LESSON 30 – EDIT WITH YOUR EAR

I think we would all agree that poetry is a way of communicating that reaches far beyond ordinary forms of communication.  And yet, poetry, like everyday speech, hopes to inform, connect, persuade, and engage, just like all communication does.

If we are chatting on the phone and I tell you, “I’m so sad,” you will know what I mean not only by the words I speak but, by the way I “speak” them.  My voice may quiver.  I may sound like I’m crying.  All of this tells you exactly what I am trying to impart, “I’m so sad.”  Of course, in poetry, we may find an image to express those feelings and might write, my day is graceless/as an out of tune song. 

Through an image, I am, of course, trying to let you know I am sad.  You should be able to feel that.  One way to discover whether or not you have infused your poem and your images with the right “feelings,” is to read the poem aloud to yourself.  Listen to the way it sounds in your ear.  Does it get the message across?  Can you hear the sadness in your voice as you read the lines out loud?

As you continue writing your poem, stop every so often, and read the poem out loud.  As you do so, change where you end a line and begin another.  Listen to each word carefully, is it the right word, does it have the right number of syllables to maintain the rhythm of the poem?  Ask yourself, does it touch me, make me feel, let me know what was intended by the poet?  You, of course, being the poet know exactly what was intended.  Let your ear confirm that you have achieved your goals.

I have read poems in books and then attended readings where the poet read his/her poems aloud.  Sometimes, I was startled by how much more intense the poem seemed, as the poets voice, caressing or abusing the words, rang out across the room.

So, Edit your poem With Your Ear.  Be both poet and reader and, find the rhythms that work, the line breaks that work, the exact right words that work to take your poem and turn it into a powerhouse of feelings and emotions.  “I am so sad,” are just words until the poet changes them into the power of poetry.

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