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.
I have been AWOL here quite a bit lately because I’m writing, writing, writing on a couple of new projects. Also, I don’t know about you, but I don’t have time to read long blogs these days. So I’m going to try something different. Once a week I am going to offer three quick tips that you can take and use right away. I’ll probably throw in something longer occasionally, but otherwise, this will be a blog you can get in and out of quickly and go back to work.
Blogs for poets and other writers: Robert Lee Brewer, senior content editor for the Writer’s Digest Writing Community, puts out two blogs, Poetic Asides, http://www.writersdigest.com/editor-blogs/poetic-asides, and My Name is Not Bob, http://robertleebrewer.blogspot.com. At Poetic Asides, he offers prompts and inspiration for poets and hosts two annual poem-a-day challenges. Today at the Not Bob site, he has published a great list of blogs for writers.
This prompt from the November Poem-a-Day challenge blew my mind. It’s so logical, but it never occurred to me to do it. Take the last line of the last poem you wrote (or the last story) and use it as the first line of a new poem or story.
Ploughshares is a well-respected literary journal that has been publishing poetry, fiction, essays and memoir for many years. It’s a great market to aspire to and a great journal to read. Now they have gone into the digital world by not only making Ploughshares available for e-readers but offering what they call Ploughshares Solos, stories that are too short for a book and too long to fit in the magazine. Check it out at http://pshares.org.
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
It’s April, National Poetry Month. That means Writer’s Digest’s Robert Lee Brewer is once again hosting the Poem a Day challenge. Each day this month, he will give a prompt at his Poetic Asides site. You can use it or write something else, but the idea is to write a poem every day. Writers can share their poems with each other in the comments section or just keep them to themselves. I have tried this several times, finishing twice. Brewer also does a Poem a Day challenge in November that leads to a chapbook competition. The rest of the year, he offers prompts on Wednesdays and lots of articles about poetry. Give it a try. There’s nothing to lose and new poems to gain.
Go write something!