LESSON 20 – WORDS MATTER

In poetry, it really is all about the words.  Each word you choose to put into your poem, changes the rhythm, the meaning, the impact of the poem.  So, choosing words, spending time experimenting with words, is the all-important job of the poet.  And, while you’re at it, you might want to remember that choosing the fewest words, putting them in the best possible order, so that they have the greatest impact, is what makes poetry, poetry.

I remember, over the years, working with children, teachers, college students, and in one case, a woman who wanted to be a painter but said she had no talent, so, she admitted she came to my poetry workshop to learn how to write poetry.  She said she thought it would be a lot easier than painting.  She discovered, over the course of that winter, on into spring, that writing poetry was just another form of painting – painting with words.

When choosing words for your poem, speak them aloud.  Words should appeal to all your senses, as well as your “emotional” sense.  I can say, for example, “I was sad.”  You will get a sense of what I meant but, you will not know how sad I was truly feeling.  If on the other hand, I said, “I wept my sadness till I dried to dust.”  I needed a few more words to say it, but you now have a picture in your mind, a feeling in your heart, of what my sadness really felt like.

And, in the end, that’s the job of the poet, the reason for the poem, to touch, to move, to connect, to enrich the lives of others, and to speak your life, your truths through the language of the poem.

Examples:

The sun was slowly setting and the soft sky was turning dark

The sun sank into the black fist of night

The storm was loud and frightening and filled with lightning and thunder

Thunder rumbled like an angry God hurling daggers of flame…

I felt her shrinking from me taking her love with her as she went

She swallowed her love for me and was gone

I felt so alone in that dark night

Darkness owned me

When the need to write comes over you, take your time, choose your words carefully, be true to yourself and to the intent of your feelings and the message you want to impart to others.  In poetry, as in life, words matter.

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