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. If you have suggestions, please share them in the comments section.
Are you finding that grammar is a mystery? Why do people keep adding commas to your manuscripts? What’s the deal with lay and lie? Find help from grammar guru Mignon Fogarty at Grammar Girl: Quick and Dirty Tips for Better Writing. She also has a Grammar Girl book by the same title.
The Poet’s Companion: a Guide to the Pleasures of Writing Poetry by Kim Addonizio and Dorriane Laux. It’s got everything from getting started to getting published, including lots of poems to read and lots of writing exercises to try.
Rewrite a fairy tale. They’re doing it on TV and in books. You can, too. Start with your favorite fairy tale or myth, give it a modern setting with modern problems and a new point of view and see what happens. You can do this with current stories, too, but you’ll need to make it a totally new story to avoid copyright problems.