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Poetry Pointers

August 17th, 2020

First, thanks to Antonio for his humorous post. But behind the humour there’s lots of serious and useful advice; so please think about it and take it to heart if you hope to improve your short fiction.

Next, I’m sorry that I didn’t get a post up last week. Working from home is great but when you get an IT glitch it causes real problems. Hopefully, normal service is now resumed!

The end of July saw the close of our 2020 Poetry Competition – thank you to everyone who entered. We’re currently working through the entries in order to put together our ‘longlist’. As usual, it’s hard work because we had so many great poems. As we’ve been going through them some made us laugh, some made us shed a tear and one or two made us gasp or groan.

As you can imagine, there was a darker side to many of the poems due to what’s happening around the world at the moment.  We received more than 30 poems directly related to Covid; and I’d like to use this to highlight something that’s important when considering your entry for a competition.

If a theme or event is prominent in the news, many people will be affected by it and feel they need to write about it. So, you have to think about whether you’ve anything ‘different’ to add. Most of the Covid-related poems were very similar in what they were trying to put across and however heart-felt they’re just not going to win prizes. Only a couple were truly original and put themselves forward as serious contenders. So if you want to write about something in the news, be brutally honest and ask yourself if what you are saying and how you are saying it is sufficiently original. Don’t let that stop you writing it, but perhaps do it as therapy, for your own collection, rather than using it as a competition piece.

The next think I’m going to say is: watch your punctuation. We’ve had to dismiss many otherwise excellent poems because of sloppy, incorrect punctuation. You wouldn’t put commas and full stops in the wrong place if you were writing an email or a report; so don’t do it in a poem. (And if you need to use an apostrophe, please use it correctly!)

On a more positive note, I loved the fact that we got more rhyming poems than usual and some of them were brilliant. For a number of years we got very few rhyming poems as they were seen as being old-fashioned and inflexible (the dum-de-dum-de-dum syndrome). But the tide seems to have turned and we had some very accomplished ones his year.

But it isn’t just about deciding which of your lines should rhyme (consecutive lines? alternate lines? something altogether more complex?) A poem of this kind also needs rhythm and meter to carry it off in a professional way. There’s no short way of explaining this, so if you’d like to explore the subject further then I recommend you enrol on our Art of Writing Poetry Course.

I know I’m biased, but I think it’s one of the best courses around, looking at different poetic forms, free verse, rhyme, rhythm and meter. In fact, just about everything you need to explore your own verse, improve your composition skills – and you even get feed-back on your work from a professional.

As I said earlier, we’re working our way through all the entries and hope to be able to bring you news of the winner before too long.

My guest next week is Jacqueline Jeynes who will be explaining how you can make the most of your life experiences when writing non-fiction.

PS: I wasn’t sure what to illustrate this post with, so I’ve used a picture I took at the beginning of the month in the Yorkshire Wolds. A superb field of poppies – and if that doesn’t inspire you to write poetry, I don’t know what will!

Author: Diana Nadin



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