Erin's Poetry Tips

40 tips to poetry and poetry forums

Thursday, April 28, 2005


it's only fair

When you pick up a book of poetry, you read the poems, form opinions about each of them, maybe even highlight certain passages that strike you. When you do, you don't for one minute expect that author to read your work do you? Of course not! Especially since so much of what we read was written by poets who just happen to be dead now!

But, you see, this isn't the case with forum board poetry. Reciprocity is what makes forum board work -- it's what makes our little poetry world go 'round.

Every poet who posts a poem on a poetry forum board expects to be read and replied to, and the main way we insure that will happen is to read and reply to other's poetry. It's impolite to do otherwise, to expect to receive replies without having given any is rude and selfish.

The point being: If someone has read your poem and made a reply, you should return the favor -- read their work and offer your insights and opinions. It doesn't matter how much technical knowledge you posess, or how it compares to how much they have. What matters is that you are polite and considerate enough to read them, and tell them whether or not you enjoyed their writing, because it's very discouraging to write and post, and feel as though no one bothers to read what you've written.

Now in my opinion, the more in-depth their comments are, the more thought you should put into yours -- but really what matters is that you don't leave a fellow writer who's taken time to read your work out in the cold feeling as though he or she's been used.

Wednesday, April 27, 2005

Challenge Anyone?

I think many (all) writers go through periods of writer’s block. Times when no matter how hard you stare a the page, nothing happens, which eventually devolves further to uninspired clichéd poetry about writer’s block – simply to feel you’ve been victorious, and written something – anything!

Well, today, in an effort to overcome writer’s block for some of you, and just to play for others, I’m offering you a challenge. I challenge you to write bad poetry.

Yes, you heard me correctly, I want you to write a cliché ridden sadly inartistic poem. Experiment with doing all the things my tips have taught you not to do. Now, to go one better, this poem has to include the following words:


I’d LOVE to see rhyming Haiku or Tanka (or series thereof)

Tuesday, April 26, 2005

Metaphysical Poetry


1. Based on speculative or abstract reasoning.
2. Highly abstract or theoretical; abstruse.
3. Immaterial; incorporeal.
4. Supernatural.

Metaphysical Conceit
Metaphysical conceits are noteworthy specifically for their lack of conventionality. In general, the metaphysical conceit will use some sort of shocking or unusual comparison as the basis for the metaphor. They are highly ingenious metaphors that appeal to the intellect and use verbal logic to sometimes ridiculous lengths.
When it works, a metaphysical conceit has a startling appropriateness that makes us look at something in an entirely new way.

Metaphysical Poetry:
Of or relating to the poetry of a group of 17th-century English poets whose verse is characterized by an intellectually challenging style and extended metaphors comparing very dissimilar things.

Metaphysical poets tend to rebel against the conventional imagery and rhythms of main stream poetry. Their poems are generally intellectually complex, honest (though in a non-conventional voice) and reflect the writer’s sense of confusion and conflict within themselves and with their surroundings. Their poems also usually sound rough compared to non-metaphysical poetry and can lack lyric smoothness and sense of flow. They tend to use the jumpiness and irregular sounds to reflect their content.

Metaphysical poets also use unusual or shocking imagery to portray their subject.
Because of their unconventionality these poems are generally misunderstood by many readers. They can sometimes find that it is too complex to be sure they’ve gotten the correct impression. This too is something the writer tends to use as a pro rather than a con, further proving to the reader that there are alternate ways of seeing, and voicing the most mundane of ideas.

Metaphysical poetry was a movement started by John Donne, in the 17th century. He was ridiculed for the way he rebelled against the style of poetry written then, and metaphysical poets still experience this same closed-mindedness and misunderstanding on the part of the general public.

Monday, April 25, 2005


What to write about

Poets tend to write about things that they feel strongly about.

Your first job in poetry is to find out what affects you the most. What things have the most emotional effect on you? This may change from day to day, but most poets find they tend to have a theme within their style – mine for example is nature. You will rarely find a poem I’ve written without some mention of nature or use of natural imagery.

The topics you choose might seem trivial, but if they cause a powerful reaction in you, then you will be able to write honestly and strongly about them, and make them seem no longer trivial to your readers.
However, keep in mind that its importance to you personally must be successfully conveyed to the reader.

Don’t make the mistake of believing that strong subject matter equates to strong poetry, you must still fulfill your role as the poet, and convince your reader that this is an important issue as well. This will be more easily accomplished when you feel strongly about the theme yourself.

In other words, once you discover the things that affect you, push it another step. Think carefully about the things that effect you, and figure out why you have that reaction.

You may find that you then have the subject matter for a poem (or, more likely, many poems).

Sunday, April 24, 2005


A figure of speech in which a sensory experience is described in the terms of one of the other senses. Synesthesia is also know as "sense transfer" or the confusion of the senses.

There are certain descriptions that we generally think of as a visual image, others that we consider to be a sound or a taste. Writing synesthetic poetry is to decide to convince a reader otherwise. Generally sizzle is a sound, and aural image. Try to make your reader believe it is a flavor, or a color – it isn’t as hard as it sounds once you get the hang of it.

Since I said sizzle, we’ll go with sizzle, but this can be applied to nearly any sensory term you can think of.

Aural – The last errant drop of coffee sizzled on the burner.
Visual – She saw in the distance, through the sizzle of heat rising from the sand, a nomad atop a camel.
Sensory – She smiled knowingly at the sizzle of arousal that perked her nipples to attention.
Smell – She inhaled and the sizzle of ozone filled her nose, metallic and heavy.
Taste – After a month of fasting, he savored the sizzle of bacon on his tongue.

Pick a word, a sensation – any sensory image you can think of, and scramble it. Do something for your readers that most people don’t do, intrigue them. Give them a reaction they’d never otherwise have!

Saturday, April 23, 2005

Poetic Forms

Choices Choices!

There are literally hundreds of forms of structured poetry, each presenting its own set of restrictions and requirements. The ones Ive listed are just a sampling of the choices available for structured poetry. I’ve left out more than I’ve included I’m sure. If you have a form you find interesting, fun, or particularly challenging, please, add it as a reply with a description/definition!

The definitions found here are generally copied from various sites on the web - you can do a search for "structured poetry" or "poetry forms" and find many such sites. You can also peruse the Structured Forum here on Moontowncafe and find some I've most likely missed.

Oriental Forms:

Haiku –
Haiku is an unrhymed, syllabic form adapted from the Japanese: three lines of 5, 7 and 5 syllables. Because it is so brief, a haiku is necessarily imagistic, concrete & pithy, capturing a single moment in a very few words. The traditional Japanese haiku requires some reference to nature or the season.

Senryu –
is an unrhymed, syllabic form adapted from the Japanese: three lines of 5, 7 and 5 syllables, 17 in all. It is differentiated from Haiku by subject only, being based on human nature rather than mother nature.

Japanese form of five lines with five, seven, five, seven, and seven syllables, 31 in all.

definition and description by Red Roses & Wine
A Than-Bauk, conventionally a witty saying or epigram, is a three line "climbing rhyme" poem of Burmese origin. Each line has four syllables. -Preferably one word syllables.
The rhyme is on the fourth syllable of the first line,
the third syllable of the second line,
and the second syllable of the third line.

definition and description by Red Roses & Wine
The Dodoitsu is a fixed folk song form of Japanese origin and is often about love, human nature or humor. It has 26 syllables made of four lines of 7, 7, 7, 5 syllables respectively. It is unrhymed and non-metrical.

Various Other Forms:

an eight-line stanza having just two rhymes and repeating the first line as the fourth and seventh lines, and the second line as the eighth

The villanelle is a poem of 19 lines, five triplets and a quatrain, using only two rhymes throughout the whole form. The entire first line is repeated as lines 6, 12 and 18 and the third line is repeated as lines 9, 15 and 19 -- so that the lines which frame the first triplet weave through the poem like refrains in a traditional song, and form the end of the concluding stanza.

Brought to the West by Victor Hugo, the pantoum is derived from a Malaysian form of interlocking four-line stanzas in which lines 2 and 4 of one stanza are used as lines 1 and 3 of the next. The lines may be of any length, and the poem can go on for an indefinite number of stanzas. Usually the paired lines are also rhymed. The form may be resolved at the end either by picking up lines 1 and 3 of the first stanza as lines 2 and 4 of the last, thus closing the circle of the poem, or simply by closing with a rhymed couplet.

**English (or Shakespearean) sonnet with three quatrains and a concluding couplet, with the scheme abab cdcd efef gg
**Italian: a fourteen-line poem with two sections, an octave (eight-line stanza rhyming abbaabba), and a sestet (six-line-stanza rhyming cddc ee)
**Petrachan: a fourteen-line poem with two sections, an octave (eight-line stanza rhyming abbaabba), and a sestet (six-line-stanza rhyming cdcdcd or cdecde).
****Quatrain: a four-line stanza
****Couplet: a pair of successive rhyming lines, usually of the same length
****Octave: an eight-line stanza or poem
****Sestet: a six-line stanza,

A poem set up so that the first or last letter of each line can be read together as a word or phrase. There are no restrictions or requirements to rhyme scheme, meter or repetition.

A poem that reads the same backward or forward.

Definition and description by Pilgrimage
the form is 1,2,3,4,10 and then if you want to continue, you reverse it. And if you have more to say you reverse it again.

definition and description by Red Roses & Wine
A nonet has nine lines. The first line has nine syllables, the second line eight syllables,
the third line seven syllables, etc... until line nine that finishes with one syllable. It can be on any subject and rhyming is optional.
line 1 - 9 syllables
line 2 - 8 syllables
line 3 - 7 syllables
line 4 - 6 syllables
line 5 - 5 syllables
line 6 - 4 syllables
line 7 - 3 syllables
line 8 - 2 syllables
line 9 - 1 syllable

definition and description by Red Roses & Wine
The diamonte is fun and easy to write. The purpose is to go from the subject at the top of the diamond to another totally different (and sometimes opposite) subject at the bottom. The structure is:
line 1 - one noun (subject #1)
line 2 - two adjectives (describing subject #1)
line 3 - three participles (ending in -ing, telling about the subject #1)
line 4 - four nouns (first two related to the subject #1, second two related to subject #2)
line 5 - three participles (ending in -ing, telling about subject #2)
line 6 - two adjectives (describing subject #2)
line 7 - one noun (subject #2)

Friday, April 22, 2005


1.) an indirect (and usually malicious) implication
2.) a veiled or equivocal reflection on character or reputation
3.) a stealthy or indirect hinting or suggestion


Sometimes in poetry it can be interesting to leave things a bit hazy – to hint at things without saying them outright.

This is most often true when the thing to be said is risqué or when you want to convey the idea that there is something more there – something to be read ‘between the lines’. It also helps if you are concerned about offending a certain group of people or your peers.

Too many times we read poetry that feels as though we’ve been spoon fed some unsweetened applesauce. It’s bland, simple, and uninteresting. Innuendo can add a bit of spice and texture to an otherwise boring read, without being crude or boorish. I find it can be a good way to write erotica without being clichéd or overly graphic, or to add humor that might otherwise be offensive. You can also add depth to a piece so that it has a message that can be carried on 2 levels.

Thursday, April 21, 2005


Get yourself going

We all go through periods of writer's block, when it seems as though there's simply nothing to write, and yet, we need to write. Here are some suggestions as to how to spark your creativity.

One of my favorite things to do is to pull out some old poetry that I've written, and revise/rewrite it. Many times what makes this such a useful exercise is that I remember what inspired me to write the poem in the first place. Trying to tap in to that emotion can be helpful in the creative process.

It's also fun to try to approach the same subject from a different point of view or with a different style of writing and see if I can come up with a whole new poem.

Choose a word or subject and spend 5 minutes writing down all the words/imagery/ideas you get from that word. Don't worry at this point about poetry, just let words and ideas flow. At the end of those 5 minutes, go back through and find what you like, and build on it.

Spend some time looking for a picture that you like. Whether it's a photograph, a painting, a magazine ad, it doesn't matter, just find one that intrigues you on some level, and write a poem inspired by that picture. Another variation of this is to find a movie or television program that interests you. I have written a fair share of poetry based on programs that interested me on the Discovery Channel, but you may be just as inspired by 24 or Law & Order.

Have a favorite singer or genre of music that inspires you? This may be the time to wake up your muse with a song. Try listening to a song that reminds you of a particular time in your life, or that has a mental connection to a particular person or place for you. Songs are poetry set to music, listening to some good lyrics is no different than reading poetry that inspires you.

"Hodgepodge" Poetry
Read other people's poetry, glean ideas, images, or interesting words from various pieces, and build something of your own. Be careful when doing this one, you don't want to plagiarize from someone else, just use them as a spring board.

Go to the Park
Go somewhere that you can be away from your usual every day environment. Take a walk in the woods, a drive in the mountains, a hike in the park – or sit on a park bench for that matter – just remove yourself from the normal setting and see what nature has to offer. Take in the sights, sounds, smells, jot them down, whether in single words, phrases, or whole poems.

Go to the Mall
Do exactly like the afore mentioned suggestion, but go people watching instead. Human Nature can be just as vivid and interesting as Mother Nature.

Magnetic Poetry
Have you ever tried magnetic poetry? It may sound silly and immature, but when you’re running low on words, there’s a whole box of them to play with. The available words may be limited, but you can always build onto whatever ideas are started with the magnetic poetry set. If you don’t have a set, there are sites online that offer similar activities.
(Be careful not to get swindled, has magnetic poetry contests, I love to use their site, but I never submit the poem, because they’re a scam site/vanity press)

Experiment with New Forms
Haiku, Tanka, Rondeau, Sonnet, Concrete Poetry – try something new. Sometimes conforming to the rules of a new form make you forget that you’re out of ideas. Can’t quite meet the requirements of a Patrarchian Sonnet? That’s ok too, revise what you’ve started with – this is your work now, and the important part was to write something – it doesn’t have to stay a sonnet!

Wednesday, April 20, 2005

The Politics of Web Poetry

The innovation of the internet, and the birth of the poetry community have created both opportunities and complications for all who have discovered them.

In the days of paper and pen, finding literary interaction was a bit harder. Receiving any sort of reaction to your work was much less accessible - typically restricted to fellow students in writing classes, or the occasional trusted friend or relative.

With the technological advance of the information super highway comes obstacles, bumps in the road that were unforeseeable. One of these, in my opinion, is the politics of message board replies - not enough, too many, and those colored by favoritism. If the poetry world is to become more than what it is through this contact, reader reaction is to be the key. However I find that human nature overcomes the sensibilities of discipline where this is concerned. Many times, general attitudes prevail that impair the creative process when performed online.

We all know that not every post on web boards is a work of genius. This is true on two levels. Either the piece doesn't fit into your preferred style, and is therefore distasteful to you in particular, or the piece lacks poetic device/style or includes grammatical errors and typos. So, there are often times when a reader must choose his words carefully when reading another's work. When the piece you're reading seems to have little or no artistic value, for whatever reason, what do you do?

There are three choices:

1.) One can back out quietly, in hopes that no one has noticed your arrival, and make no comment at all. This is known as the 'ignore them and they'll go away' syndrome. After all we wouldn't want to hurt his feelings, right? This, unfortunately, only tends to encourage a wider spreading of the distasteful work. A writer, at whatever skill level, can only improve if someone informs him that he needs to. In ignoring him, he will, indeed, move on. He'll move on to post his poetry at every board he can find. Without interaction from other, more-seasoned writers, without outside opinions of his work, he is destined to continue to write badly. I ask you, what effect does this have on the poetry community as a whole to have this phenomenon continue? Surely, you can't think it positive.

"The fact that no one understands you does not make you an artist." --unknown

2.) One can find some meaningless commentary to make, after all, if you respond to him, surely he'll reply to you - poetic back-scratching. This is a variation of the above-mentioned syndrome, only worse. Now he has what he views as 'fans' and feels completely justified in continuing to run rampant through the net, posting objectionable poetry. He finds it within his rights to justify grammatical errors, lack of understanding of poetic device, improper word usage, and will often be found on the righteous indignation soap-box loudly protesting the idea that poetry be held to such standards at all. I'm sure we've all heard how poetry should be written from the heart, and how technicalities aren't important, rather, what matters is how you feeeeel.
This, my fellow writers, is the start of why web poets and poetry sites tend to be held in disdain within the literary community at large. It marks the beginning of the reputation we have earned for being undisciplined and uneducated. In praising those who do not deserve it, we may save his feelings, but in the end, we're only hurting ourselves.

"Discipline is the refining fire by which talent becomes ability." --Roy L Smith

3.) We may offer constructive criticism in an effort to help him learn and improve. This is where we take the opportunity to reclaim our good names, the chance to better our standing within the literary community.

Soothe him by pointing out a redeeming quality or two, and then make use of the moment to share your knowledge. Don't sugarcoat your commentary, and inversely, don't tear into him like a pit bull. Your tone decides whether or not he'll listen, or become defensive. A defensive listener hears nothing - meaning you'll be wasting your time.

'Honest criticism is hard to take, particularly from a relative, a friend, an acquaintance, or a stranger" --Franklin P. Jones

Help him to grow. Start with commentary on the technical mechanics of the English language. Explain the merits of using punctuation, grammar, or proper capitalization. This is more effective if explained in such a way as to lend him the idea that by doing so, he'll receive more input. Avoid the appearance of being dogmatic or arrogant. Move on, if possible, to explain the finer points of poetry, such as line breaks, stanza separations, metaphor, etc. Explain the negative effects of clichés, gerunds, or whatever you found to be ineffective in the piece.

Generally speaking, poetry is often viewed as an art to be taken lightly. Every ounce of respect we get is one we've earned through hard work, proofreading, editing and revision - through endless hours of carving polished art from an unrecognizable jumble of letters and words. None of us is beyond improvement; each of us has room to grow. And isn't that the point of internet contact in the first place - because who better to teach us, than each other?

This is an article I wrote several years ago - it repeats some of the things I mentioned in other tips, but I felt it miht be helpful anyway

Tuesday, April 19, 2005

Poetry Publication Tips

So you’ve finally decided to make the next move, to take the next step toward published poet status. You’re ready to send in volumes of your poems to every editor you can find, and are sure that within a matter of weeks, your name and poetic genius will grace the pages of countless publications. You’re almost ready to turn in your final notice at work, right? Before you get carried away, let’s look at how this wealth and fame is to be attained.
Here is a quick summary of some of the things you should do when you get serious about being published. We’ll go into more detail as we get further along. Just remember that the amount of time and energy you spend on laying the groundwork for your submissions is directly reflected in your final product, and is clearly visible to editors, who see hundreds, if not thousands of manuscripts each year. This process is considerably more difficult and time consuming than posting a poem on a poetry website, but in the end, the work will pay off.

* A complete list of poetry publishers is available from The Poetry Library, The Writers' and Artists' Yearbook, The Writers' Handbook, and The Poet’s Market. You can get a copy of any of these from the local library. Be sure to get the latest version.

* Start out by sending your work only to established poetry magazines with reputations that won’t make you regret being published in them. Remember, if they accept you, you can use them as future references, or they can come back to haunt you. You want them to be high-quality, respectable credits that you can be proud of.

* Read. Find out what the editor wants. Target magazines that you know frequently include poetry that fits your style.

* Present your work in a professional manner. Hand-written material is unacceptable. Type on one side of the paper only, use additional sheets for each new poem or continuation of a poem. Check for typos and other mistakes before you send anything in. Don't include an explanation of your poetry - good work speaks for itself. Enclose a SASE

* Editors do not need (or want) your complete works. You need only to send a small sample.

* Don't expect an instant reply, it can take months.

* Don't expect a big payment - or any payment at all.

* Consider your earliest publications as experience, and the basis for your growing reputation.

The Manuscript
There are many common mistakes that will guarantee that your work sees nothing more than the inside of an editor’s trash can. Here are some of the standards to which you should adhere to in order to win a chance–
. . . . . Typeface/Font Style: Always type your poems on a computer (or a good quality typewriter.) Use a clear typeface, Times New Roman and Courier are the best choices here. Your font size should be a consistent, easily read 10 point or 12 point. You can type your title however you prefer. Avoid using all caps, but underlined, boldface, plain text, or any combination is acceptable. Keep in mind that your job is to make the editor's job easier and thereby (hopefully) you’ll stand a better chance of acceptance.
. . . . . Paper: Use plain white 8.5 x 11 inch paper. Period. No colors, textures, special weights or ornamentation, no cute little teddy bears or decorations – plain white paper.
. . . . . Page Formatting: Your pages should be uniform. Name and date in the top right (or left) corner of each page. Use the same number of spaces between this and the poem’s title, and between the title and the actual poem on each page. Most publishers are fine with single-spaced stanzas, some insist on double-spacing, so read the guidelines of the publication carefully. Always maintain a one inch margin around each page, and if your poem is long enough to continue from one page to another, number the pages sequentially (1/2, 2/2) in the bottom right hand corner. In the case of a continuation, be sure to note whether or not the page break coincides with a stanza break by adding {stanza break} or {no stanza break.}
. . . . . Do not add copyright notices on your poetry. This is seen as a direct insult, as though you fear that the editor intends to steal your work. Besides, by law, just typing out your poem automatically copyrights it.

Where to Submit
There are several platforms for poetry publication; these include online e-zines, literary magazines, and newspapers, both local and national. I suggest starting with an e-zine, or one of the smaller literary magazines. Give yourself a chance to build your reputation, and your confidence. Also, they tend to be in need of good work, and thus, are more willing to take a chance on a new poet. They're usually more open to your questions and more tolerant to the mistakes of the inexperienced..
Electronic publications (E-zines)
Electronic publishing is a fairly new market that’s growing with the poetry-online movement. Many poetry magazines have already experimented with web-based archives of back issues.

Some electronic markets:
The Academy of American Poets
The Cortland Review
Ecco Press: The Essential Poets series
Electronic Poetry Review
Poets & Writers Inc. Home Page
Salon Magazine
SEEDS Magazine
Subterranean Press
The University of Chicago Press
Zuzu Petals Quarterly

Yes, electronic publication in an online journal is a perfectly acceptable publication credit and can be used as reference in future submissions. Here again though, check the e-zine’s reputation, visit the site and use your own judgment. Review it with your reputation in mind. Each site has requirements on how to submit, so be sure to visit the site’s submission guideline page.

Some Literary magazines:
Literary periodicals and poetry journals are the other places where newcomers should begin. They're very reputable, especially among literary scholars, so getting published in one is a big deal. Some of the more popular literary magazines are included in this list I found on the web:

American Letters and Commentary·
Antioch Review
DoubleTake Magazine
Fence Magazine
Field Magazine
Five Points
The Journal
Kenyon Review
Literal Latte
The New Criterion
Partisan Review
PN Review
Poetry Calendar
Poetry Magazine
Poetry Review
Poets & Writers Magazine
Stand Magazine
Tin House Literary Journal
Triquarterly Magazine
Verse Magazine

National newspapers tend to be looking for famous poets, and can be hard to get into, but it’s worth the risk of rejection on the off-chance that you get accepted. A newspaper offers a wide readership, and can be a real plus when listed in your credits. You can also start out with smaller locally based newspapers as a beginner’s platform. If nothing else, this will offer you some experience with dealing with editors and the intricacies of being published. Remember that newspaper editors too are looking for insightful, thought-provoking verse that creates a mood or image. Don’t take these publishers any less seriously than any other.

Prepare your portfolio:
There are very specific guidelines you should follow when preparing your poetry portfolio:

Cover Letter: You should include a cover letter unless the publisher has specifically stated that it is undesired. When you create your cover letter, adhere strictly to the guidelines of the publication to which you intend to submit. If there are no guidelines regarding a cover letter, include one anyway -- it can't hurt. It is important to keep the letter brief, succinct, and professional. It should always :

1.Be addressed to the poetry editor or magazine editor by his/her name. No "To Whom it May Concern" Take the time to contact the magazine and find out this information, including the correct spelling.
2.Offer the editor the poems for publication in their journal. Don’t apologize or brag about your work. Don’t sell yourself with personal references from friends, colleagues or family. Don’t ask for feedback on your poetry. Simply state the purpose of the submission.
3.List up to three recent publishing credits (if you have them).
4.Thank the editor for his/her time.

The only circumstances under which you should provide more information:
1.If the editor has previously rejected your work but included a personal note saying that he/she was interested in seeing more of your future work, then mention this in your cover letter.
2.If you're resubmitting work with changes suggested by the editor, then write that you've made the edits and thank the editor for the suggestions.
3.If you are sending poems for a specific issue of the magazine, mention that too.

Your Poems:
You should submit about 5 poems or pages, held together with a paper clip. Do not staple your pages

An SASE (self-addressed stamped envelope): If you want them returned, make sure that you include enough postage for the return of your poems. But always keep a copy of the work you’ve submitted. You’re generally better off to send a business sized envelope and enough postage just for their response. If this is what you choose to do, make sure to let them know that the manuscript in a disposable copy, A SASE makes it more likely that you'll get some kind of response, even if it's a rejection.

Your exterior envelope:
Address your package to the poetry editor by name. Send the package flat in a 9 x 12 inch manila envelope. Don't use a standard business envelope with your poems folded into thirds, it'll make your newbie status all too obvious, and you’ll be taken less seriously. Remember to put enough postage on the exterior of your envelope and make sure that everything looks professional. Use plain labels for the return address, and use boring stamps.

Submitting to more than one market
*Never submit a poem that has already been published in any form. This rule even applies if you put the poem on your own homepage -- technically that is also a form of publication, and you don't want to jeopardize your chances.
*Technically, you're not allowed to submit the same poems to more than one publication simultaneously. Most first-timers submit to many publications, wait for the first acceptance, and then tell the other publications that he/she would like to withdraw his/her poems from consideration. It's technically wrong, but sometimes you have to get cutthroat.

Keep track of your submissions!
In order to avoid confusion and the perils of forgetfulness, you should keep a record of what poems you have submitted to which publications. Note also the date they were submitted, whether or not you’ve received a response, and what that response was. Once a poem has been rejected by one publication, you are free to resubmit it to another. This also serves as a list of publication credits for quick reference.

Now that we’ve covered all of that, submit, but don’t quit your day job.

Monday, April 18, 2005

concrete poetry

Concrete Poetry
Poetry that visually conveys the poet's meaning through the graphic arrangement of letters, words, or symbols on the page.

Also known as:

Pattern Poetry
Poetry in which the letters, words, and lines are configured in such a way that the poem's printed appearance on the page forms a recognizable outline related to the subject, thus conveying or extending the meaning of the words.

Her lips part slightly to meet rime encrusted goblet;
chords of Beethoven dance with rainbowed teardrops
in the halo cast by candlelight and crystal. She shivers
with sad satisfaction as a Zinfandel cascade glides
smoothly down and tongue is washed
in bitter sweetness. She feels
the chill transferred
to soul,
a repeat
performance of dinner for two, alone

Concrete poetry, if nothing else, is fun to do. It’s a mixture of written and visual art, where the writer has to decide on a shape/visual presentation that would compliment the poem’s internal message. It tends to make the author think about what’s really necessary to say with the correct amount of words, in order to achieve the shape they strive for. You can start with an idea for a poem and decide beforehand what ‘picture’ you’d like to end up with, and write the poem accordingly, or vice versa – idea first, which would then dictate the shape.
Either way you do it, it can be a lot of fun, and is a great exercise when you’re experiencing writer’s block.

There are certain forms of poetry that, by way of syllable count, also create concrete poetry, such as the Tetractys, which I recently commented resembled a newspaper hat, and the Diamonte, which is a diamond shape. These are forms you may want to explore if concrete poetry sounds interesting to you.

The ‘wine glass’ above was taken from a collection of poems I wrote some years ago.

Sunday, April 17, 2005


Keep it simple stupid!

Keep it simple!
Observe the old rule - when in doubt, leave it out. Remember what’s called the ‘KISS principle’ (keep it simple, stupid) Salespeople use it, and so should you: If customers don't understand them, they won't make the sale. The same rule of thumb applies to poetry, and your “customers,” your readers.
Shoot for clarity.
Fanciness leads to pretentiousness, and pretentiousness puts readers to sleep – not the effect you’re looking for, unless you’re writing a lullaby.Clarity is critical for keeping a reader’s interest. Write about one thing and stick to the subject.
Use short sentences.
Use about 15 – 20 words per sentence. Keep your subject and verb together. That way, you won't confuse your readers. And you won't confuse yourself. Concise sentences are easier to follow and less likely to muddle the subject.
Avoid run-on sentences and excess commas.
Average one idea in each sentence, just like the ‘one idea per poem’ concept. If you only have one idea, you don't to worry about commas and semicolons. Try not to put more than two ideas in the same sentence. If your rhythm is better served by a pause (or you have some other reason to forego a period) consider using and, or but to join the two sentences.
No fragments!
Make sure every sentence has a subject and a verb, and remember words that end with -ing (gerunds and participles) aren't always verbs. Be especially careful of words like although, as, after, before, because, if, that, unless, until, when, which, who, etc. They turn complete sentences into fragments.
Write like you talk.
Use the subject-verb-object type of sentence that science has proven most effective for the average reader. Let the sentence patterns of common speech work for you, not against you. Put the important first in each sentence where your reader needs it.
Read your writing out loud
Listen to the sound of the words. You'll catch more errors this way. You’ll also get a feel for the flow, rhythm and cadence. In an effective poem, your reader ‘hears’ the poem in his mind, you want to know exactly what it is he’ll hear, reading the poem out loud to yourself is the best way to do that.

Saturday, April 16, 2005

Passive vs. active voice

Who Dunnit?

The English language has two voices, active and passive. When the subject of the sentence performs the action of the verb, it is said to be active. In a passive sentence, the subject is not performing the action of the verb, another noun in the sentence is performing the action on/to the subject.

Active Ex:
Erin wrote this sentence.
‘Erin’ is the subject, she performed the action – Erin wrote.

Passive Ex:
This sentence was written by Erin.
‘Erin’ is no longer the subject, ‘sentence’ is now the subject, but the ‘sentence’ isn’t performing the action, ‘Erin’ is.

Active sentences are more powerful because they’re shorter. Passive sentences use an average of 35% more words. Fewer words make a more direct, concise statement. Active sentences are also easier to read and understand. Passive sentences, in addition to using more words, use more weak words, such as demonstrative pronouns (the), prepositions (by, of) and the weaker passive (to be) form of the verb.

For a potent poem, or any other form of writing, use well-built sentences. The strong verbs, solid nouns and clear descriptions add to the strength of any writing project. Using passive sentences consistently will ensure that your writing is less direct, bogged down under weak words, and unfailingly ineffectual.
There are times that passive voice is acceptable, such as when you want to hide who performed the action in the sentence, which may preserve a sense of surprise for the end of the piece. Used carefully, it can add suspense, such as when used in a sentence like, “My heart has been broken.” If used in a poem where you’d like to surprise your reader with the fact that your heart was broken by some unusual person (or thing perhaps) then this may work for you. Just take care not to be too passive, or your reader may never make it to the twist at the end, because they feel confused by the passivity and wordiness.
There have been studies that show that the human mind is more apt to retain information written in the active voice format. One thing most writers hope to achieve is to make their reader remember their work. This is particularly true when submitting work to a publisher.

Friday, April 15, 2005

Free Verse

What, exactly, does that mean?

Someone posted a thread recently about free verse. It was a quote that basically defined what free verse is, and someone else replied, wanting a deeper explanation. I find that many writers don’t quite understand what the term free verse means.

Free Verse:
Unrhymed verse without a consistent metrical pattern

Free verse is exactly that, free verse – poetry that is written without
proper rules about form, rhyme, rhythm, or meter. This term is sometimes referred to, incorrectly, as blank verse. Blank verse is similar, in that it doesn’t have to rhyme, but blank verse is written in iambic pentameter.

Free verse is a term loosely used for rhymed or unrhymed verse made
free of conventional and traditional limitations and restrictions about metrical structure. Cadence is often substituted for regular metrical pattern. There is no line count or required repetition.

There is no technical rule applied to it whatsoever, other than the grammatical rules that apply to all writing, and many choose to forego those as well.

Free verse tends to remain rhythmic though not strictly metered, the rhythm or cadence of free verse varies throughout the poem. Though the words don't rhyme, they flow along their own uneven pattern.

Some writers feel more comfortable within the restrictions of poetic forms that have specific requirements. They are reassured by rules that let them know they have fulfilled those requirements, as if someone has told them what to do, and they know they’ve done it. Free verse is, in a sense, more difficult, at least in the way of knowing you’ve done it “right.”

Most writers, therefore, tend to start with more restricted forms, particularly with rhyming poetry, and progress, as they feel more confident, into free verse poetry. Just as poetry itself had to progress into free verse, most writers have to ‘grow’ into it, a sort of micro-evolution of each individual within the free verse movement.

The greatest American writer of free verse was probably Walt Whitman. His Leaves of Grass was published in 1855. It was a major experiment in free verse poetry.

Thursday, April 14, 2005


It’s 11 o’clock, do you know where your thesaurus is?

One of the defining devices of poetry is vocabulary. Poetry is a distinct and determined effort to avoid common language. The most basic building block of our entire field of literature is vocabulary -- new words, beautiful words, uncommon, unusual an interesting words, more words than most of us keep stored in our minds. This means that when we can’t find a ‘good’ enough word in our own brains, we must strive to find one elsewhere.

This is where the thesaurus comes in. I personally find mine indispensable. I can honestly say that the most prized gift I’ve received from my husband in 13 years of birthdays and Christmases was the thesaurus he gave me a few years ago. I have since worn it to the same condition as the one I had been using at the time; it’s pages are bent and dog-eared, the cover is scuffed, the binding is broken, and I love it. (I wonder if he knew then how many brownie points he would earn himself with a ten dollar gift?)

The significance of vocabulary is indescribable. I doubt I can offer any more valuable advice to poetry writers than to advise them to expand their vocabulary base. The thesaurus is an excellent tool to aid in this expansion. There are innumerable synonyms for most every word in our language, and hundreds of thousands of them lie waiting, like buried gold, in its pages. But you have to be careful when using a thesaurus to use words with the correct intonation and mood, and to employ them properly as far as inverting the usage. Be careful not to sound as if you opened the thing and used the first synonym you came across.

I also advise you to read. Read, a lot, read poetry and fiction and non-fiction and newspapers and novels, just READ! Sign up for “word of the day” email notices (such as they have at ) Keep a dictionary handy, for the times when you read or hear a word you don’t know the definition of. Another activity I enjoy that also exposes you to new words is completing the daily crossword puzzle.

Regardless of how you do it, make a conscious effort to learn new words as often as possible, and definitely make use of a thesaurus. If you don’t own a copy of one, you can buy a copy for about $10, and until you do, there are several online to make use of ( and are two that come immediately to mind.) Also, most word processing programs have one bundled in with their tools – use it.

Wednesday, April 13, 2005


getting differing views on your poem

Some writers object to the idea of editing or changing their poems in any way, claiming that revision threatens the purity of the original idea/poem, but many others who don’t revise simply lack the knowledge and/or objectivity it would require to successfully edit their piece. Young writers, in particular, don’t have the experience to understand or to even see the problems within their poetry, but can present a poem with great potential nonetheless. And of course, even more seasoned writers can become attached to their work, or an element within it, and need some outside input. These are all perfect candidates for workshopping.

A poetry workshop is a setting where one writer presents a poem (one that they’ve hopefully at least proofread and corrected the simpler problems such as spelling and punctuation) and receives the input and opinions of other writers. Those who provide the critiques will sometimes have differing views, and often one will spot problems or rough spots that another won’t. Above all, the critics will be objective enough to say which parts are working and which parts aren’t. After receiving various comments, suggestions, and critiques, the author of the poem goes back to the drawing board with the poem and responses in hand, and considers all that he may or may not want to use, and edits his poem accordingly.

There are several critical mechanisms in the machinery of a successful workshop environment.

For the critiqued:
The most important component is the open-mindedness of the author who entered into the workshop for help.
They must have an appropriate amount of desire to improve, a willingness to, at the very least consider the suggestions made, and a certain level of conviction for their original intent.
Perhaps you came for assistance and input, but you should not be willing to follow all suggestions as if they were required. The suggestions given in a workshop are just that, suggestions, ideas, not law.
You must want to learn, and must want that more than you want to be correct. Think through whatever changes you makes and decide whether it enhances the intent/message, or changes the poem into something else all together.
However, in the event that there is advice offered that you disagree with, simply thank the critic for the time and effort they spent on the thoughtful critique, and ignore the suggestion. Never become argumentative. That is a sure way to have yourself excluded from the workshop environment in the future, and the workshop is an opportunity you should never waste.
Always, always, be grateful. The critics in a workshop absolutely are not obligated to offer you any advice whatsoever, you aren’t paying them for their time, so be respectful enough to offer only a reasonably polished piece of work to start out with, and to appreciate all that they do. A well thought out critique is not an instantaneous thing, the critic typically spends 30+ minutes per critique. They consider your poem from multiple view points looking for everything from grammatical errors or inconsistencies to the purity of your metaphors, to the success of your stylistic choices, and the effect of all of the above on the message you’re trying to convey. Never underestimate the amount of work involved in what they do, it is considerable.

To the critics
The other vital factor necessary for a workshop to accomplish anything is
the time and effort mentioned above. A well thought out, line-by-line critique deserves a minimum of 30 minutes, especially in a workshop arena. When a less seasoned poet, or a more experienced poet who has recognized his inability to be objective with a piece, comes to a workshop, they have taken a major step. They’ve opted to allow virtual strangers to re-design (on one level or another) a piece of work that, most likely, they care for as if it were their child.

As critics, we should be gentle enough not to offend them. We’ve all seen workshops and critique boards that are harsh, and often downright mean-spirited. We’ve also watched the poet become defensive, and become so indignant and offended that they failed to recognize the value of the suggestions offered to them. Tone is of utmost importance when offering a critique, unless you just have an extra half hour or so to waste, and no interest in actually helping the writer in question.
Also, try to keep in mind the author’s personal style – let’s say there is no punctuation in the entire piece, is this the norm for this writer? Then address it briefly, stating that you disagree with it, or that it isn’t effective for you and a bit about why, but that you understand that it is an intentional stylistic choice. Remember that they know their intentions better than you, perhaps your suggestion isn’t quite right for their original thought. Respect that, though you may be more experienced, they need to know for themselves what works for them and what doesn’t. Accept that they aren’t always going to follow your suggestions.
However, if you have the experience of doing a critique for a poet who becomes belligerent or you find that they intend not to follow any of the advice offered to them, move on to the next poet. Don’t waste your time beating your head on a brick wall. Perhaps the next time you see this particular poet they will be more ‘ready’ to hear a critique; until then, work with one who is. Your time is valuable, don’t bother wasting it if you feel it’s pointless.

Tuesday, April 12, 2005

Poetry vs. Prose

and the controversy continues

I have collected several definitions from different sources for both of these terms, because this topic tends to be a bit controversial. The line between the two seem to get blurred in semantics over poetic words and poetry.

Poetry: Poetry is literary composition in verse, metrical language or other patterned language. It is often contrasted to prose.
Prose: Ordinary written language, without a noticeable metrical structure. Often thought of as the opposite of poetry.

1. The art or work of a poet.
2a. Poems regarded as forming a division of literature.
2b. The poetic works of a given author, group, nation, or kind.
3. A piece of literature written in meter; verse.
4. Prose that resembles a poem in some respect, as in form or sound. 5. The essence or characteristic quality of a poem.
6. A quality that suggests poetry, as in grace, beauty, or harmony:

1. Ordinary speech or writing, without metrical structure.
2. Commonplace expression or quality.
3. Roman Catholic Church A hymn of irregular meter sung before the Gospel.

Now that didn’t really help much at all, did it?

Contrary to popular belief, poetry is not defined by the structure or arrangement of a piece.
It is not defined as “separating words and phrases into broken lines and stanzas.”

If I were to write this entry to look like a poem, it still wouldn’t be poetry any more than today’s front page of your local newspaper. Poetry is simply not defined by its appearance. If it can be written in paragraph form and say the same thing, and sound like ordinary speech, it isn’t poetry – it’s prose. Poetry is rhythmic, it is full of imagery and symbolism and makes use of various poetic tools. The sentence structure often varies from common speech, and tends to require great contemplation on varied vocabulary to create a mood within the piece.


Poetry is defined
by the artistry
of its creation,
by the language choices
that are made
to ensure
that it is not
the same
as every day writing.
Don’t misunderstand me,

prose can be poetic,

but it is not poetry.

Prose tends to be longer, wordier, more like everyday language. It uses less in the way of imagery and other poetic devices. Writing prose is not a bad thing, Stephen King has made a generous living from doing just that. He’s a talented writer, and at times includes imagery, metaphor and a sense of rhythm to his writing, however, if I took “It” and broke it into lines, it would not be an epic poem, it would still be a novel.
Prose most definitely has a place in literature, just be educated in the difference and be aware of exactly which it is you normally write, or intend to write.

Monday, April 11, 2005


Show it, don’t tell it

1. A set of mental pictures or images.
2. The use of vivid or figurative language to represent objects, actions, or ideas.
3. The use of expressive or evocative images in art, literature, or music.
4. A group or body of related images, as in a painting or poem.

Poetic Definition
The sensory detail (not just visual) in a literary work. It also refers more specifically to figures of speech like metaphor or simile which produce mental images for the reader.

Imagery is one of the most powerful devices in poetry. (so powerful in fact that psychologists have been using it for years as a technique of behavior therapy, where the patient is encouraged to visualize a pleasant fantasy to overcome certain anxieties) It’s used to paint a picture for the reader, as a way to involve them, envelope them in the art you paint with your words. It’s an integral part of the process of poetry; without strong, vivid images, your poem becomes second-hand, and holds much less impact.

A poem without strong imagery is like a handbook, dry and straight-forward, without illustrations, insert Tab A into Slot B type writing.

It’s what’s referred to as “telly”.
It’s lines like,

“The tree was red and orange in Autumn.”
versus lines like
“The forest erupted in flame under an Autumn sun.”


“He was depressed”
“The frigid crevasse of infidelity threatened to rend his soul in two”


“The old paper felt rough in his hand”
“A hundred years of history were hidden in the wrinkles of this document,
and transferred into his curious palm.”

You can see how much more engaging a vivid image can be.

Reading a poem should be less of a reading and more of an experience. It’s one of the main characteristics of poetry. Your job as a writer of poetry is to engage the reader, make him feel as though he’s inside the poem.
You want him to feel it, to smell and hear it, you want him to walk away with the images splashed across his mind in permanent ink.

Sunday, April 10, 2005

Proofreading and Editing

spelling, grammar, punctuation

I started to begin this tip with a lot of misspelled words, poor grammar and no punctuation, a sort of example of the mistakes I intended to discuss. I thought better of it and started over because you aren’t going to bother trying to read it if I do that are you? It would be much too much like work.

Make your words, ideas, and thoughts accessible, don’t bury them under an unnecessary burden of faults. I’ve mentioned accessibility in several of my other tips. It’s become a sort of buzz-word in poetry lately, which tends to weaken the meaning of the word, so let me spell it out.

If your reader cannot:
A.) decrypt your spelling
B.) find your true meaning in a madness of grammatical errors
C.) figure out which parts go together and which do not in the absence (or misuse of) punctuation

then they are too busy trying to decipher – and not busy enough with hearing what you’re saying. You make your message completely null and void – you waste your time, and that of the reader, and more likely than not, you ensure
that most readers won’t get past the first few errors before deciding to give up the effort. Write your poetry in a word processing program such as MSWord or Word Perfect, and run a spell check and grammar check on it before you put it out there for the world. Once you know you've done that, just copy and paste it into the text field on the forum board.

Let’s be honest, your poetry is your craft, and it should be crafted with care. If you have so little respect for your work that you can’t bother to do simple proofreading, and edit out the technical mistakes, then why should your potential readers respect it enough to dedicate their time to reading it? If you don’t show that you care about your work, readers won’t care about it either. Remember, the next, more polished, poem is just a click away.

(For those who don't know how to copy and paste, to copy the text, click on it and drag the mouse across it, until everything you want to copy is highlighted, then right click and choose "copy". Then click into the text field where you normally type the poem to post it. Right click inside the text field and right click and choose "paste".)

Saturday, April 09, 2005


choose your weapons

1.Choice and use of words in speech or writing.
2.Degree of clarity and distinctness of pronunciation in speech or singing; enunciation.
3.The articulation of speech regarded from the point of view of its intelligibility to the audience
4.The manner in which something is expressed in words

The vocabulary and style of language you choose to use in a poem is just as important as the images and ideas. As a writer, you must decide whether to present your story in contemporary language, Shakespearian or Miltonian language, you can also choose to write in a stylized way, such as using slang, or different dialects and colloquialisms, to further the imagery within the poem. These choices are what formulate your diction.

Often, especially when writing the more formal, structured forms, such as sonnets and villanelles, you tend to revert to more formal, ‘flowery’ diction. There are two reasons for this. Firstly, it’s how we were taught these forms were supposed to sound. In school we learned Shakespeare, Tennyson, and Milton, and those impressions of how poetry should look and sound are ingrained in us. (What your teachers probably didn’t teach you was that shortly after such fancy language usage became the norm, other writers began to argue that poetry should be more accessible to everyone.)
Secondly, that style of language tends to lend itself more easily to the structure of the many formal forms that were popular in that era. But who speaks in iambic pentameter nowadays?!

Realistically, poetry will always use more stylized language and word choices, even free verse isn’t completely natural because of the process of word selection, and the idea of compressing the imagery into fewer lines and words. But neither do you have to use thee’s or thou’s to write successful poetry.

As a modern poet, the best advice you can follow is to read more poetry. Include the classic poets, but also read more contemporary authors. To write well and be ‘with the times’ you must be aware of what’s being done in the modern marketplace, understand what’s going on in your field now.

With the knowledge of both the past and the present, you can form your own style and decide what works best for your writing in general or for one piece in particular.

Now, experiment.
Is your poem about a farmer? Once you get your initial piece on paper, try using different language. Try using more basic and simple language for the simple farmer, try using geographically specific language to depict the setting without saying outright where the subject is. You prefer to give the impression that your farmer is more upscale? Perhaps he’s a more modern day technically savvy sort of fellow – try describing certain things, such as the equipment or chemical fertilizers or what have you, in more technical terms generally only used by such a person. Maybe he’s a farmer who likes to play music – find ways to incorporate language that indicates both areas. Is he a 21st century farmer, or an 18th century farmer? You can tell your reader this with your word choices as well.

Play around, broaden your area of comfort in style and language. No one says you have to use any of these ideas in your final piece.

This isn’t dinner folks,play with your words!

Friday, April 08, 2005

Sentence Fragments

sentences failing

A proper sentence should have both a subject and a verb, with the necessary clauses to make it complete and able to stand alone. There must be at least one independent clause. There must be a subject-verb relationship -- something or someone, doing something (or someone), all in phrases and clauses joined by adverbs and such.

In poetry, writers tend to feel that it's acceptable to use fragments. I could find dozens of poems on MTC right now that I could use as examples. Unfortunately, as much as poetry is an art and a conveyance of some feeling or impression, it should still follow grammatical rules.

For those of you who are thinking how poetry doesn't follow rules, how it's art expressed from the depths of your soul and rules simply do not apply to emotion or art, consider the effect that fragments have on the overall piece.

Let's start with an example:

Wind blowing.
Hair streaming.
Tears flowing.
Lost love.

Now this is nothing more than 4 incomplete sentences offered up in list form. There are three lines that have -ing form verbs, with no auxilliary form and therefore are not true verbs as used here. They SEEM to be a subject (wind/hair/tears) with a verb (blowing/streaming/flowing) but cannot function as such.

This is not poetry.
This 'piece' never gives the reader anything to hold onto, or to follow. It's 3 partial images, and a label.
There is nothing concrete, no place for the reader to follow the writer in order to see his 'vision' of lost love.

Now let's finish the sentences, make it more complete.

She stood
face to the wind,
with hair flowing behind her,
as her dreams had.

Her tears flowed, flooded
the dam of the river
of lost love.

OK so it's no masterpiece, but you can see how the reader has more footing in his trip through this snapshot.

The grammatical rules that poets tend to forego for the sake of 'art' only lead to better art when understood and properly applied. So if you feel the need to rebel against them for the sake of rebellion, consider whether it's worth allowing your work to suffer for it.

Thursday, April 07, 2005

Point of View

where do you stand

Point of view:
1.A manner of viewing things; an attitude.
2.A position from which something is observed or considered; a standpoint.
3.The attitude or outlook of a narrator or character in a piece of literature, a movie, or another art form.

When writing, your point-of-view focuses the vantage point of the speaker, or narrator, of the story or poem. Of course, different points of view affect the strength of the poem, and which parts of certain lines are emphasized. First person is the most common, because it’s written on the assumption that the writer is involved in the event and therefore gives the clearest most reliable account. Second tends to be a bit confusing, as most readers will interpret it in a way that they believe the writer is speaking to them, when in actuality, the writer is speaking to another individual. Third person can be effective also, as the writer is an observer of a situation, and gives his/her “take” on it, ascribing to it his/her emotional or physical reaction. The following list is a simplified definition of the three POV’s described. There are more complicated, and more obscure, points of view, but these are he basics.

1st person: the speaker is a character in the story or poem and tells it from his/her perspective (uses "I")

2nd person: Second person can be written as “you” (singular or plural). The author speaks as though he’s talking to someone, and describing what the person is doing, but is not speaking directly to the reader. It is unusual to find poetry written in 2nd person.

3rd person limited: the speaker is not part of the story, but tells about the other characters but limits information about what one character sees and feels.

3rd person omniscient: the speaker is not part of the story, but is able to "know" and describe what all characters are thinking.

Wednesday, April 06, 2005


Repeating Yourself

Repetition –
the repeating of words, phrases, lines, or stanzas.

Do you remember learning your multiplication tables? Writing and reciting them over and over until they were ingrained in your head? Have you ever noticed that most television commercials repeat their company’s name several times within a 30 second spot, whether in writing or out loud?
There’s a reason for that -- repetition emphasizes whatever it is that is repeated, making it stand out so the it becomes the most important part of whatever you’re reading/watching or learning.

When you repeat a word (or a line) in poetry, that appears to be more important than other parts of the poem. It can also affect the rhythm a poem and the way it sounds. Repeating individual sounds or groups of sounds can strengthen the rhythmic structure. Some forms of poetry use the repetition of whole lines as part of their structure. Pantoum, and villanelle are two examples of repeating poetry where the repetition is dictated by the form.

When using repetition, keep in mind that, though it may emphasize the line or word in question, to overuse this device can lead to a sense of monotony. This is especially true when the word or phrase being repeated is one that has little appeal to a reader to begin with. Be sure that the line or word is worthy of the special emphasis it will be receiving, otherwise, you may be writing an exercise in boredom.

“It is a cardinal sin to bore the reader.”
~ Larry Niven

Tuesday, April 05, 2005

How to comment on/critique a poem

We’ve had a rash of people lately who say that they believe they haven’t the knowledge or experience to offer a true critique. Today’s tip addresses that idea and explains how to do a critique in terms that even the newest of writers can follow. Remember that the process of doing a critique is as helpful and educating to the person giving it as it is to the receiver, because a thoughtful critique requires you to take a poem apart, examine its parts and pieces and see why they do, or don’t, fit together in a successful way.

Start on a positive note
Whenever replying to a poem, especially if you’re doing an in depth critique, find 1 or 2 redeeming qualities, something(s) the writer did right. Discuss them, explain why they worked for you in the context of the poem. This helps soften the blow of hearing the negatives you’re about to point out.

Bring to the writer's attention any imagery, lines or passages you don’t understand. This is the time to discuss standard spelling, punctuation and grammar; they are vital to the clarity of the poem.

Locate the subject
Figure out what the poem is about. If the subject matter is unclear, tell them so. If you find a poem that you find you can’t decipher the subject, any further commentary would probably be of no help to the writer.

Interpret the writer’s motivation/inspiration
This is a separate issue from subject. As a writer, one has to be able to convey why they wrote this poem at this time. Many poems can be written about war for example. While one author may write it to praise the soldiers, another may write to speak against war in general, and yet another may write to memorialize one soldier in particular. This motivation must be made clear in a successful poem, or the writer has not treated the subject effectively.

Offer suggestions for revision
Be specific, the more specific you are the more helpful it will be to the writer. Are there lines that could be cut without damaging the integrity of the poem? Word choices that could be better, more descriptive? Are the images clear, Are the metaphors pure? Are there clichés that need to be weeded out or reworded?

Critical Direction
Refrain from commenting on the poet vs. the poem, and be careful of your tone. Remember that you’re critiquing a piece of writing, not the person who wrote it. Don’t make personal commentary on their beliefs or opinions. This is considered a personal attack, and is rarely allowed on poetry forums. Also keep in mind that in this electronic medium, there are no physical cues such as facial expressions, voice intonations or body language to help interpret your tone, so carefully choose your words so as not to offend the writer.
If you offend them, they go on the defensive, and stop hearing what you’re saying, which means you’ve wasted the time it took you to do this thoughtful critique.

Now go forth and crit!

Monday, April 04, 2005

The Image Progression Plot

When you are composing a poem that is primarily a series of images, the image progression plot is probably the most effective plot to use. In this plot, the images in the poem are arranged in some way that makes sense. Some examples of this progression are:

moving through the senses as if one were slowly approaching a scene -- the phenomenon is seen, then heard, then smelt, then tasted, then touched.

You can order the progression through the senses in other ways, as well; try reversing the order and moving away from the scene.
going from vague, abstract images to clear, concrete ones
progressing from gentle imagery (soft, misty, warm) to harsh (sharp, loud, burning)
increasing the contrast
There are many other progressions one can use to organize the imagery in a poem; simply be aware of the imagery you are using, and group it in whichever way will achieve the effect you want.

This passage was copied and pasted in its entirety from

Sunday, April 03, 2005


sometimes labels are a good thing

1. An identifying name
2. A general or descriptive heading

Poems were once known by their first lines or by the author and general subject. In Shakespeare's time, titling a poem separately became popular.

Some poets complete a poem without adding a title, but a smart poet uses a title to lure the reader into the poem. Your title can be used to define the work, or be a tease with a hint about the subject of the poem. It can summarize the piece, or be a play on words.

Sometimes the title is the poem's first line, and is meant to be read as such, though I think this leads to confusion for the reader.

Regardless of the way you choose your title, remember that, particularly in the realm of internet poetry and forums, your title may be the thing that decides whether anyone reads your poem at all. Make the title interesting, something to give a reader reason to open the page and read it. Avoid the mundane or cliché. Use an interesting title to be 'advertisement' of sorts, to sell your work to the reader.

Saturday, April 02, 2005


1. To move or run smoothly with unbroken continuity, as in the manner characteristic of a fluid.
2. To move with a continual shifting of the components.
3. To proceed steadily and easily.
4. To exhibit a smooth or graceful continuity and smoothness.

It's important for a poem to have a sense of flow to it, one that, in a successful piece, helps to move the reader along and through the poem. If the poem lacks flow, it destroys the coherence and connections within the poem. It will feel disjointed and the reader will inevitably, feel disconnected from the original intent of the piece.

Flow is achieved through the proper use of line breaks and syllable count, word choices and punctuation. Try reading your piece out loud. Are your line breaks in logical places, where you normally pause to take a breath? Do the words you've chosen sound good together or are they disharmonious? Does the punctuation you've used indicate a pause or full-stop in a place that causes an unexpected halt?

Of course, there will be times when you choose a subject matter that may be enhanced by the use of discordant word choices or line breaks, where you want the line breaks to reflect a conflict within your poem. This is also a common usage for 'flow' -- by purposefully doing without it.

In either case, make sure that flow is something you're consciously aware of as you're writing. Make the choices based on your subject matter, and be informed about the effect of your choices.

Friday, April 01, 2005

Shiftless Tenses

Past, Present, Future

Verb tense, as in yesterday, today, tomorrow,
we all understand the concept of conjugating a verb based on time
-- (yesterday) I ran, (today) I run, (tomorrow) I will run –

In poetry, consistent verb tense is important, because generally speaking, poems are much shorter than, say, an essay. This leaves the reader with more opportunity to get confused about when something happened, because of the lack of context from which to make that decision. In a story or essay, we can shift tenses a bit more easily, especially in the case of dialogue, where people in the present tense discuss events in the past tense for example. The length of the piece gives the writer time and context enough to explain which tense applies to which part of the story. However, in poetry we lack that opportunity, it’s very difficult to shift tenses within a poem without leaving it with a case of jet lag, though it can be done, if the piece is fairly long, or in a case where the writer uses some form of formatting to clarify.

Each tense can give a piece a different mood.
Past tense can feel wistful and nostalgic – reflective.
Present tense tends to give you the feeling of being solid and current and tangible.
Future tense can give you a feeling of uncertainty perhaps.

Each tense can serve its own purpose, add its own effect. The important thing is that they don’t shift and confuse your reader. It is much more effective to ensure that your tenses always agree, from one stanza to the next, throughout the entire piece. Give your reader solid footing to walk on while he reads. Don’t give him reason to stumble or become perplexed.

Thursday, March 31, 2005


Sometimes we write according to the requirements of a particular form, such as Haiku, or (one of my new favorites) Tetractys. Sometimes, breaking the line, or stanza in a particular place creates the pause or stress we want for a specific thought or idea within a piece. We center a poem, for the aesthetics, we indent a stanza to create emphasis, we create a particular appearance that may (or may not) add to the message of the piece. Each of these choices can be an effective tool in allowing us to show our readers how we want the piece to be read or interpreted.

And then sometimes . . .

We allow our message to be






Of visual


Trust me on this one. You want the reader to get your point without having to jump all over the page, scroll down, then back up, shift from side to side, stand on their head, or try to interpret Morse code, or ASCII. Let your words – or rather the meaning of them – tell your story.

Use ellipsises sparingly, and use them correctly, they are three (3) periods, separated with space. (. . . ) Not 7 periods, not two periods. Three, spaced. They’re used to show that a sentence or thought was unfinished, don’t hang a few dots on the end of a line and then finish the sentence in the next line.

Avoid using question marks whenever possible, find a way to word the question so that the ‘doubt’ or ‘uncertainty’ is conveyed without the actual question being spelled out, questions are weak, and lend only their weakness to poetry.

Avoid cutesy little flowers (ex: ~*~ or ---<@) because they don’t lend anything to a piece, except the feeling you’re either in a chat room, or a classroom.

Don’t use all capitals, it’s rude. It doesn’t work to convey anger, especially if the language itself doesn’t show the anger, and if your language does show the anger, why use the caps at all?

Should you decide that you simply must use these gimmicks, have at least five good reasons in your own mind why you can’t do without them, and be prepared to share them.

Wednesday, March 30, 2005


1. correspondence in the sounds of two or more lines (especially final sounds)
2. a piece of poetry
3. compose rhymes
4. be similar in sound, especially with respect to the last syllable

Rhyme is a pretty basic concept in poetry,
or, is it? There’s perfect rhyme, or half-rhyme: masculine, feminine or triple, as well as eye rhyme and internal rhyme. Maybe not so simple as most think. We tend to think of rhyme as simple, more for it’s effect on poetry than the level of difficulty involved in understanding it and employing it.
Unfortunately, many people are so ingrained from childhood that rhyme is the defining characteristic of poetry, that some never overcome that belief and fail to understand that rhyme is more complex than ‘cat’ and ‘hat’. There’s a reason they teach perfect rhyme in elementary school – because it creates elementary poetry!
Another problem with rhyme is what’s called “forced rhyme”. This is a situation where the writer is so concerned about the integrity of the rhyme scheme that he sacrifices the integrity of the piece itself, by adding or subtracting words or lines simply for the sake of getting a rhyming word into the right spot. This results in poetry full of unnecessary language and lines that make little sense or are unrelated to the original message. In a case like this, the rhyme cannot serve to strengthen poetry, only to weaken it.

This can be solved by using a different type of rhyme or a looser rhyme scheme, or, believe it or not, doing away with rhyme all together, depending on which works better within the piece. Whichever you choose to do, be informed and educated on the different types of rhyme to give yourself, and your piece, a better chance to succeed.

Perfect Rhyme:
Also known as exact rhyme

The words start with different consonant sounds, and have identical stressed sounds. In the case of a multiple-syllable word, all following syllables are rhymed as well.
mine, fine, wine, line, tine
sending, mending, tending, lending
slow, flow, glow, snow

Half Rhyme:
Also known as near rhyme

Rhyme in which the final consonant sounds of two words are the same, but the initial consonants and the vowel sounds are different.
soul, oil, foul
taut, sat, knit

Words beginning in different consonant sounds end in identical stressed syllables
Support, retort, extort

Also known as double rhyme
Words where the first syllables are different, and then are followed by a stressed rhyming syllable, and an unstressed rhyming syllable.
Survival, revival, arrival
The words have different consonant sounds followed by identical stressed vowel sounds and then two identical unstressed syllables.
Greenery, scenery, machinery

End Rhyme:
Also known as Terminal rhyme
End rhyme is self explanatory – the rhyming words fall at the end of two rhyming lines.
“They walked slowly, hand in hand
and found the nearest hot dog stand”

Internal rhyme:
This also refers to the location of the rhyming words in the lines. Internal rhyme is when two rhyming words are placed within a single line.
“She sang her song, sweet and long
Until he fell asleep”

And for the fun of it:
Eye Rhyme:
When two words appear to rhyme, but don’t.
Bough, tough, though

And you thought rhyme was simple!?

Tuesday, March 29, 2005

Brevity vs. Verbosity

how much is too much?

1. The quality or state of being brief in duration.
2. Concise expression; terseness.

If your message is conveyed more successfully in 10 words, why use 100?

1.Using or containing a great and usually an excessive number of words.

The idea of poetry is to convey a message, an image, an emotion, to the reader. To do this successfully, the reader has to be left with an impression of your work that lasts beyond the actual reading of it. It has to have enough power that they remember it.

In order to accomplish this feat, we often use flowery language and too many words, trying to convince them to hold on to the idea we’re trying to get across to them,. Unfortunately, that usually has the opposite effect of what we’re trying to achieve. Too many words, particularly modifiers (adjectives, describing words) tends to bury our idea, hide it from the reader, who is then forced to dig through the excess to get to the good stuff, which, frankly guys, they’re probably NOT going to do.

The solution is to cut out the overkill, make every word count, make every word mean something, and have a reason for every word choice.

Monday, March 28, 2005

The Plan

beginning, middle, and end

How many times has something you’ve seen or heard sparked your creativity? An image, or one of those ‘perfect word combinations’ that get to floating around in your head that demands that you write it a poem? We get our inspiration from anywhere, everywhere, and occasionally, nowhere at all, but inspiration is just the start of a poem. As writers we have to take that spark and build on it.

A successful poem has to have a logical progression the reader can follow, a distinguishable beginning, middle and end, just like a story. If we lack any of them, the reader will infallibly be left with a feeling that he’s been cheated out of the experience of what a good poem is.

This, the beginning, is the most important part of a poem. Without a strong beginning, particularly a first line or thought, you’ll never have readers. You have to start with something strong enough to get their attention, and interesting enough to draw them in.
The strongest of ideas, the most brilliant inspiration, will go unnoticed if you can’t get your reader inside your poem.

Now that you’ve got them this far, you owe it to them to make it worth their while. Walk them through your thought/idea/image/story with strong language, and a feeling of progression. Don’t draw them in and leave them bewildered as to why they bothered. Readers are a fickle lot, and in this day of point and click especially, it’s all too easy to move on to something they find more interesting. It’s your job to hold them there, not their job to muddle through confusing or bland poetry to discover your hidden meaning. Another thing to remember, your reader is not a mind reader, make sure that you’re being clear and the piece is accessible. You know your inspiration, make sure you’re expressing it to your reader.

Smack ‘em! (Or rather, make them smack themselves, in the forehead.)
Make your last line strong, compelling, forceful, powerful, stimulating and unmistakable.
The last thing they read is the thing they remember. Make your piece stand out in their mind, make them remember it, think about it all day. All the rest of the work you’ve done is for the sole purpose of this final stanza/line. Don’t disappoint your reader with some weak little bit of something. Make sure you give this a lot of thought and consideration. And be careful about sounding like you just couldn’t find anything, ran out of ideas, and slapped something on here at the end. They’ve gotten emotionally involved by this point (as long as you’ve done it right anyway) now give them their reward. Use the ending to tie the rest of it together, wrap it up and make it cohesive, and intense.

Sunday, March 27, 2005

Alliteration, Assonance, and Consonance

1. The repetition of the same sounds or of the same kinds of sounds at the beginning of words or in stressed syllables.

1. The repetition of similar vowels in the stressed syllables of successive words
2. The repetition of identical or similar vowel sounds, especially in stressed syllables, with changes in the intervening consonants.
3. Rough similarity; approximate agreement.

1. The repetition of consonants or of a consonant pattern, especially at the ends of words, as in blank and think or strong and string.
2. The property of sounding harmonious

Now I realize this is pretty elementary terminology, and these are probably three of the most basic of poetic devices, but don’t email me about my “Poetry for Dummies” series just yet, ok? I want to delve into the uses of these three things, simply because I think most writers tend to use these without thinking much about it, and therefore, we become comfortable with them and don’t pass along to new writers just how or why they work, or don’t. Often we use them with so little conscious thought that even we don’t consider how they work, we just ‘get a feel’ for it, and off we go.

Alliteration is often over-used by less seasoned writers, leaving their readers as though they’ve come away from a tongue twister. She sells seashells on the seashore, The poor parched pooch perched on the post on the porch, Peter Piper picked a peck of pickled peppers. No one wants to read, or for that matter write a poem that the reader can’t keep straight in his head. However there are ways to use alliteration that can lend a piece a complimentary effect. Personally, I find this true more with the softer consonant sounds, such as ‘s’ ‘z’ and ‘th’ as well as ‘j’ and the soft ‘g’ sound.

*Note that alliteration refers to the initial sound in a word, or the first letter/letter combination.

Assonance is a sort of ‘trick word’. Ask most newer or younger writers, and they couldn’t define the word, yet they tend to be the ones who use it most. They can write in rhyme, and not know they use assonance in their work.
*Note that assonance refers to the internal sound or letter/letter combination of the stressed syllable.

Consonance is useful when looking to create a staccato effect, as a drum beat. It’s probably the least utilized of these three. We tend to think more about the end of our poem than the end of our individual words.

Saturday, March 26, 2005


1. The continuation of a syntactic unit from one line or couplet of a poem to the next with no pause.

2. the breaking of a phrase, clause or sentence by the end of a line or between two verses.

Enjambment is in contrast with end-stopping,
where each linguistic unit corresponds with the line length.

Meaning flows from line to line, and the reader's eye is pulled forward. Enjambment creates a feeling of acceleration, as the reader is forced to continue reading after the line has ended. However it can also cause some confusion and unnecessary mental pauses within a thought or idea when used in an unusual manner or placement.

T.S. Eliot's poem "Gerontion" is heavily enjambed:

"After such knowledge, what forgiveness? Think now
History has many cunning passages, contrived corridors
And issues, deceives with whispering ambitions"

while Alexander Pope's "An Essay on Criticism", are completely end stopped:

"Nature to all things fix'd the Limits fit,
And wisely curb'd proud Man's pretending Wit:"

Enjambment is another of the poetic devices that can serve good or evil, depending on the writer's usage, and intentions.

When writing about inner-city construction and traffic, creative enjambment may be just the trick, to add that jumpy jarring effect. When writing about a waterfall, one can create the movement and "flow" with enjambment used in a traditional manner. When writing about the serenity of early morning sunrise, end-stopping is probably more effective.

Friday, March 25, 2005

Metaphor and simile

1. A figure of speech in which a word or phrase that ordinarily designates one thing is used to designate another, thus making an implicit comparison.

2. a figure of speech in which an expression is used to refer to something that it does not literally denote in order to suggest a similarity.

3. One thing conceived as representing another; a symbol.

1. figure of speech in which two essentially unlike things are compared, often in a phrase introduced by like or as.

2. a figure of speech that expresses a resemblance between things of different kinds (usually formed with `like' or `as')

As you see, metaphor and simile are similar. They serve like purposes. Metaphors however are a purer form of symbolism, and leave your reader to make an inference as to the subject of you poem, rather than making it obvious, as does a simile. Metaphors deliver your message with more emotional impact than direct language, or similes. However, be careful not to use clichéd metaphors (Life is a roller coaster, etc) or you nullify the effect. Also, when using metaphor in a poem, use the same metaphor throughout. Be consistent and avoid mixed metaphors. To mix metaphors also weakens the effect and weakens the piece by confusing the reader, particularly if the metaphors you choose are vastly different.

Thursday, March 24, 2005

Gerunds and participles

Gerunds and participles are often confused, one for another. Here are the definitions of each and an explanation of their differences.

A gerund is a verb that ends in -ing and functions as a noun, since a gerund functions as a noun, it occupies some positions in a sentence that a noun ordinarily would.

Ex: (direct object/subject)
They do not like my writing.

…(subject compliment)
My brother’s favorite hobby is skating.

…(object of preposition)
He was suspended for fighting.

Gerunds have one of two effects on writing. When properly used, gerunds can be used effectively to add a sense of movement to poetry. To do this, the writer must pre-think (and often re-think) his choices of frequency and placement.
When overused, or used without forethought, they tend to weaken the piece, because rather than giving the reader a concrete bit of foot placement from which to make the next step, they just whisk the reader along, never giving them a chance to stop and consider the path he’s followed. For a strong piece of poetry, one should use gerunds sparingly, and for a preconceived effect. Let your reader make his own way through the piece, give him time to consider, the opportunity to take in the message.

A participle is a verb that is used as an adjective and most often ends in -ing or –ed, they function as adjectives, and modify nouns or pronouns.

Carrying his bag, he trudged through the snow.
The home, destroyed by fire, was a total loss.
She walks sadly through the whispering forest.

Although often mistaken for gerunds, participles usually don’t weaken a piece to the same degree as a gerund, because they are used as an adjective. Most readers subconsciously understand that an adjective isn’t a necessary part of the sentence as is the subject, and can differentiate the two. However, too many participles take us away from the core of the message we try to convey, and therefore leave us with a weaker result.

In poetry particularly, this is a fine line. We wouldn’t want to say “She walked through a forest” and try to call it poetry. It isn’t descriptive enough without any modifiers, it lacks the ‘art’. The secret lies in being able to judge when enough is enough. Perhaps my advice here should be two-fold (here come the clichés. . . )
“Think before you leap.” and
“All things in moderation.”

Wednesday, March 23, 2005


1. A trite or overused expression or idea.
2. A person or character whose behavior is predictable or superficial.
3. A trite or obvious remark.
4. Anything that has been overused before, or is being overused now, any word or phrase you remember being used a certain way more than once.
5. A time-worn expression which has lost its vitality and to some extent its original meaning.

Example: “Busy as bees”

Synonyms -

Now, understand that without fail, using clichés in your poetry will serve no purpose other than to weaken it, to bore your reader into turning away.

To use clichés is to use someone else's words rather than your own. There is nothing original or creative about copying someone else. There's also nothing interesting about your results when you do so.

Tuesday, March 22, 2005

Quick Tips

I've found a few quickie tips on the web, I thought you'd all like to read them, many of them repeat things I've already said, but that's OK too, because those things bear repeating!

People will remember an image long after they've forgotten why it was there.

Submit your poems. Sooner or later you have to send your babies out into the world to find their way. Emily Dickinson was a fluke, most people who don't publish while they're alive will never be seen or heard of -- no matter how good their poems.

Think about what you are trying to express but don't do it with literal intentions, use symbols, metaphors and descriptions.

Be yourself when you are writing poetry, explore your different sides through poetry, the facets of your personality.

Write poetry about people that have touched you, objects you love, memories and places. Use your five senses and even your sixth sense.

Be like a diamond, having many facets making up a whole full of sparkling endeavors.

Get silent and breathe before you begin, being tranquil will make it easier to write.

Enlarge your vocabulary, look through dictionaries and books to increase your vocabulary and use those words in a poem.

Most of all have fun, strong feelings of any kind will enhance your true nature and you will find it easier to express it through your poetry.

Be happy writing poetry, this is your time to expand and write whatever comes into your mind.

Write to the world or write poetry to someone special.

Don't be shy.

Give thanks for life, reward it with a poem.

Say what you want to say, let the reader decide what it means.

Don't explain EVERYTHING.

Poems that focus on form (Sonnet, Villanelle, etc.) are a challenge. They make you think.

If you write a bad poem, at least you wrote.

Develop your voice. Get comfortable with how YOU write poetry.

Don't be afraid to write poetry from a different point of view. Write a poem that says exactly the opposite of what you believe, and do it without irony.

Untitled poems are lazy. They're like unnamed children. Obviously their parent doesn't care about them.

Write in different places. Keep a notebook. Write in a park or on a street-corner or in an alley. You don't HAVE to write about the place, but it will influence you whether you do or not.

Listen to talk radio while you write. Listen to the people who call. Great characters and voices emerge that way.

If you don't like a poem or poet, figure out exactly why. Chances are, it reflects something you don't like about your own poetry.

When nothing is coming, start writing poetry very fast-- any word, phrase or sentence that comes to mind. Do that for about a minute, then go back to your poem. (I call this flushing.) Whether to use anything you flushed is up to you. You can, but that's not the purpose.

The more you read, the more you learn. The more you write poetry, the more you develop.

Make a list of poems you can remember specific lines from. Go back and read those poems. Figure out why they stuck with you.

There are many excuses not to write. Try using writing poetry as an excuse not to do other things.

Keep a dream journal. Dreams are your mind at it's most creative so listen to it. Don't feel you have to write a poem ABOUT your dreams. If you want to, fine, but the main goal is to see what thoughts the dreams lead you to.

Subscribe to poetry journals. Give back to the poetry community by reading (and paying for) the works of others. If you don't, what right have you to expect others to do it for you?

When nothing is coming for you, try analyzing someone else' s poems. (Or even one of yours) Figure out what works, what doesn't work, and why. Think about what you would have done differently.

Use humor, irony, and melodrama, just don't abuse them.

Write the worst poem you can possibly write. Use cliché's, pretentious words, and beat your reader over the head with your point. Felt good, didn't it? Now get back to work. The point is, don't be afraid to write a bad poem. If it takes a hundred bad poems before you can produce a poem you like, fine, get that hundred out of the way.

That one perfect line in a twenty line poem may be what makes it all worthwhile, or it may be what makes the rest of the poem bad. Keep an eye on it.

Every great poet has written a bad poem, probably dozens or hundreds, possibly thousands. They kept writing though, and so should you.

Every line of a poem should be important to the poem, and interesting to read. A poem with only 3 great lines should be 3 lines long.

Poems should progress. There should be a reason why the first stanza comes before the second, the second before the third, and so on.

Listen to criticism, and try to learn from it, but don't live or die by it.

When you write a good poem, one you really like, immediately write another. Maybe that one poem was your peak for the night or maybe you're on a roll. There's only one way to find out.

Follow your fear. Don't back away from subjects that make you uncomfortable, and don't try to keep your personal demons off the page. Even if you never publish the poems they produce, you have to push yourself and write as honestly as possible.