Please don’t make me read that!

Poetry is an...

Poetry is an… (Photo credit: liber(the poet);)

The Old English epic poem Beowulf is written i...

The Old English epic poem Beowulf is written in alliterative verse and paragraphs, not in lines or stanzas. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I have made so many wonderful friends through the world of blogging. I have read some fascinating articles by brilliant people. I have learned much about other cultures and seen fantastic photos.

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.)








15 thoughts on “Please don’t make me read that!

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  3. Hi Barbara! I am certainly not here to say anything about what is right or wrong because I do well do write at all. Your poetry post made me think of my oldest son. He is now 31and in the Navy. When he graduated at 17and left for the Navy I found out something I never knew about him. We had a computer with the old dial up modem (I believe we all did back then). I got on the computer and ran across a website he had apparently visited often. Starlight Cafe or something like that. I ended up putting in his name and WOW, he had 32 posted. He grew up without a dad and just me and his brother. I think he used poetry to deal with his emotions. He used it as he struggled being a boy yet becoming a man. He also had met a girl across the U.S., in a chat room. She is now his wife. I can read the poems and tell when he was in love and yet unable to see her or touch her. I also learned he felt he had to be the “perfect son”. Yes, I felt horrible and cried over that one. 3 weeks ago I found myself looking for the site again. I was able to pull up the old archived poems. I printed them all off and am thinking of how I can put these into some sort of scrapbook for him. Something nice that will last. I am not a scrapbooker or anything of the sort. Anyone have any ideas? By the way…, he does not even know I knew about them. I wonder if he even remembers them…. Hmmmm

    • Donna, it is always good to hear from you. To be able to read the poetry your son wrote is a blessing. I think buying a scrapbook is a terrific idea. You can add all the decals to the page according to the theme of the poem. I would probably cut the paper with a pair of scissors with a decorative edge.
      Thanks for reading my posts and taking time to comment. Much love.

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  5. Double-like. Barbara! You opened a window. Yours is the first honest post I have seen on both the bad poetry out here and constructive criticism. I will be addressing both (the latter, very soon) in about a month’s time. Oh, I’m so pleased to see you not only put your finger on the issue of quality but on forthright, helpful feedback. Feel free as a bird to share with me where you think I could improve my prose and poetry. Please.


    • Thank you for taking your time to visit and read my blog. Hugs for your sweet comments. I am sure you have been asked to read others’ poetry and were as petrified as I have been to learn how badly the poem(s) was written. What do you say? You don’t want to hurt or wound them, but you don’t want them to be embarrassed when they send it off hoping for publication. I am amazed how few people truly understand what a poem is. I have to wonder what on earth people are being taught in school anymore. It is as if they never had instruction in language, sentence structure, punctuation or any of the basics. Maybe you and I were the only two paying attention! LOL

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