Writing Poetry


Discuss ways to improve your poetry. Post your techniques, tips, and creative ideas about how to write better.
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Daniel Brick Male, 67, United States (1/12/2014 9:57:00 AM)

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You said you were uncertain of the poem called FEMME FEEBLE and want feedback. I can do that but here's the context I'm coming from. I started writing poetry seriously when I was 36. I've been writing for 30 years. For the first 12 years at least I wrote atrocious poems, but every poet-to-be does because that's what it takes to acquire skills.
There's a famous story of a painter who told his friend, a poet: I want to write poems because I have great ideas to express. His poet friend responded: That won't help you. You don't write poems with ideas, you write them with words. So two guidelines to start with: Be patient. Your real poetry is still in your future. You have to close the gap between then and now with practice. And that means practice with LANGUAGE, or as Shakespeare put it, Words, words, words. Second Guideline: Everything you write honestly has value. Why?Because you have value. What you say, write, gesture, shout, cry, whisper is Y-O-U. And if you are being honest to yourself and honest to others,
your self-expression is true and good. Another way of putting this is that you have an A+ SOUL. However - and this is the part that people simply reject - a poem is a work of art; it is NOT random conversation, a hastily scribbled note, a diary entry, gushing your feelings - there's nothing wrong with these things but they're not artistic. A poem has to be created the way a clay pot is created, the way a bonsai tree is nurtured, the way a fine meal is prepared. All of these things take time, training, and practice. And so your A+ Soul may -very well produce D- poems - until you acquire the skills. NEVER FORGET THIS: That D- poem is still your truth expressed the best way you can at the moment. Don't throw it away in frustration. Keep it. Learn from it. Learn how you can make it better through revision. Every poet no matter how famous and honored keeps
revising her/his latest poems and keeps getting better at the craft. All through your life, you will have the potential to become a better poet. Start using that POTENTIAL TODAY.Now with regard to your poem, here is a brief list of some of the LANGUAGE ARTS skills that poets use today and have for centuries: imagery, figurative language, understatement, persona, meter, stanza forms, lining, personification, etc. How many of these elements of poetry are in your poem?Any of them?Ask yourself: can a potter make a bowl without clay?Can you grow a bonsai tree without seeds and soil?Can make a dinner without meat, bread, vegetables?Can you see the problem in your poem?You are expressing at great length issues of vital importance to you, but there's no poetry in your expression. You are actually writing conversational prose. You're communicating, the message is clear - but those are two things prose does very well, that's why daily conversation is in prose, and poetry is reserved for special circumstances.Shakespeare's characters speak poetry in the plays, the actors spoke prose in their daily lives as did he.
So what you want to tell yourself or others through FEMME FEEBLE has been accomplished. It's all there and several times you say (in effect) : I'm telling the truth. And I have no doubt you are, because I feel the sincerity behind your words. But if you want to express this content as a poem, you have to see what you've written as a very Rough Draft. First, it's way too long to be a poem. Once you start using some of the poetic tools I listed above, the increased energy of your language means you will not need so many words. And by reducing the number of words, you will make those in the poem more emphatic because there won't be so much competition. from unnecessary words. You're not writing narrative or dramatic poetry which must fulfill different needs. You're writing LYRIC poetry which is the same word we use to describe the words of a song. How many songs do you know that are long as FEMME FEEBLE. they're drastically shorter because the music adds so much emotion and power. The tools of poetry provide the same energy and power to a lyric poem. Never think a poem has to include all of your thoughts and feelings. Be selective, very selective, then make your limited number of thoughts and feelings as impactful as you can through poetic tools. Second, you use many general words, like fear, anxiety, approbation, standards, character. One of my poetry teachers, Deborah Keenan, told us, every time a poet uses a general, rather than a concrete, word, a bell should off in her head until she replaces it with an image. That is the single most important advice I can give you. It goes like this: Change your general words into concrete words, and transform your prose statements into imagery.
One passage: I feel as though I can never be satisfied/Through this twisted loop of fear and anxiety.. Twisted loop is an image but it's unclear. Do you mean for the reader to see, say, a chain that is twisted into a circle?Where is this loop in relation to the speaker?In her house?Around her body?In her d reams?And how do we picture this loop if as you say it's made of fear and anxiety?We can't picture it because you've confused concrete words and general words. Now I know perfectly well what the plain prose sense of this passage is: I'm always fearful and anxious, that's why I'm never satisfied with myself. Whenever I feel good about my life, I get really anxious. Fear is destroying my life. That's the plain prose sense but it's pretty bland writing. By clarifying the image, you can make the sentence more poetic. I wish I could feel good about my life, but my wishes never come true. I feel like I'm in a nightmare and I can't move because I'm chained to the bed. Even when I wake up, I can still feel the fear of being chained so I can't help myself.

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  • Doris Cornago (1/14/2014 9:05:00 AM) Post reply

    Sir, I appreciate your pointers to Femme Feeble a lot and would like to repost some acknowledging you for them. Particularly, I appreciate this affirmation: Second Guideline: Everything you write honestly has value. Why?Because you have value. What you say, write, gesture, shout, cry, whisper is Y-O-U. And if you are being honest to yourself and honest to others, your self-expression is true and good. I would also appreciate if you would look into my soul and grade it. I have started expressing myself poetry barely 2 months ago. A late bloomer and not very selective with words - but very true. Here is one view:

    Bungee Jump
    By: Doris Cornago

    Befriended the man who granted me true
    inspiration, shared visions of freedom
    Together in bungee jump, or scale heavens
    in delightfully stitched together balloon
    Not a lover but more than a true friend.

    Youth took my hand in sheer effervescence
    We bought islands, reared dragons, gifted
    Each other with new thoughts and more
    Rarely day passes when thoughts trigger
    A suffusing warmth all over, don't wonder.

    Life's choices, live it with what you've got
    Riches are vanity, kingdom is what eyes see
    If God does not deem fit to give you more
    thinking you need all, do you cease to adore?
    Be grateful, such freedom in living your own.

    Today I wake to a lambent sun, door's wide open
    My blood beats to music in my heart, I'm alive
    Laptop is open, downloading swiftly proceeds
    Walked to the kitchen just a few steps beyond
    Passed by the mirror, saw youth in a bungee jump.

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