Lesson 25 – MAKING THE POEM MATTER

Often, the easiest part of writing a poem is just putting the words, that pop into your head, down on the page.  But poetry is not just about words, though they are, of course, the material with which the poem is constructed.  Still, words alone, without the commitment of your heart and your whole self, will not touch the reader, will not translate into true poetry.

A poet friend of mine sent me a poem recently and asked me what I thought of it.  I told him it was a very well-written, rhyming poem.  I also told him that it didn’t touch me, reach me, move me the way poetry should.  And then I quoted him some lines from Percy Shelley’s classical poem, Ode to the West Wind.

    Oh, lift me as a wave, a leaf, a cloud!

    I fall upon the thorns of life! I bleed!”

    That touches me!  That moves me!  That engages me in a visceral way, opening the wounds that live inside of me, making me feel.  One of the definitions of “to feel” is: to have one’s sensibilities markedly affected by.” 

    In order to make the poem matter, you have to make the reader feel.  Don’t tell me, in your poem, that you are sad, show me with word pictures.  Sorrow bled like spilled wine / leaving only a stain behind. – sak   Don’t tell me you are happy, show me with word pictures.  My heart rose like a splendid bird / rising on currents of still air / till I touched the farthest corner of the sky…”  — sak

     Poetry is, when it matters, a thread that connects us one to another, through our humanity, our life experiences, and our ability to feel.  When writing poetry, make the poem matter!

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