|How to write good poetry?|
First and foremost I must make this statement:
I do not claim that my poetry is good. All I claim is that for 20 years I have been writing poetry and I therefore know something about how it works.
Poetry is simply putting into words a particular feeling or feelings. It is an expression through words of ones innermost thoughts, desires, hopes and dreams. It is a way of stating the truth when a simple statement is not appropriate.
What I propose is to show you a method; one that has worked for me in the past and may work for you. I make no grandiose claims. If you try it and it works, you are lucky. If it doesn't, you are unlucky. This is all I have.
You need to create a poetry drawer. Most people have a chest of drawers or bedside cabinet with a drawer in it. Pick one and completely empty it. Keep it empty. You will need it later.
You need to start somewhere. You are going to write a poem. Everybodies first poem is a load of crap. Don't worry about this. It is the act of writing that matters.
Note: You will have to write a mountain of poor poetry before you can write the good stuff. In the end, if you have thrown away 99% of the stuff you have written you have done well. But again, don't worry about this. It's all part of the method.
Remember, you have to be a persistant idiot to be a poet. And you must be prepared to carry on in the face of overwhelming evidence against you. Never give up, This is the test of the true writer.
To the poem. Pick a subject. Any subject. I'll pick a forest. A poem about a forest. But it can be anything. Don't pick anything too complicated to start with.
So - a forest.
Now - write down a single word related to a forest - for example: wood. Then write down some more words - make a list; this will be your crib sheet.
For example: Wood. Leaves. Crowded. Crunchy. Dark. Silent. Creepy. Old. Dank. Wet. Rain. Soaked. Sodden. Lost. Abandoned. Alone. Sad. Trees. Mumbling. Rustling. Thoughtful. Meandering. Maze. Bears. Squirrels. Undergrowth. Insects. Busy. Fateful. Cogs. Dying. Hopeless. Powerful. Solid. Strong. Oak. Tall. Girth. Wide. Sensual. Feel. Freedom. Wind. Hoary. Beard. Ivy. Clinging. Bells. Open. Enclosed.
If you want to you can write page after page. You can write whole phrases or just single words. But the important thing is that half the work of the poem is now done. In thinking of what words to write you have made connections in your mind.
It is important that now, while the crib sheet is fresh in your mind, you attempt the first few lines of your poem.
So here goes:
The wood is deep and dank and dark,
I hear the ants within the bark,
Like cogs within a large machine,
They keep the heart of the forest green.
Ok - so it's not very good - but it's a start. If you want to - continue writing, using the crib sheet. Remember, in poetry, nothing is etched in stone. If you wish you can discard the whole thing and start again. Or you can persist.
There will come a point when you will either a) think you have finished or b) get fed up and want to stop. Once this point is reached take the poem and put it in that empty drawer.
NOW, FORGET ABOUT IT. Go get something to eat. Read a book. In short, get on with your life. Don't worry, nothing is over.
It may be that a few days or weeks later you will feel inspired to attempt writing poetry again. When you are finished - stick the poem in the drawer and forget about it.
Roughly 3 or 4 months later you will have some time on your hands. No-one is busy all the time. It is then that you will remember the poems you wrote. Get some alone time and fish out the poems. Read them back to yourself. Your first reaction will probably be "what the f**k was I thinking?" or "what the hell is this about?". Don't be afraid; if you can see no merit in the poem whatsoever - throw it away.There is no place for sentimentality here. Be ruthless.
If you are lucky the poem will still speak to you in some way. So throw away the rubbish and stick the ones you want to keep back in the drawer. They're only half done.
Step 7. Two or three more months will go by. You will remember the drawer again. Fetch the poems out and look at them again. If they do not speak to you, throw them out. If they still speak to you then there is something in them. Do not be tempted to show them to other people yet. They have passed your test. There is something about them.
What you do with these poems is now up to you. Using this method you can amass enough poems to try to get a book published. Remember that these poems are your most private and intimate thoughts and, while they may speak to you, there is no guarantee that others will feel the same way. However, this method, although it takes time, will give you a head start in this endeavour. Rejection is a key aspect of every writer's life. Any acceptance, however offhand or minor, is so much encouragement that it makes your head spin. Remember persistance - and good luck. As a writer - you're going to need it!
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