Today’s lesson is all about utilizing, to the benefit of the poem, poetic techniques. Many people, who aspire to be poets, seem to think that just putting their emotions on the page produces poetry. But poetry is far more than words on paper; it is the best words in the best possible order, it is the utilization of poetic techniques, it is the honesty of emotion, it is truth or lies so long as the poem brings the reader to the purity of the poem and the honesty of the emotions that inspired it.
Start with the reason you want (or need) to write your poem. You are sad or happy, you are lost or lonely, you are questioning, advising, purging, or pleading… Whatever your reason for writing your poem, be sure it is clear in your head. And then, begin with a single word and then, if you are very lucky, the poem will take on a life of its own and begin to “write itself.” Let the poem flow like a river – over rocks, around bends, to a destination, not even you are sure of. The poem, more often than not, knows where it is going.
Then, make sure that what you are writing is poetry. Ask yourself, have I used poetic technique, is there a rhythm to my poem, have I applied line breaks that are both meaningful and dramatic, does the poem flow gracefully, have I said what I needed to say?
In the many years I have had the pleasure and honor of teaching poetry and conducting poetry workshops, I have discovered that most “poets” need to be encouraged to embrace that which makes poetry, poetry. Most beginning poets think that emotion is enough. It is not. Poetry demands your attention as a writer, attention to all of the details that make poetry unique.
The Story: I wandered through the woods on a sunny summer afternoon. The sky was blue and filled with white, fluffy clouds. The air was filled with the scent of roses and jasmine and, at my feet, yellow daffodils, pink and purple pansies, red tulips bloomed. A lazy stream, flowing slowly, made a lovely lyrical sound and I was lost in a sea of memory, both happy and sad, and I felt myself becoming one with this place, this day, this moment.
I wandered warmed
by sunshine beneath a sky
blue and hosting white
billowy clouds the air was
heavy with the scent of flowers
at my feet the lazy stream seemed
to sense my remembered
joy and sorrow I sank
like a shadow into
the sunlit day.
To be a poet, think like a poet – concise language, intense emotion, and attention to every detail. Write, then rewrite, then give your poem some time to rest, then revisit, and rewrite – if necessary. Be your own most unrelenting critic. Poetry demands that