How many of you write poetry? Raise your hands.
I thought so.
Well, if you are convinced that poetry is not your thing, think again. Even if you have no desire to be a published poet, you ought to try writing some. Why?
* Writing poetry can be a great way to warm up your writing skills like a singer warms up her voice. By the time you finish a poem, your muse is engaged and ready to tackle the main writing of the day.
* Poetry forces you to be concise, to leave out unnecessary words and search for exactly the right words. If, like me, you tend to be too wordy in your prose, it can help you streamline your writing.
* Poetry uses images, such as metaphors and similes, that can also enhance your prose.
* To write a good poem that says a lot in a few lines, you must figure out what you’re trying to say, another good skill for prose writers.
* A poem can become an outline or a Cliff Notes version of the longer story you want to tell in prose.
* Poetry forces you to slooooow down and ponder each word, something we don’t always take the time to do when writing prose.
* Writing poetry is fun, especially if you’re not worrying about where you can get your poems published.
* Poets are very, very cool.
If you haven’t looked at poetry in a while, read what some modern poets are doing. Today’s poem does not have to rhyme or fit into a complicated form, although it still can.
It’s true that there’s no money in poetry and most of our friends and relatives never touch the stuff, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t worth doing. Poems convey a thought, a feeling or an experience in a few words, just like Twitter, without the hashtags. Try it.
Here are four books and a website to help you get started.
The Poet’s Companion: A Guide to the Pleasures of Writing Poetry by Kim Addonizio and Dorianne Laux
Poemcrazy: Freeing Your Life with Words by Susan Wooldridge
The Crafty Poet: A Portable Workshop by Diane Lockward
Now go write.
Once a week I am offering three quick tips that you can take and use right away. For those of us who would rather be writing than reading blogs, this is a place you can grab something useful and get back to work.
Writing Metrical Poetry by William Baer, Writer’s Digest Books, 2006. Remember how boring it seemed when your high school teachers forced you to read and analyze poetry? Well, this isn’t. Read some of the world’s most famous poems, see how they work, then try writing some yourself.
At her Practicing Writer newsletter and blogs, Erika Dreifus offers a steady stream of advice and resources, paying markets, jobs and opportunities for writers. Don’t miss it. Click on http://www.erikadreifus.com/blogs/practicing-writing.
Stuck for a writing idea? Reach into your purse or pocket and pull out one thing, anything. Set it on the desk or table in front of you. Study it. What does it bring to mind? For example, a key might make you think of the door it opens or how you got that key or how you lost your keys on a special occasion. A receipt might bring to mind what you bought and why you bought it and who you met at the store . . . Give it a try. In live classes, I let students pick one more thing if they just can’t stand their first choice. Don’t have a purse and there’s nothing in your pocket? Try the junk drawer.
Now go write.
I never heard so much poetry in one gulp as I heard last weekend at the third annual Northwest Poets’ Concord in beautiful Newport, Oregon. Approximately one hundred poets gathered to read their poems, write new ones, share techniques and sell books. I came home with drafts of several promising poems, some new books and some new ideas about this business of being a poet.
We all know, or should know, that you can’t make a living writing poetry. Only a few literary magazines and journals pay actual money for poems. Most pay in copies of the publication. You can make some money winning contests, but most charge entry fees, so if you don’t win, you’re actually losing money.
If we can’t make money writing poetry, why write it? Because it communicates in ways that nothing else can. It crystalizes experiences, ideas and events into word jewels that can be savored in one sitting and collected in book form like strings of precious beads. The average American probably doesn’t read much poetry, but it’s out there to be enjoyed.
There’s no reason you can’t write poetry while writing other things for money.
A world of resources exists for poets. Let me just give you a few today.
Poets and Writers magazine and website, http://www.pw.org. Poets and Writers offers tons of listings for contests and places to get published, along with lots of great information and an online forum to keep in touch with other writers.
The Poetic Asides blog, http://www.blog.writersdigest.com/poeticasides. Robert Lee Brewer, editor of Writer’s Market and its sister Poet’s Market, blogs here about poetry, offering interviews and information, weekly prompts and bi-annual poem-a-day contests.
Poetry.org, resources for poets, http://www.poetry.org
Poems.com, a new poem to read every day, http://www.poems.com