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Nine Nifty Nuggets For a Perfect Poem

December 8th, 2014

Nifty-Nuggets-BlogI wish I was a poet. You may think I’m daft, but to my mind, poets are up at the top of the writing tree. Me? I’m a jobbing scribe, fine with blogs, stories and articles. But poetry … that’s special. Anyone who dares put a poem out there gets a pat on the back from me. And of those brave souls, the few who become recognized, successful poets are, in my opinion, the masters of our art: Dylan Thomas, Kahlil Gibrahn, Maya Angelou … wouldn’t it be great to see your name in a list like that? It’s never likely to happen to me, but I’ve been thinking a lot about poetry recently and, looking round on  the ‘net, I think I’ve come up with some good advice. So, from YourDictionary.com, Jerz’s Literary Weblog and the unexpectedly helpful WikiHow here are nine nifty nuggets for writing a perfect (or at least half decent) poem:

1. Read and listen to lots of poetry.

2. Decide what you want to write about. If this isn’t obvious, you can try some writing games to drum up material. There are good ideas for games at this website –Language Is a Virus.com

3. Know your purpose. Who are you writing for? Yourself? A publisher? Is your piece for children or adults, and if adults, is it a particular community or the general public? Knowing where your poem is going, and who you’re writing for will influence the way you work.

4. Pick a style. Free verse, rhyming couplets, haiku, limerick … there’s loads to choose from. If you find out how they work, the best one for you will soon become clear.

5. Use images. Most poems are about abstract ideas or emotions. But concepts like ‘love’ ‘hate’ or ‘social injustice’ aren’t engaging unless they’re expressed as images. If love is a fire and hate an icy hand, then we have images to play with, and it is images, not ideas, which will help stir emotion in the mind of a reader.

6. Use simile and metaphor. Similes compare two things – ‘You are as sweet as honey’ or ‘The moon is like a mirror.’  Metaphors state that one thing is another thing, as in ‘You are an angel.’ Use of these standard figures of speech gives easy access to the emotional triggers mentioned above – images.

7. Avoid clichés. Where there are clichés, readers generally assume that the writer just hasn’t thought hard enough to come up with something original, so they switch off. And you don’t want that!

8. Think about rhyming. People are sniffy about rhyming. But I’m a songwriter (on the quiet) and my lyrics always rhyme, so I don’t have a problem with it – I think it’s OK in poetry too. Be aware though, out in Poetry-Land, if you present a piece that rhymes you may be in for some flack.

9. Revise, Revise Revise. Once you’re done, put your poem in a draw for a couple of days, then look at it again. If you want to change anything, change it, then show it to someone you trust to give an honest opinion (not just ‘Oh, that’s nice’). Think about what they say and, again, if you want to change anything, change it. Do this as many times as you have to until you can look at it and say “Yep, that’s it. Every word, every line, it’s all just fine.”

Oh, and don’t forget –

Keep on writing!

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