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Writing Poetry

 

People write poetry in several ways. Some are just inspired and write whatever flows into their minds, others spend days, weeks, months, even minutes! pondering the right words to convey the right meaning. It's up to you to find what works best for you, but here I present a few methods that work for the beginner.

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For the word-challenged

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For the poetically challenged

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For those who have something to say

But first, some things that will help you be a better poet:

Read lots of poetry. Read the kind of poetry you like and what you don't like, and you'll begin to write like that too. Read literature as well. Learning words and turns of phrase comes not only from poetry but from beautiful prose and lines. Memorize your favorite poems. You can use them as starting points for your writing. When you draw a blank, you can use these favorites to kick start your literary mind.

Write down what you're thinking when you're thinking it if possible. Get away from it for a while. Pretend someone else wrote it and then proofread. It's easy to become so attached to your writing that you hate to tear it up, but proofreading and correcting can make a huge difference. If you need to, get someone else to proofread it for you.

Some give themselves goals for writing one poem a week or day or every few days. What you set for a goal for yourself is up to you.  Some of your poetry will likely be awful, but there will be those few gems that stand out from the rest. So don't give up just because the first few don't go so good for you.  I know that it took me a while to get so I could write my poetry. And even now, there are some that I'm not so happy with when I'm finished writing them.

As for myself, I'm what they call a moody poetry. I write when the mood hits, and it doesn't, well...then I write nothing at all.  It can be this way for weeks, maybe even months with me. Then again, the mood may never come again. Whatever happens is what I do.


Method 1: For the word-challenged

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Get a magazine, newspaper or random book.

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Flip through it and write down or cut out words that appeal to you. You may also just sample words semi-randomly.

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Get a list of 10 words for starters. You may choose more or less if you have a proper idea of what you want to write.

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Put together the words in interesting phrases. For example, if you found the words clandestine and explorer, you might put them together into clandestine explorer on one line, or split them up and repair them, so you get desert explorer and eager clandestine a few lines later.

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Make several lines and several poems. In one case, add articles and connecting words, to make the desert explorer wandered into eager clandestine hands, or leave out the extra words and use just the ones you've got.

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Change tense, add ending and beginnings and descriptions to words. Get explorers, exploring, deserting, exploratory, deserted. Add punctuation if you want.

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Even if you randomly throw great words down together, you can get a great poem. If you fiddle with it, your poem will be your own personal creation, just to convey your own feelings.


Method 2: For the poetically challenged

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If you're having trouble with beautiful imagery, do this practice: take a boring object - your key, the doorknob, a speck of dust. Now look at it and describe it. In the case of the key, is it golden, doe it have ridges along the side, what door does it open, how deep are the ridges, what's its story? You may come up with this:

It slipped under the door,
Shone in the dim light of the hallway
Rough edges worn away
Years of wear softened lines
Paved cracks and scratches
Unlocking doors, unlocking fears
Left finally locked and discarded.

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Take an object. Now think of 10 words to describe it. Take another object, think of ten words to describe that. Switch the words. If you came up with golden hair and scaly skin, try instead scaly hair and golden skin. Don't be afraid to put weird words together.

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When you have nice descriptions, you can put them into lines of poetry. There is no limit on how long a line can be. Allen Ginsburg's lines were more like paragraphs. Others write one-word lines. Others have no lines but arrange poems into pretty pictures (for example, a poem about swans may be arranged into the shape of a swan) or across a page or with irregular spacing. Use punctuation as words, as lines, at the beginning at the end, in the middle, wherever.


Method 3: For those who have something to say

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If you have something to say, you are in luck.  You already have a message in your poem.  Keep your mind focused on that, but don't fear experiment.

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You can just write.  Write whatever comes to mind. Any words, they don't have to be coherent or even spelled correctly.  Write them as you hear them in your hear or as you see the pictures in your mind. Describe pictures as well as emotions, using whatever words you like.  Don't shy away from using words because you think they're "wrong".

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If you want, you can just compile a list of words and thoughts and rearrange them later.  Or, use the above writing you created and break it up into lines, where the lines have actual pauses in meaning - not arbitrary, because a line should break naturally and not just because it seems to be getting too long.

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When you think you're done, let it go.  Come back and read it later.  You may or may not like it, you may or may not agree still, but hang on to it and don't rip it up, because poetry has a life of its own.

 

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