Apr 19, 2008

Becoming a Better Poet: Part I

Some people enjoy jotting down a quick poem and sharing it with friends.  They aren't worried about becoming a great poet, or even improving.  Nothing wrong with that.  We used to sing in the car with no thought to becoming the next Pavarotti.  I consider it a sign that poetry is still a living art.  It has not been commercialized into consumership.  Neither have people become so in awe of it that they only worship the past masters.  So, when I see someone who doesn't give a darn about whether their poetry is any good or not I try to remember that I sing in the shower and doodle in notebooks.  And I don't care if my efforts are pathetic.  Well, not the doodling anyway.  As a matter of self preservation I've learned not to sing in public. 

I do care about improving my poetry, and I'm betting quite a few of you would like to write better poems.  And there is nothing wrong with that either.  And we don't have to explain ourselves, either.  

There are some practices that will help almost any poet improve.  Here are the most common suggestions given by experienced poets.

Read poetry.  Read lots of poetry.  Read lots of different kinds of poetry.  Read more poetry. Read it out loud.

There are lots of excuses for not reading poetry.  If you've got one, throw it out.  It's lame.  Yes, crippled and hobbling.  Yes, weak, thin, feeble, flimsy, poor, sorry, unconvincing, implausible, and unlikely.  Aren't thesauruses wonderful? 

My least loved excuse for not reading poetry is that it will stifle originality.  Ignorance does not make you more original.  It means that you haven't the slightest idea what is original. Be original, throw out the excuses and read some poetry. Start with some poetry that you like and start reading.  Don't be afraid to try something new.  The more you immerse yourself in poetry the easier it will be to write poetry.

Write some poetry.  Practice is the how we absorb knowledge.  The best time to practice writing poetry is whenever you feel like it.  The second best time is right after you've been reading poetry.  Third best? any excuse you like, or no excuse at all.  Write some poetry.

And that's all there is to it.  Of course there are a few details missing, like the best ways to read a poem, editing, self critique, using other peoples critiques, poetics, etc.  But reading and writing are where it all starts.

For more, and better articles on improving your writing skills visit Writing Forward,  Melissa Donovan's blog.  It is full of great articles about writing that are easy to understand and often humorous.


Melissa Donovan said...

Fellow poet! Thank you so much for mentioning Writing Forward. Poetry is a gift that many refuse to embrace. I applaud you for blogging about poetry and sharing it with others ;)

Melissa Donovan at Writing Forward
Writing Forward

Mikel said...

Thanks for the kind words. Not to disagree with you, except metaphorically, I think lots of people embrace poetry, like clumsy teenagers on a first date.

They don't understand the romance of poetry; don't buy her chocolates, listen to her child hood stories, take long walks on the beach soaking in the world with her, or write her sonnets solely for her own sake and not their own confused desires.

Most people just want a quick feel, not a relationship.

Mikel said...

And I got so wrapped up in my impromptu metaphor I forgot to mention how much I enjoy reading your blog. I look forward to many more great articles.