LESSON 27 – Once is Enough!

We are often, in conversation and in our writing, compelled to repeat ourselves, thinking that perhaps if we say something often enough, we will get our point across.  While that may be a good plan when giving directions, or teaching our children a lesson, or trying to wiggle out of a sticky situation, it does not work in poetry.  In poetry, once is enough!

What do I mean by that?  I mean simply, that if the poet does his/her job, uses imagery, alliteration, hyperbole, great line breaks, enjambment, all the powerful poetic techniques at our fingertips, once will be enough.  The message will be so powerfully presented, so physically, as well as emotionally and intellectually felt, there will be no need to say it again.

In many, I would say most, of the poems submitted to me, the message the poet is trying to get across is repeated so many times it loses its power to touch me, to move me, to engage me.  If I am sad, and as a poet, want to tell you that, I need to find one image, one way to tell you that, that will be so compelling, you will get my message as powerfully as if you had been hit by a fist.  Let me give you some examples:

The moon split in half
and the stars crumbled,
falling like fireworks
into the sea.

I watched my world
fall apart that day
my love left me.
~Christy Ann Martine

“It hurts to leave
A light on for
~Graham Foust

“Tears are words the
Heart can’t express.”
~Gerard Way

“I want to sing
Like the birds sing,

Not worrying
Who hears
Or what they think.”

“Fill your paper with the
Breathing of your heart.”
~William Wordsworth

I could go on, but I believe you have gotten the point.  A poem should be so filled with emotion, so filled with you, that when we finish reading it, we almost believe we know you, in that moment, in that way.  Be truthful but do not be overbearing in your desire to tell us you’re happy or sad, lovelorn or in love.  Find that perfect image and invite us into your words, into your poem, into you!

“Plant your words like seeds
and invite us
to watch them grow.”

Your friend in poetry,


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