staring at a screen
spending too much time
trying to think
of a poem
staring at a screen
staring at a screen
spending too much time
trying to think
of a poem
In writing poetry, there may be times when a poet wants to impart emotion to their words.
It could be, that the topic they are writing about is personal to themselves. Maybe they or someone they are close to has experienced something that they are trying to express. This topic might be one the poet feels connected to and strongly about and they want to express that emotion in their writing.
Alternatively, a poet could be writing about something that they don’t have a connection to. A poet, for example, might be writing about a social issue. They may have no direct connection to the topic themselves, but they still want to impart emotion for the reader.
As another alternative, a poet may be writing a fictional poem or one with fictional elements. In the poem, a character might be experiencing an emotion. This might have nothing to do with the poet personally and may not be connected to a societal issue. It might just be an emotion the character is experiencing in their own circumstances. As the poet writes, they might work to have this emotion come through for the reader.
There are a number of ways that a poet can have emotion come through in their writing.
One way a poet can increase the emotion of their writing is to include details. When a poet includes details regarding a situation, it can add authenticity and help relay the experience.
For example, if a poet was writing about cancer treatment, they could increase the emotion of the poem if they wrote about things like a chemotherapy pump or having a chest port. Having these details, and expressing what they are like, can add inherit emotion to a poem.
If a poet is writing a poem that could be read as dialogue, one way to increase the emotion is to play act the part. For example, if a poet were writing what it was like for someone to explain how their spouse died, and how they are a widow or widower, they might try to act it out. They might try to actually say the part and act as if they were explaining to someone how their spouse died. They could try to feel the emotion of their words and say them in a realistic way. They could then write what they said. This would help impart emotion to their writing.
Actually feeling the emotion
If a poet is actually experiencing an emotion, this can help them when writing about it. If a poet is actually feeling joy, for example, then this can help them express joy in their writing. They can write what joyfulness is like, because they are joyful.
Fewer words and setting apart impact lines
One way to have more emotion in a poem is to have fewer words and to have lines of impact set apart. Sometimes brief is best when describing an emotion. Sometimes the less that is written, the better. In these instances, if the emotional impact is set apart, this can increase the emotion by having a pause and by letting the emotional aspect stand alone.
Careful word choice and order
In line with the idea of fewer words and using impact lines, a poet should also focus on careful word choice and the order of their words when they are trying to impart emotion. Because of the experiential nature of emotions, the exact words used and the order of them can have an effect on the experience. Think of experiences that are contained moments. An example might be a man proposing to a woman, or a man and a woman telling one of their sets of parents that they are having a baby. Because of the significance of these moments and the fact that they happen at a specific time and place, the way the words are said can be very important. In a sense, there is only one chance to have the moment. This can make word choice and order very important. The same idea, in a sense, applies to emotional poetry.
Overt metaphor and symbolism
Another way to impart emotion through poetry is through the use of metaphor and symbolism. Rather than having obscure ideas, to impart emotions the uses should be overt. A reader should be able to understand what the metaphor is referring to and what the symbolism represents. The idea is for the reader to realize they are reading metaphor and symbolism and to have that realization impart increased effect to the emotion imparted.
An example might be a poem where someone dies as a flower loses its petals. The waning of the person’s life is overtly represented by the flower losing its petals. This helps the idea of the flower to impart increased emotion to the idea of the person’s death.
A question that can come up for a poet is, “How much time should be spent writing a poem?”
You may have heard poets say that they spent months on a poem. You may have heard some say that they wrote something in five minutes. You may have heard everything in between.
As a writer, you may have had experience with this yourself. Maybe you write some poems that take a few minutes each and you write other poems that still don’t feel right after thinking about them for hours.
A question that may come up then is, how long should you be spending writing a single poem?
Unfortunately, like most questions, there isn’t one answer. It’s not like someone could tell you that you should spend 15 minutes. It depends on the situation.
In some cases, you may want to spend very little time on a poem.
For example, there is the idea, that if something isn’t flowing, that you should stop and change to something else. If you are writing a poem, and twenty minutes later, it still isn’t working, you might think about stopping it and writing something else.
As another example, you might be submitting poems to magazines. Given the reality of the situation, you may have to write and send a lot of poems to get a few published. Because of this, efficiency might be of value. If you find that you have to write and submit 100 poems to get 10 published, you might find that you can’t spend too much time on those 100 poems.
As another example, maybe you write many poems that are about light or impersonal subjects. You might find that they are fine written in a just a few minutes each. You might not see too much value in spending too much time on them.
As you think about how much time to spend on a poem, it is important to remember that quality and time spent aren’t always directly related. Something that took two hours to write isn’t necessarily going to be better than something that took two minutes to write.
In other cases, you might want to spend more time on a poem.
Somethings a poet writes about are very personal. If something is extremely important, you might want to spend more time on it to make sure it is right and says what you want to say.
In another example, imagine something you write is going to be public, very lasting or in some sense singular. Imagine you are getting to have a poem posted in a public space and it will be there for a long time. Or imagine you get to have just one poem in an anthology. In these cases, you might want to spend more time on what you write. It might not mean you spend all that time writing one poem. You may write many or you may spend a lot of time thinking about or revisiting a poem. Given the weight of what you are doing though, you might feel it is important to give what you are doing the proper time.
When deciding how much time to spend on a poem you should take different things into account and make a decision that fits the situation. Sometimes you’ll decide that five minutes is enough, other times you feel that five hours isn’t. It all depends on the situation.
with graham crackers,
what to write about?
M. Sakran recently had an interview with Peeking Cat Poetry Magazine. You may remember Peeking Cat Poetry Magazine, as M. Sakran had a poem published with them in March of 2016. There was a post on this blog about it at the time, and you can read it here: Poem published in Peeking Cat Poetry Magazine.
The interview was about M. Sakran’s writing. It is part of series of interviews with writers. You can read the interview here: M. Sakran interview with Peeking Cat Poetry Magazine.
Parts of the interview focus on poetry and in it you can learn more about M. Sakran and M. Sakran’s writing.
It was an honor to be able to participate in the interview.
The poetry topic idea for today’s post is fiction.
Using this idea, a poet could write a poem about something fictional. While many poems may be about actual events in a poet’s life, a poet could write a poem about something fictional to illustrate an idea.
For example, a poet may never have been to another country, but may like the idea of expressing the feelings that may come the first time a person does so. A poet could write a fictional poem about that topic to express those ideas.
Additionally, rather than writing a fictional poem, a poet might choose to write a poem about fiction. Fiction has many aspects – story, plot, characters, relation to reality, imagination, etc. – and a poet could write about these elements in a poem.
Here is an example that uses both ideas – it is a fictional poem about fiction:
In the afternoon,
she sat at the table,
writing a story,
about the woman,
who lost her cat.
In the morning,
she sat at the table,
writing poster signs,
about her dog,
that was missing.
A handwritten letter
with a struggle for expression
and a sense of importance
written with white lead
on white paper.
The first aspect of this poem is the title: “a letter”. “a” was chosen rather than “the” to have a sense of indefiniteness. This letter is seemingly one of a group and does not at first stand out. Both “a” and “letter” were not capitalized to express a sense of subtlety and meekness. Both of these imply that in some sense, the letter is not meant to stand out
The first line mentions that the letter is handwritten. This is to evoke an image that has some sense of past: the letter is not typed on a computer. Second, it is meant to suggest to the reader the image of someone sitting at desk writing in long hand. Thirdly, even though the image created may be one of someone writing a letter, the line indicates that the letter has already been written. The letter is already finished.
The second and third lines go together to create a mood. The letter writer had trouble finding words to get across the importance of what they were writing. The words “struggle” and “sense” are meant to impart a sense of emotion. It is as if the letter writer was feeling somewhat overwhelmed as they wrote. Another point is that knowing the tone of the letter implies that the letter has been read, however, it does not indicate who has read it, a separate reader, or the letter writer. It is unclear whether the poem is describing the thoughts of the letter writer, or the impression of the letter reader.
The fourth and fifth lines go together and have literal and metaphorical implications. In a literal sense the letter writer wrote something that a reader would not be able to read: white text on white paper. Secondly, the letter writer used a pencil to write as indicated by the word “lead”. This adds to the difficulty that a reader would have in reading the letter because pencil lead would be lighter than ink and would fade. In a metaphorical sense, a letter written with white lead on white paper is meant to imply that the letter writer was hesitant to communicate: they wanted to express something, but they were afraid of what the receipt of the expression would imply. Secondly, “lead” is meant to imply heaviness as the word “lead” in “pencil lead” is pronounced the same as the metal “lead”. This idea relates to the struggle for expression that the writer was having.
The image in this poem is of an emotion where there is difficulty and hesitancy to communicate it. It meant to illustrate this broader idea.