Things to Avoid

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 tend to be overused by writers new to poetry, and the use of these elements or words can 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
  • 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 for dramatic effect
  • 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

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