Poetry Challenges, A Year in Review

At the begining of 2016 I proposed three poetry challenges for 2016. They were:

So how did you do? How did I do? Mixed, but overall good. Let’s take a look.

April Poems

April poems is something I’ve done a few years now, and suspect will continue to do for a while. Write a poem each day in April. It is the poetry nanowrimo, and for me, has had mostly good results.

This year was no different from 2011 and 2015, in that the collection was a bit random, with things from poems that came on strong, to the tired scribbles made before bed.

April Poems: Recommended!

1 in 12

This challenge was one I thought of. The idea was simple: write a poem in January. Then, write the same poem again in February, and March, etc. One poem, twelve times. The thought was that you would be editing, but also bringing in the elements of the year itself into the piece.

This one didn’t work for me. The reason was quite evident very early on: I didn’t like the poem I wrote in January.

And here is the hard part about this challenge: you have to start with a base that is worth coming back to 11 more times.

I think there is still something here in this challenge, and with a new take, or tweak on the bounds, it could very well be interesting. But for now…

1 in 12: Needs work….

Monday Poems

For Monday poems, the plan was simple: each Monday, take 5 minutes and reflect on the past week, then take another 5 minutes and write a simple poem.

This was fairly straight forward, and successful for me. Admittedly there were a few that weren’t written on Monday, but I did write one a week.

This too, I think I will keep going with. It is a good writing habit, and even if the poem made isn’t high art, it is both a good practice and a neat way to keep some memories.

Monday Poems: Recommended!


For 2017, I plan to do both April Poems and Monday Poems. Between now and the New Years, think of a new challenge(s?) to go along with them. I intend 2017 to be a year filled with art, and hope you’ll come along with me.

So, You Want To Write Poetry, Part Three


You cannot escape meter. It is in all writing, all speaking, and whether you do it intentionally or not, it is always there in your work.

Meter is the pattern of stressed and unstressed syllables in your words.
For the Roman poets, for example, meter was everything. Catullus, my favorite poet, wrote hendecasyllabic poetry. Shakespeare wrote most of his work in iambic pentameter. From Twelfth Night:

If music be the food of love, play on;

If you over exaggerate each stressed syllable, you can hear it. da DA, da DA…

If music be the food of love, play on;

You can hear it now, the beat of the words.

Iambs are only one of many patterns of stressed and unstressed syllables. There are also dactyls, spondees and pyrrhic feet.

You will hear meter as you read aloud during editing. Particularly when a misplaced word sticks out. Breaking the meter has an effect on the ear, and can be used intensionally for emphasis or sometimes to the detriment of the line.

When rhyme started to fall out of favor, a form called Blank Verse rose. This is verse that retains a strict meter pattern, but has no rhyme (or at least does not require it). Lines would have a set number of syllables, stresses a certain pattern.

Structure, it seems was an important part of how poetry was defined for a long time.

When you write free verse (or prose, or blog posts, or even tweets), meter is both present, and in the background. You aren’t writing it to a set pattern, but it will still have an effect on the poem as a whole.

And I am not suggesting you need to scan your poetry, marking stressed and unstressed, looking for patterns–but I will suggest you should be able to. And as you read to edit, if you have a word that sticks out, but aren’t sure why, see if it fits the beat.

So, You Want To Write Poetry, Part Two


I would as soon write free verse as play tennis with the net down.
– Robert Frost

Rhyme is, perhaps, the biggest elephant in the room when we talk poetry, so I think we should just jump in.

Rhyme is hard. Good rhyme more so.

At one time, rhyme was an essential part of poetry in English. Poetry was mostly rigid forms, like ballroom dance. You wrote poetry, but restricted; you wrote sonnets, ballads, you wrote odes and villanelles.

Even as we move forward in time, poetry still keeps a meter and rhyme scheme. The form is more fluid–poets are creating the form they desire in their poem, and adhering to their own rules. Metered couplets, patterned quintets, etc.

Now tastes have changed, and, in a general sense, we have expanded past these restrictions on rhyme and meter. Most (I would estimate) of the poetry published today is free verse, that is without rhyme or strict meter. And while it is not verboten, rhyme has fallen out of favor.

Rhyme is hard. It is hard because it is a restriction on the word choice for the end of your line. It is hard because it will dominate the sound of your poetry. The danger being that the poem will sound ‘sing-songy’ with the stresses of the poem falling harder on the rhyming word than anywhere else.

Rhyme and meter tend to go together, because the pattern of sound becomes important as well. Not just ‘do these words sound alike’ but the spacing between them becomes important.

One way to combat this is to not make the end of your sentence (or phrase) the end of the line. By adding in a pause elsewhere, it helps spread the flow of sounds, rather than hitting the end of each line as a punch.

Other tool is off rhyme, or slant rhyme. These are words that aren’t the traditional rhyme, such as tours and yours but rather focus on the stressed sound. Yours and years are slant rhyme. Also eyes and light. That long I sound is matched between the two.

My recommendation is to come back to rhyme. Build up your other tool set first, working on your own voice. It may be that your voice and rhyme aren’t compatible. It may be they are perfectly matched.

That said, I do think everyone should go through the various forms. Writing a sonnet or villanelle offers structure, which can actually help free you to work. We’ll get to that soon.

at a later time
we will come
back to rhyme.