Saturday, May 21, 2011

Problems with Poetry 1: Introduction

Poetry is one of those things that a lot of people seem to have trouble with. Maybe you can dash off a poem in a couple minutes when you feel sad, and yet you can’t critique anyone else’s work to save your life. Perhaps you can read a poem and know when something feels ‘off’ but you have no idea what to tell the author so that they can fix it.

Poetry is one of those things that is both incredibly easy and terribly hard. Most poems are short and fairly quick. They may seem to be simple. You could write a poem in a minute. But to actually write a good poem, the kind of work that will be read and studied and praised, takes practice. Becoming an accomplished poet is no easier than writing a good novel, and critiquing a poem shouldn’t be any harder than critiquing a story.

The main difference between poetry and a story is that poetry is a lot more subjective. You can read a story and realize ‘this is not a good subject for a story’ but it’s really hard to tell someone that their poem isn’t working. If they wrote it on a bad day, when a friend died or something terrible happened, who are you to tell them it sucks?

It’s a lot harder to tell when a poem is ‘perfect.’ Since it’s so short, it may need to be completely re-written, or just a couple of words changed. Some advice for poets: be open to change. In the poem you’re telling your story, your emotion. Perhaps the form that you picked at first isn’t actually the best one for what you want to write about. Maybe the words you chose at first don’t quite work. I firmly believe that in poetry there isn’t a right and wrong way, but there certainly is ‘good’ and ‘better’.

Over the next couple weeks, I’ll be posting a series on poetry. Next week I’ve got a post on meter all ready to share with you, and I’m working on one to do with choosing the perfect words. I’ll probably think up a couple other topics to write about. If you have anything you’d like me to address, or a tip that you think I should mention, then feel free to post in the comments.

I’m not a really good poet myself, so if anything I say in this series sounds stupid to you, then just ignore it. I’m not trying to tell you how to write a poem, because there’s no way I could do that. I want to inspire you. I want you to think about poetry, and read other people’s poems, and then go write some yourself. I want to give you tips so you can write better, critiquing advice so that you can help others. In the end, I want you all to love poetry and appreciate it for the difficult, and rewarding art it is.


  1. Any tips on poetry, I'll take. I'm awful at it, but poems always seem to wiggle their way into my stories.

  2. I found you by that first picture in your post. How cool is it that I read this just as I'm about to post another poem on my blog?

    Very nice post :)