a predetermined form.

If you have specific form elements (e.g. rhyming, syllable count, or meter) or you use a predetermined form, there are two important things you should keep in mind.

First, the form should matter.  If you indent a line, there should be a reason for it.  If there is a line break, it should have a reason.  If you fit your form to a haiku or a sonnet or something else, that form should work with the ideas you are presenting.  Form should not be arbitrary and a poem should not be made to arbitrarily fit a form.

Second, if you use a form or form elements, stick to it.  In other words, if you decide that each line of a poem should have ten syllables, don’t have some lines have nine or eleven.  They could sound “off” to readers and seem like mistakes.  Try to work with your poem so that it works with the form you are using.

Poems should hit

Poems should hit.  They should have impact.  They should make a point.  There should be a significance.  Readers should feel something.  They should walk away with something.  The poem should matter.

Not first person

When you use first person in a poem, it can come across as too personal.  A reader may have a hard time relating.  It can seem to them to be something related to the poet, but not something related to them or to others.

It can be easy to reword first person poems to talk in second or third person.  This can make the poem broader in its application and readers may relate to it better.

Broad ideas

When writing poems, stick to broad ideas.  There is a difference between a poem about a specific event in your life and that type of event.  There is a difference between a poem about you losing your job, and a person losing their job.  The first poem is specific.  The second is broad.  The first poem might not be as relatable to readers as the second.  Readers might be better able to relate to the situation, rather than your situation.

Experience things

Where legally and safely and otherwise appropriate, experiencing something can help you improve your poetry.  If you have gone through something you will have a better understanding of it, and have more information about details and what the experience is like, than if you hadn’t.  Experiencing something can help you to add depth to your work.

No outside references

You should avoid outside references in your poetry.  Outside references can be things like books, book characters, historical events, specific locations, brands, terms related to an industry or activity, people, song lyrics, and other things.

Outside references are things that you know about, but that your reader might not.  Just because you know a character from a book, a line from a movie, or a specific bar, on a specific street, in a specific town, doesn’t mean your reader will.  If your readers don’t understand your reference from context, it can detract from your work.  If your readers have to stop and look something up to add meaning to your words, you may lose them.

Poetry essay: Some tips on getting poems published

M. Sakran has had fifty three poems published, in addition to the collection of poetry First Try. You can find a list of the poems, along with links to some of them, at www.msakran.com/publications.html. That page shows a list of many of the items M. Sakran has had published.

If you are looking to have your poems published, here are some tips that might help you.

Keep an open mind about publications

There are a number of publications that publish poetry.  Some publications, like literary magazines, might publish predominately poetry, other publications, like some special interest magazines, might publish poetry only occasionally.

When looking for publishers for your poetry, keep your options broad.  Look at literary magazines, special interest magazines, blogs, calls for poetry from websites and so forth.  Keep an open mind about the types of poetry you write (for example, don’t just write free verse, but consider haiku as well) and where it can be published.

Quantity

Unfortunately, a reality of sending poetry submissions is that many of them will be declined.  You might send out one hundred poems, and only get five published.  Don’t let this be a discouragement.  It’s just part of how things are.

When sending a number of poems out, keep a few ideas in mind.

Records

Keep good records.  Know what you sent, to who and when.  This can help if you need to follow up, if someone accepts your poem, if there is some type of deadline and so forth.  It can be very useful if you keep everything organized.

Time

If you are going to be sending out a number of poems, don’t spend too much time on any one.  Make sure you write quality poems, but don’t labor over any one.  Since part of the idea is quantity, you don’t want to slow the process down.

Don’t take rejection personally

When you send out many poems, many will be declined.  Keep records of the decline, but don’t take it personally or let it hurt your feelings.  Just move on from it and write something else.

Don’t simultaneously submit

Sending the same poems to many places can cause difficulties.  How do you keep everything straight?  How do you know who is still considering a poem, who rejected some, and what do you do if one is accepted?  It can be very hard to keep track of things if you send the same poems to different places.  If you follow the tip of not spending too much time on any one poem, you would be better off writing more poems than reusing poems.

Subject

One way to write many poems more easily, is to stick to the same subject.  Pick a topic that is broad but unified.  Some examples might be homelessness, poverty, technology in society, or working in an office.  Choose something that has a lot of subtopics to write about, but still has an overall theme.

Sticking to the same subject can make writing a large number of poems easier because you don’t have to think about something new to write about each time.  You only have to think about different focuses or perspectives.

Cover letters

When you submit poems for consideration, include a cover letter.  Say what you are sending, say something about yourself and maybe mention some past publications.  Don’t explain the poems you are sending in or have something that’s more than a page.

When you first start sending cover letters, you might write them individually.  If you do this enough though, you will often find that you write the same things, but in different ways.  A good idea might be to take a few letters you have written, see what they have in common, and develop a standard cover letter.  Using a standard cover letter, that you modify to a degree depending on what you are sending and to whom, can make the process of sending a number poems easier.  It can also be useful in refining what you want to say.

Payment

If you are sending a number of poems out, it can be get expensive if you pay to submit, like you would for a contest.  There are number of publications that will consider poems for free (or at least have a free option or time period).  At the start, stick with those.

Electronic submissions

Similarly, there are many publications that accept electronic submissions.  Sending submissions via regular mail can start to get expensive if you send many poems.

Guidelines

When you submit poems to publications, they will often have poetry guidelines.  They might have restrictions on the number of poems, where you send the poems, when you can send the poems and what information you include in your cover letters.  Follow the guidelines exactly.  They usually are not that cumbersome and not following them might hurt your chances at publication.

Learn about the publications

While it isn’t necessary for you to read every publication you send poems to, you should at least have a basic understanding of what they are about.  In addition to reading their guidelines, you should read their about section, a few items they have published and take a general look at their website or publication.  You want to make sure that the publication is a fit for you and that you have some idea about the kinds of poems they publish.

Stick with what works

When you find something that works for you in getting poems published, stick with it at least for a time.  Maybe you find that your poems about heart disease are getting published.  Maybe you find that your poems to environmental literary magazines are doing better than others.  When you find a type of poetry, a subject matter or a type of publication that is publishing your work, stick with it for at least a time.  While you want to keep your options open and consider new things, if you want to be published, this might be a way increase your chances.

Repeat publications

Similarly to sticking with what works in regards to type of poetry and so forth, if you find a publication that likes your poetry and has published more than one or two poems, you might consider keeping them in mind for the future.  Sometimes it can be easier to get published again with a publication, than it can be to get published with a publication for the first time.  Make sure you follow guidelines about how often you submit, but consider submitting to these publications over time.

 

The list of tips above isn’t exhaustive.  It’s just some ideas to help you in getting poems published.  While a lot can determine if the poems you write get published or not, following the tips above should help you in the process.

Artwork to inspire poetry: Juniper tips

Juniper tips

The artwork above is of juniper tips.  It can inspire poetry.  Here are some ideas:

  • Juniper is an evergreen, and yet the artwork above is mostly tones of gray with some pink, some lighter green and other colors. It is a depiction of something with a quality lost.  A poet could see this and be inspired to write poetry about people who lose some quality about themselves.  Maybe something changes in the person’s life, and they are not as they were before.  A poet could write about a variety of different things.
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  • The artwork above shows just the tips of a juniper plant. It does not show the whole or even a significant portion of the plant.  The idea was to focus on a small aspect of the whole thing.  A poet could see this, and be inspired to focus on a small aspect of something.
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  • The artwork above shows three main parts together, the small one on the left, the large one in the center and the smallest one on the right. A poet could see this and write about three things together and the contrasts between them.  A poet might write about people, buildings or other things.