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: 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: 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: 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.

Poetry essay: What goes into a poem isn’t seen

When a poet presents a finished poem, in many cases the poem wasn’t written that way.  As the poet worked on the poem, changes were made.  Lines were changed.  Words were changed.  Form elements were modified.  The poem took shape as the poet worked on it.  How it looked at different stages, might have been quite different than how it looked when finished.

This idea raises some issues for poets as they present their work.

First, a poet should understand that those who read their poetry might not perceive the amount of work that went into it.

When a person reads a wonderful sounding stanza of poetry for example, they don’t know if it was just written that way, or if it went through multiple variations.  This is something a poet should keep in mind when they present their work.

A poet wants their poetry to be appreciated, but they should understand that many readers won’t appreciate the work that goes into it, because they don’t understand the work that goes into it.

Second, sometimes a poet can remember what a poem was like at different stages.  A poet knows what words they changed, what lines were removed, and so forth.  This can sometimes influence the poet’s perception of their own work.  The poet knows what it was, and so they see how it is, differently.

Third, in addition to a poet perceiving their work differently from a reader, a poet might actually remember parts of poem that are no longer there, and understand those parts as part of the work.

For example, if a poet had a poem where a flower dies, and when working on the poem they at first explicitly state this, but then later they remove the statement, the poet might remember this line and understand the poem differently than a reader might.  A reader, not reading the line, might, for example, think the flower only wilted.

Fourth, as a poem develops it might improve.  The first rendition of it might not be as good as the last.  When a poet presents their work, they are presenting a refined product, and not a raw one.

This can have an effect on how people perceive the poet’s poetry.  People might think the poet comes up with the work simply as it is presented.  They might not understand that there were preceding drafts.

This idea can sometimes create a sense of disillusionment for readers if they ever watch a poet create a poem.  They may have thought that the work was created effortlessly and be disappointed when they find out it isn’t.  It would almost be like a person watching a great artist draw and the person seeing the artist erase.  They may have never considered that the artist made changes or mistakes.

 

When a poet creates a poem, work goes into it that isn’t normally seen.  A poet should be aware of this idea and how it impacts the perception of their work.

As an interesting exercise, a poet might record their work on a poem, for example be using a computer program that records what is on their screen.  It might interesting for a poet to present the development of a poem, in addition to its final form.  This would give readers a better insight into the poet’s work.

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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.