Writing Poetry

Discuss ways to improve your poetry. Post your techniques, tips, and creative ideas about how to write better.
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Nicholas Roehl Male, 34, United States (8/23/2005 1:23:00 AM)

'Ways to improve your poetry. Post your techniques, tips, and creative ideas how to write better.' Here are assorted random ideas I have.

I think that copying poems that you like is one of the best exercises you can do to make you poetry better. Going further, there is memorizing poems. This is a great way to get inside of a poem and figure out the ways that poets can make meaning come out in little ways.

For your own writing, reading your poems aloud is a great way to find out what you are saying and to pinpoint any places where your intended meanings and intended sounds differ from what you currently have written down. If you have the nerve, it is great to have someone else read your poem outloud to you. This will show where a reader may stumble and how your intentions may need help.

I find it is best to write poems into many different places. Start with writing it long-hand, then copy it out somewhere else by hand. Then type it into the computer, print it out, read it through and rather than just word processing your changes, type it into a new file. This makes you look at every word and every space fresh and helps tighten things up.

One trick I found with the computer is to not use Microsoft Word. I know you can turn off the automatic caps and the little green lines showing up a grammatical error (even if you want it) but I think that Word is not a poet's friend. I started typing my poems into Excel and it is useful for a number of reasons. You can give each word or each syllable its own box - this helps with rhythm and pacing. Also, I like to write a poem out too long. Then I can take all of the passages that are saying a similar thing and paste them next to each other and then find the best image out of the several. Excel is also good because it lets you mess around with moving different lines to different places and changing stanza order.

Another good exercise that has many permutations is to set yourself a limited set of words. Dr Seuss wrote Green Eggs and Ham using only 50 words. You can get words from a newspaper article, a game of scrabble, or any number of fun ways - this is especially good with a group of people because then you can help set words together and see how you can come up with different things and different ideas from the same starting point.

You don't have to write about love and the moon and the tides and pain. Someone famous said that his/her most famous poem was done just to 'expiate a pettiness.'

Ok. Read you poems outloud. Copy out other people's poems - and always ALWAYS look over your poem for images. You need images.

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  • Rookie Aldo Kraas (1/27/2007 12:45:00 AM) Post reply
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    First when you write poetry
    You listen to a song in the radio
    And sometimes you get one world
    For example Prisoner of time
    The other is take a poem and use
    Some of the lines
    And combine with different things

  • Rookie Michael Shepherd (8/25/2005 4:32:00 AM) Post reply

    So, Nicholas, with such sound foundations -where are your poems?

  • Rookie Gol Mcadam (8/24/2005 8:55:00 AM) Post reply

    This is a really useful posting, Nicholas. We could do with more like this. Thank you.

  • Rookie - 7 Points Max Reif (8/23/2005 7:21:00 PM) Post reply

    (I also posted most of this on the other forum, but it relates to this topic, that you've introduced in such an interesting way.)

    I've started reading UNDERSTANDING POETRY, by Robert Penn Warren and Cleanth Brooks. We used it as a text in high school, I think, though I was too busy in adolescent daydreams and showing off to absorb much.

    I recommend the book as a treasure to anyone who wants an entrance into the world of poetry via the 'reading' end of the tunnel or the writing end. Whether the book is a review or a brand new acquaintance, the combination of provocative critical writing and commentary on wonderful poems, makes for a rich adventure. In fact, I JUST POSTED A POEM ABOUT READING THE BOOK.

    My finding it and checking it out of the library was occasioned by a dim memory I had of it after my wife and I saw the powerful film 'All the King's Men' that was made of Robert Penn Warren's best-known literary work.

    That and Rilke's LETTERS TO A YOUNG POET would be a wonderful beginning for any aspiring poet! Rilke's book is entirely concerned with the *attitudes* and stance toward life that make a poet.

  • Rookie Poetry Snob (aka Jefferson Carter) (8/23/2005 1:59:00 PM) Post reply | Read 1 reply

    Nicholas, some good advice here. Especially the stress on reading aloud. Why dont you join in the discussions on the forum? Some of if it is worthwhile. Snob

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    • Rookie Nicholas Roehl (8/27/2005 1:00:00 AM) Post reply

      I just found the site and I haven't yet found my way around. I find it can be harder to comment on a poem then to write a poem. I don't know I felt like diving in and saying what I thought. I like ... more

  • Rookie Michael Shepherd (8/23/2005 1:31:00 PM) Post reply

    Excellent advice, I'd say, Nicholas. I even find that posting a poem from Word or whatever to Poemhunter typeface and layout can throw up a word or two that need to be changed. Or for that matter, switching during editing from a sans font to a roman!

    It was DH Lawrence at the end of his poem 'Snake'- a comment on the pettiness of his treatment of the snake - but the expiation was also in the form of a memorable poem!

    And thanks for the tip about reading it out loud. I did that the other day, and discovered that there was a 'musical' rhythm to it that I was quite unaware of while - I thought - 'saying it to myself' as I wrote it.

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