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.