Erin's Poetry Tips

40 tips to poetry and poetry forums

Thursday, March 31, 2005

#9
“Cosmetics”

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

S
u
c
k
e
d

~*~

~~~swirled~~~

L
o
s
t
in
an


ABYSS

Of visual

“art”

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.