Thursday, August 23, 2012

Writing the Perfect Poem

Extracted from Writers Digest - 24/8/12.
1. Make sure that what you have to say is original – unless, of course, you are writing entirely for therapeutic reasons. The birth of a baby, your favourite pet, war and famine, the beauty of nature, unrequited/lost love are all themes that people write about…again and again and again. So, try to think of something different – or at least look for an original approach.
2. Use all the tools at your disposal: a wide vocabulary, similes, metaphors and alliteration – but try to make your imagery fresh and unusual. Avoid clichéd expressions such as ‘white as snow’, ‘green with envy’, ‘hands as cold as ice’, ‘a heart of stone’ and the many others that you must be familiar with.
3. If you are using a rhyming scheme (abab or aabb) make sure that the words you use actually do rhyme. For example the words ‘box’ and ‘flocks’ rhyme but if you used ‘box’ and ‘flock’ you lose this.
4. Don’t torture the natural word order to get a rhyme. The following has a very odd feel to it:
You wanted some new books, and so you said, ‘Now to the library go’.
Instead you could re-write it more naturally as:
You wanted some new books, 
and said ‘Go to the library’. Off I sped
5. If your poem is supposed to be in a particular form (ie a limerick or a sonnet) make sure that you not only use the correct rhyming scheme but that you also use the correct metre. In simplified terms this is the number of ‘beats’ in each line. For example, a limerick has five lines and has the following rhyming scheme: 
Lines one, two and five have three beats each while lines three and four have two beats each. If you tap out the metre with your hand you’ll soon see what we mean:
A lady who hoped to find fame 
Made poetry writing her aim. 
She wrote day after day 
Till they took her away – 
But nobody’s heard of her name.
6. Always give your poem a title – it focuses your reader’s attention.
7. Make sure you punctuate your poems. Some free verse poems make a point of not using punctuation but the majority of both rhyming works and free verse need punctuation. And your punctuation should do exactly the same job as in a piece of prose – it should help your reader with the meaning and show when a pause is necessary.
8. Avoid archaic or overtly ‘poetic’ language. Use ‘you’ not ‘thee’, ‘over’ not ‘o’er’ and stay clear of ‘sylvan glades’ or ‘hosts of golden daffodils’!
9. Make sure your free verse is just that – not just a slab of prose broken into shorter lines. Even if your work does not rhyme, it must still have rhythm and metre.
10. Once the initial outpouring has finished, put your work to one side and let it stand for a few days. Then go back to it and read it again in the cold light of day. Alter any words that don’t sound right, check your punctuation, the rhythm and the rhyme (if it is not free verse). Also stand back and see if it still gives you the same pleasure that it did when you were writing it. Finally, read it aloud to yourself – that’s the best way of telling if it really works as a poem.
Remember, you’re writing for you but it should be a matter of pride to make every poem you compose original and worthwhile so that, hopefully, it will give others as much pleasure when they read it as you got from writing it.


No comments: