Thursday, November 22, 2012

Things to Avoid for New Poets

Below is a list that I compiled with students in my poetry class.

Obviously there are great poems that include elements on this list; however, these are words, phrases,  rhyme-patterns, metaphors, etc that I've found are overused by writers new to poetry, and the use of these elements or words can and, most often do, result in one-dimensional, cliché poetry.
  • centre justification
  • capping first letter of every line
  • overly dramatic or overused words such as tears, soul, quivering, being, yearning, pain, existence
  • hearts/heartbroken/hearts beating/bleeding hearts
  • love poems (I love my parents, my boyfriend, my grandparents)
  • poems about homeless people (unless you’ve been homeless)
  • excessive use of abstract words like hope, joy, love, alienation, loneliness
  • predictable hard end-rhymes, sing-songy rhymes
  • referring to the sky as inky
  • using the description blue-black
  • using different font sizes or types
  • cliché phrases or dead metaphors as in “cherry red lips” or “out like a light” or her "sea blue eyes"
  • references to stars in the sky
  • excessive use of adjectives
  • excessive use of “ing” words – climbing, falling, pumping, yearning, glinting
  • using sound effects: crunch, crunch, crunch
  • antiquated language – thou or shall or wanton
  • avoid vast generalizations or general language
  • pat poems - poems that are closed because the poet directly explains the theme of the poem to reader or the metaphor is so obvious that the poem becomes one-dimensional
  • trick poems - poems that trick the reader to thinking that he or she is reading a poem about a person and then we find out that the subject of the poem is really a dog or bird 

One of the most effective ways to learn how to write contemporary, publishable literary poetry is to read poetry that was published, in say, that last ten or twenty years.

This is the hard part because there's a lot of stuff out there that you won't like.

But go to your local bookstore or library and start pulling books off the shelves. Read a few lines from each poet and ask yourself--what draws you in, what makes you stop reading?

Buy the books of the poets you like and read them over and over. Underline favourite passages and try to figure out what these writers are doing that has had such an impact on you.

Then go back and look at your own poems from the point of view of a reader.

How-to books are okay for learning the elements of poetry, but your teachers should be other poets. 

Search This Blog

Literary Blogs

Journal and Press Blogs

  • Dina Nayeri Interview “What makes life and fiction important and interesting and meaningful is for it to be examined...” Dina Nayeri talks to Bill Kenowe...
    3 hours ago
  • Janet Lunn, the beloved children's author whose historically rich novels and non-fiction inspired many writers to follow in her footsteps, died this week a...
    18 hours ago
  • Your space to discuss the books you are reading and what you think of them - Are you on Instagram? Then you can be featured here by tagging your bo...
    3 days ago
  • We’ve always burned people alive, beheaded them, gassed them, and Énard doesn’t fail to remind us. The post The Other in Oneself | Review of Compass by M...
    1 month ago
  • Natalie Lyalin SO WHAT, THE CLOUDS So what, the clouds with a piercing gold haze so a red feather stuck to my foot The gull’s squawk, so what Mother, fathe...
    2 months ago
  • I don’t like jazz. Therefore, I had immediate misgivings when confronted with the pastel-painted jazz scene adorning the cover of Hannah Lowe’s latest coll...
    3 months ago
  • That scene in The Wizard of Oz where the farmhouse is spinning through the sepia-coloured sky (2:25 below). Dorothy lies concussed inside then wakes to loo...
    5 months ago
  • Poetry: Jennifer LoveGrove: JENNIFER LOVEGROVE is the author of the Giller Prize longlisted novel Watch How We Walk, as well as two poetry collections: I ...
    6 months ago
  • Carmine Starnino Robert Moore Nyla Matuk Monarch Tavern
    8 months ago
  • After some legal wrangling, a letter from Neal Cassady to Jack Kerouac will be offered at auction.
    1 year ago

Prose Blogs