Now since poetry is a very very creative form of writing there is really no RIGHT or WRONG way. However, for beginner poets, there are some things that I highly suggest avoiding. Please keep in mind that this guide is based solely on what I know about poetry [most of which has been learned from being part of this forum]. Note that these are guidlines not rules and can all be changed based on stylistic choice.
So, just to make things clear [and give you YWOians a good laugh] I will give an example of a poem.
What happens when preteen Nyx gets rejected by a group of bitches at school? She runs home and writes POETRY of course.
I just want to run away
My life is getting worst everyday
Just when I think I'm fitting in
I figure out that I can never win
I'm almost sure there is no light
There's nothing but darkness in sight
This is not a fairytale
I'll not succeed instead I'll fail
Let's take a look at that.
Stepping aside from the screaming cliché, (which is not importanit in this guide), I just want to point out that in most beginner poems: the problem starts early.
You may notice that my poem is centered. Why? No one really knows.
The problem with centering a poem is
it looks ugly
the random format hurts the eyes
it is just that: random. There's no point to it.
See! We already corrected the first general mistake: Don’t Center
Next, notice that every single line is capitalized? If you've gotten a poetry critique from me and you're a beginner, you'll remember that I screamed DO NOT CAPITALIZE. Well maybe not scream but all the same. That is another common mistake. I'm almost sure there are evil kids in grade four running around and telling other kids that we have to capitalize every line in poetry and it seems to have stuck to us all the way to our teen years.
You may ask: why not capitalize every line? It looks so pro!
No, it doesn't. It just doesn't make sense. When you are writing a paragraph in your short story do you write
Like this? As your line is cut off mid sentence do you start the next line with
Nope, so don't do it with poetry, it's just as wrong as doing it in paragraph writing.
There is an exception for capitalization though. It is fine to capitalize words not at the beginning of a sentence as long as you have a point for doing so. If I wanted the word "just" to actually be a character, then that would give me reason and right to capitalize it as I have.
So second "don't": Don’t Capitalize Every Line!!
I'm just jumping around ideas by reading my poem. What do I notice next?
Rhyming. Bad Rhyming. What makes a rhyme pattern a bad one? Well, like with anything else, you lose your audience when you become predictable. Generally, with a simple line/poem such as mine, the reader will be able to predict what word the next line will end with based on the context. Then they'll think: pft, not another one of THOSE poems.
But let's say we don't care about our audience, I just want to write a solid poem for my own amusement. That still doesn't make the rhyme okay, because now I am limiting myself with the rhyme. There are only so many words that rhyme with win (in, shin, fin, gin, etc) and most of them make no sense in my context which causes me to
A. Limit my vocab
B. Change my thoughts to force a random word in there
C. ^Forces me to stray from my original idea
Huh, surprisingly, that was the easiest of them all to explain.
I hope we're all clear up to here: Don’t Rhyme (for beginners)
_______________________ Don’t Use Predictable Rhymes (more advanced)
Now the next mistake I'm about to explain might be a little harder to correct, rest assure: it'll come slowly with practice.
What is it? Line breaks.
Where we break a line is actually much more important than most beginning poets take it to be. We all start by thinking oh I'll just
pick a random (4 syllables)
syllabe pattern (5 syllabes)
and run with it! (4 syllables)
Line breaks need a reason. They shouldn't be chosen at random because if they are: it sure as hell shows. Most commonly, beginners break lines where it fits their syllable pattern OR where they end an idea (see example).
I just want to run away
My life is getting worst everyday
Notice that I broke the line where I would normally use a period, comma or semi-colon? (With the end of the idea)
No, line breaks in poetry aren't a substitute for periods and commas. USE periods and commas.
So how do we know where to break a line?
Well, I honestly have no clue how to tell you since there's no right way.
The best way to get better at it is to mess around with it and see what works and what doesn't. For practice, try breaking a line where it would create a double entendre.
Really lame example:
I just want to run
far away from my life
LOOK! There is more than one meaning in there (yay). It could mean: I just want to run. Far away from my life where... (the rest would be continued in the next line) or it could mean: I just want to run far away from my life where...
So what was our "Don't"? Don't break lines at random or as a replacement for a comma or period.
Up to here, it's been pretty simple. Now I'm going to step into some stickier muck which might be difficult for me to explain so please bear with me.
Go back and read that poem again (one line at a time) and close your eyes and imagine each line after reading it.
Don't cheat, go & do it.
I know you didn't do it, go read it, now.
Alright, so did you notice that you can't see ANY clear images? Is that a picture in your mind?
If your answer is a yes, you must be quite imaginative!
Most people won't get a clear imager from that poem. Because there are no pictures being painted, it's just a rant. That is the one thing that I've noticed can crush all imagery. We'll sit down with a piece of paper and write about someone we have a crush on, or a bitch who made us cry in class and what happens? The paper becomes our best friend and we just spill everything that happened on to it. (WITH LINEBREAKS?!)
Do not forget that venting and poetry is not the same thing.
Please pay attention to this one, I find myself making this mistake over and over again, specially when I have writer's block.
Yay, we covered another "Don't": Don’t Rant.
It was our last for now, oh what joy!
Reader: So I avoid that and my poetry becomes amazing?
Nyx: Not exactly.
Reader: Then what the hell was the point of all that?
Nyx: Well, I hope the guide helped you understand the decent "don'ts" so you can skip past the boring stages of your poetry writing quickly and start writing real readable and decent stuff that can make YWO you proud!
11-16-2008, 01:20 PM
Thanks a bunch that was very heplful especially don't rant and don't subsitute linebreaks for comma and semi-colon. It made me understand my mistakes.
11-16-2008, 05:51 PM
I'm terrible at poetry but this was useful in case I ever attempt it again. :)
12-03-2008, 08:45 PM
Nyx, you are AMAZING. To be able to write ALL that. I for one, know about you and your 'Capitalization' annoyanse. Thank you for ALL the help, even though I don't write much poetry anymore...
Aw, Thanks Lizzie. =] And you're welcome.
12-03-2008, 11:31 PM
LOOK! There is more than one meaning in there
Actually, I think that if a poet is particularly good, they can play around with double meanings in an interesting and fun way. I like to think that my readers are smart enough to catch on to ambiguity and twist it their way.
But yeah, I think these guidelines are a good start for a lot of people.
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