So, You Want to Write Poetry, Part One

First off, let’s take a moment to talk about poetry. Poetry is not a form of fiction, nor is it a form of non-fiction. It is a third tier, equal to both. Fiction, Non-fiction, Poetry. Poetry can be real, made up, and any combination therein, in the same poem, much less in the same poet.

Poetry is a form of sound, first and foremost. Sound, word choice / word play. A form of language in all of its components. This is not to say there can’t be plot or narrative structure in a poem, only that they are not required.

The first thing you need to do if you want to write poetry is read poetry. I will suggest a starter: daily poem emails from the Poetry Foundation and Academy of American Poets. Two poems each day in your inbox to read.

Now, when possible, you should read them aloud. Some of the poems on have recordings of the poet reading as well.

This homework will be the very basis of the rest, because you have to change your mode when you write poetry. This isn’t fiction. You aren’t writing with a story in mind–you are writing with your ear, your breath.

Poetry is not flash fiction with line breaks. And yes, the line between good flash fiction and good narrative poetry is blurry at best, but in the end, they are still neighbors, and not mirror images.

This reading will come over into your own work as well. The first editorial task for any draft will be reading it aloud. Often, it will be to listen to what you are saying–does it match what is on the page?

In class we would get someone else to read our poems aloud to hear how they sounded from someone else. Then we would read it outl0ud ourselves, and the fellow students would markd down were we strayed as we read.

Your ear will edit for you, once it has been trained. Training starts with reading. So sign up for some poems, and let’s start training.

Author: jake

poet, editor, kilt wearing heathen. he/him