Apr 22, 2008

Becoming a Better Poet: Part II

For some, poetry is as much about introspection as it is observation and writing.  If you're one of those poets I invite you to turn your thoughts to poetry and what it means to you.  To help I've got three questions that can change your poetry forever.

What is poetry?  

Forget that you've tried to answer this before.  Forget that the greatest poets in history have fought bitterly about this, and still do.  None of that is important.  The reason you want to ask this question is to find out what you think poetry is, or what it should be.

How can you write a poem if you don't even know what a poem is?  Sure, you are already writing poetry, but are you?  Are you just putting words down on a page; line breaks because your supposed to, imagery because your supposed to, and everything else because that's what poetry is supposed to do.

Understanding poetry is the beginning of real sustainable creativity.  Instead of tacking your impulse onto the half understood structures of poetry, you can build those structures and give your writing direction and purpose.  What is poetry?  It's the goal, and it's damn hard to reach if you don't know where it is.

Why do you write poetry?

Be honest with yourself, and please, please don't pull up some quote from a famous poet.  They are poets.  They are going to be metaphorical, probably exaggerate, and are far more interested in eulogizing their craft than giving you a helping hand.  Besides, it is their reason and of no use to you.

Do yourself another favor and don't stop with 'I have to write.'  This is a symptom, not an answer.  Take it one step further and ask yourself why you have to write.

If you know why you write poetry you hold the key to your own motivation.  If you've stopped writing you'll have a pretty good idea what you have to do to start again.  When you are out of ideas you can ask yourself again, why am I writing?  Chances are that you'll be able to brainstorm a dozen new poems on the spot.  If you can't, go another round with question one.

How do you write poetry?  Or as I like to say 'My Philosophy of Poetry.'

The other two questions are about self examination.  This one is about self determination.  What will and won't you do for the sake of poetry?  What kind of person and poet will you be? What are your ethics, choice of style, your stance on clichés, and how will you handle critics?  It's a catch all for every other choice you have to make when writing poetry.  I won't even begin to tell you what to put here, except for one rule.  The rule I end my own rambling list with.

I reserve the right to be inconsistent and just a bit hypocritical.  I can and will change my mind whenever I want and as often as I want.  The answers and rules I've written down here are not chains.  I'm am still growing as a poet and the answers will grow with me.

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