I have read poems that have moved me to the quick of my soul, but I have read others that made me want to cry. Not ‘cry’ as in ‘moved me to tears’, but ‘cry’ as in ‘that was so badly written.’ What I have found is that some people really have no clue what a poem is supposed to do.
Writing poetry is just a different way to write a story, whether the story is long or short. There are many forms of poetry, some I am not very familiar with. However, I do know enough about poetry to know what it isn’t.
This is not a poem:
I saw her today and
she waved at me
I wanted to wave back
at her, but I was afraid
that if I did she would run away.
Poetry is not a way to tell a story by writing a few words on each line – period. There must be a rhythm to the poem. They don’t all have to rhyme, but there must be a specific pattern. Otherwise, you have just taken a statement or two and written them a few words per line.
Poetry still needs punctuation. It needs proper punctuation. It doesn’t have to be a serious poem. It can be funny. It can be humorous. A poem can be silly, but it has to make some kind of sense to the reader.
Example of a short poem:
One snowy December morning,
A cardinal lit upon a bough.
So heavy with snow, the bough hung low,
resting atop my old, black plow.
The rhythm is an eight, nine, nine, eight-count. The first and last lines have eight syllables, while the middle two each have nine. Someone who regularly writes poetry can usually do so without stopping to count, it comes to them in rhythm.
The poem tells about an incident that happened one morning in December when it had snowed heavily. You can see the picture I painted of the red bird landing on the snow-covered tree limb. A limb so heavy that the old, black plow had to hold it up. You see a red bird on a green tree covered with white snow supported by a black plow.
Sometimes, a poem asks the reader to see a picture. Other times, it asks you to feel an emotion or maybe both. You use the same punctuation as you do when writing sentences. One thing I see much too often in prose and poetry is the improper use of the semi-colon. I won’t give a language lesson here, but if you do it quite a bit, make sure you are using it correctly.
Now, am I an expert on poetry? No. I have written poems that were published. I wrote many while I was in school. I’ve read poems that mesmerized me, emboldened me and even some that inspired me. I have also been asked to read poems written by friends because they wanted my thoughts on their work. So, I wrote this as the kindest way to say. “I love you. Please don’t ask me what I think unless you are confident enough to take constructive criticism.”
Most of the poems that really aren’t poems are written for a different venue, not WordPress. The majority of the poetry I read by bloggers is amazingly good. What makes me want to cry is those who try to tell a story by breaking down the number of words per line. I just want to shout, “T h a t i s n o t a p o e m!”
My best advice would be to read a lot of poetry by very famous poets. When you feel you can hang with the best of them, study some more. Maybe, then, you will be ready to write.
Trust me when I say that I know I am not great at writing poetry. I really do enjoy poems that cause me to see something beautiful or to feel anger, love, fear, happy or sad. All writing should have a purpose that educates, informs, makes you laugh, cry or think. I pray this doesn’t offend anyone. Please allow it to serve its purpose – to inform and cause you to think.
Feel free to help me learn and grow as a writer. Please don’t be mean about it, though. Even if you write really bad poetry, I would never tell you that unless you sincerely wanted to improve. However, if you write a really bad poem that you intend to have published in your hometown newspaper, I will feel compelled to give constructive criticism. I would never sit back and allow you to embarrass yourself. (Even if you hate me for it, because I love you.)