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Forums > > Clubs and Cafe's > > The Coffee Shop > > Some Thoughts On Poetry
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Some Thoughts On Poetry


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tommyjacksprat
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PostPosted: Wed Feb 15 19:28:28 EST 2012    Post subject: Some Thoughts On Poetry Reply with quote

.....Poetry, like all art forms, is a life-time learning experience. The class is never over and you never graduate with accolades or advanced degrees. But, I now present a few ideas on what I feel is necessary to become a good poet. And, in truth, the best most of us can hope for is to be a good poet. Great poets are a rare thing just like great politicians are rare (very rare) or the rare virtuoso musician. But, I do think these suggestions will help you write the best poetry you can write and that means we, as readers, will get more enjoyment out of your efforts.

READ POETRY: The first rule for improving your own skill as a poet is to READ great poetry. All kinds of poetry, from Homer to Billy Collins. From Shakespearean Sonnets to the most extreme forms of experimental free/verse. Then when you think you have read so much poetry you will never read another poem, start all over and do it again. Trust me. You will, by osmosis, begin to subconsciously understand the rhythm of great poetry and all great poetry has rhythm. If you cannot pick up the rhythm of a poem after you spend time with it and read and reread it again and again, then you are not reading great poetry. You are reading layman's poetry; poetry written without knowledge of how a good poem is created and what you must accomplish to create it yourself.

UNDERSTAND TECHNIQUES: Learn the technical attributes of poetry. You would never attempt or expect to ride an equestrian horse in competition before you learned how to ride a horse and then learned how to jump a small hurdle. No, you would expect to learn how to ride and then practice jumping hurdles by starting with the least difficult and working your way up to jumps found in highly competitive equestrian events.

.....You cannot write a good poem without first learning the basic structure of formal poetry. You may hate rhymed and metered poetry but until you can execute simple meter and structure yourself, you will definitely NOT be able to write free/verse poetry with any sense of excellence. In fact, free verse poetry is far more difficult to write correctly than structured poetry because you have no rules that guide you. You must decide when to break a line for there are no concrete rules on free verse and you must decide if your verse has the smooth rhythms found in the great executioners of this form.

.....Without the relative safety of long held traditions found in formal structure you are lost in the "Wasteland". Now, since I found an excuse for mentioning T.S. Elliot's "The Wasteland" let me share what Elliot said about himself and his relationship with learning poetry.

.....Elliot claimed until his death that he did not know the technical terms of poetry or understand the elements of meter. Yet, he is arguably considered the most influential American Poet of the twentieth century. How did he become so adept at all forms of poetry without understanding the structural elements of what he was writing? Elliot himself explains that contradiction. "I read thousands upon thousands of poems and I copied the masters" he once stated in an essay on talent versus education. He would take a Sonnet by Tennyson and literally rewrite that piece of mastery in his own words using the original as his blueprint. He would do this with all the great poets from the Greeks through his favorite French symbolist poets and expressionist poets including his mentor and editor Ezra Pound. By the time he revolutionized the free verse poem, he had become a gifted writer in every form of metered poetry; iambic trimeter, tetrameter, pentameter, heptameter and poetry mixing all of those in one poem for effect and magnification. That is how he could write a masterpiece of poetry like the Wasteland. He understood structure and form which leads to understanding how to write rhythm into any kind of poetry. All poetry needs that rhythmic base as does all music. After all, poetry is music, with its own kind of notes and it's own diverse rhythms.

DON'T FALL IN LOVE WITH ANYTHING YOU WRITE: Sometimes, (no often) we write a line or stanza of poetry that sounds brilliant to us and then a reviewer finds fault with our brilliance. Tough to take isn't it? First the reviewer has insulted your brilliant line or stanza and second the reviewer infers, by the review, that your own assessment capabilites are somehow faulty. At this juncture you have three choices. First choice: Dismiss the reviewer's judgement as inferior to your own and ignore it. Second choice: Reread your brilliance with a critical eye as if you did not write it. Then critque it like it was written by the poet on site that always gives you low marks. Get even. Third choice: If the reviewer has been specific in his or her suggestions, try them out and see how the line or stanza works after infusing their suggestions. I personally love legitimate reviews that make my poems better. I love anything that makes anything better. Well, not anything, but most things.

WRITE IT: Pick a form of structured poetry you enjoy. It could be a simple iambic tetrameter poem like "I took a little trip to town" or an iambic pentameter poem like, "I must object to all this vitriol" or iambic heptameter like, "I made a promise to my father just before he died" and write a poem using that meter. Don't try and write a masterpiece but try to utilize what you have learned about writing poetry. Make sure that you don't double up on a stressed syllables, an example: "The boy broken hearted, in pain." This is how that poem sounds when read aloud: "the BOY BROKen HEARTed, IN pain." The "BOY BROKEen" is two stressed syllables in a row and the poem, if you read it aloud and emphasize the bold and capital words and syllables, sounds terrible. This is how it should be written or at least a way it sounds correct: "The BROKen HEARTed BOY in PAIN."

.....So, be aware not only of the form you are trying to write, but make sure you follow ALL the rules of good poetry writing. Keep writing that form until you don't need a blueprint and it comes instantaneously when you think of it. Yes, instantaneously. The examples I wrote above were not rehearsed or written before. I just thought tetrameter, pentameter, and heptameter and wrote it without a pause. You may still say I have a long, long way to go and I agree with you completely. However, repetition allows for you to think of what you want to express instead of how to express it. Freedom to express without tripping over technique.

LISTEN TO GOOD REVIEWERS: You will find out quickly which reviewers are the technical reviewers, which are the aesthetic reviewers and which reviewers are those you thank with politeness and forget. Okay, I know, I know, I've had my troubles with the last one but I'm old and irritable. But, unless you begin the learning process by reviewing poems yourself and building on your knowledge by serious attemps to give literate and constructive reviews, you won't know a good review from a meaningless review. That is why it is important to have the basic knowledge and ability to execute that knowledge under your belt. If you do, then this site will offer so much more than if you are lacking in that knowledge. Good Luck in your writing and I hope this essay has given you a starting point and some suggestions that will work for you.

Finally, (I'm sure you were ready for finally) enjoy the luscious taste of every word, sentence, paragraph and poem you write for therein lies the true sustenance of your art.
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PostPosted: Thu Feb 16 1:29:58 EST 2012    Post subject: Re: Some Thoughts On Poetry Reply with quote

This is beneficial for both new and seasoned poets. Thanks for posting it here.

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PostPosted: Thu Feb 16 8:35:59 EST 2012    Post subject: Re: Some Thoughts On Poetry Reply with quote

pasted his on my wallpaper....to be reminded everyday.
Thanks so much for this wonderful write!!
respectfully,
D.

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PostPosted: Thu Feb 16 14:52:15 EST 2012    Post subject: Re: Some Thoughts On Poetry Reply with quote

tommyjacksprat wrote:
DON'T FALL IN LOVE WITH ANYTHING YOU WRITE: Sometimes, (no often) we write a line or stanza of poetry that sounds brilliant to us and then a reviewer finds fault with our brilliance.

My old playwriting mentor would sit down, grab whatever I had just written, and ask me what my favourite part was. Then he'd cross it out and make me keep writing without it. Eventually, parts of it would find their way back into the work, but in a much different context, and it almost always came out better. It was good advice, and I try to follow it whenever I can. There is such a danger of finding parts of your own work so precious that you become completely blinded to their shining mediocrity.

Thanks for posting this, some great advice!

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PostPosted: Thu Feb 16 15:00:26 EST 2012    Post subject: Re: Some Thoughts On Poetry Reply with quote

Thank you for the read and informative
review my friend. Astute reply. tom
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PostPosted: Thu Feb 16 15:04:19 EST 2012    Post subject: Re: Some Thoughts On Poetry Reply with quote

Thank you Deepali. I appreciate the
read and review. tom
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PostPosted: Thu Feb 16 15:05:32 EST 2012    Post subject: Re: Some Thoughts On Poetry Reply with quote

Thanks for the support Foggy.
I appreciate it very much. tom
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PostPosted: Thu Feb 16 15:17:55 EST 2012    Post subject: Re: Some Thoughts On Poetry Reply with quote

thanks for posting this, Easy. it's brilliant. i'm gonna print it out and hang a copy above my desk.

and then i'm going to force all of my writing students to commit it to memory... Wink

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PostPosted: Thu Feb 16 15:30:12 EST 2012    Post subject: Re: Some Thoughts On Poetry Reply with quote

I hope your students get some good
out of my 'thouughts' my friend. I'm
humbled and honored by your comments.
Your talent has always given me great
pleasure. easy
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PostPosted: Thu Feb 16 15:50:28 EST 2012    Post subject: Re: Some Thoughts On Poetry Reply with quote

Oh, I'm so glad you posted this here as well as in the finished section. Just as others have already commented, there is a wealth of knowledge contained within. Cheers, Mary Ann

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PostPosted: Thu Feb 16 17:39:11 EST 2012    Post subject: Re: Some Thoughts On Poetry Reply with quote

Sound advice which it behoves us all to keep in mind. I do have one issue with one of your examples, however, Tom - that's about broken-hearted boys in pain (something which we older boys know something about, I expect Smile). Seems to me the right way of reading the phrase you give would be "the BOY, broken HEARTed, in PAIN", which reads OK to me. For my taste, your alternative "the BROKen HEARTed BOY in PAIN" is a little too regular and doesn't have quite the energy of the other. No doubt it's just a question of taste. But I might try to think up a poem on that theme, now!

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PostPosted: Thu Feb 16 17:47:42 EST 2012    Post subject: Re: Some Thoughts On Poetry Reply with quote

You have to go by the stressed syllables
Ozy. BOY and BROK are both stressed
in iambic form and to me they create
a rhythmic bump I don't care for and
is not in accordance with iambic meter.
But, it is a matter of taste. I was trying
to show the importance of understanding
formal structure which is not everyone's
cup of tea but I think essential to creating
good poetics. Thanks Ozy. tom
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PostPosted: Thu Feb 16 18:02:12 EST 2012    Post subject: Re: Some Thoughts On Poetry Reply with quote

tommyjacksprat wrote:
You have to go by the stressed syllables
Ozy. BOY and BROK are both stressed
in iambic form and to me they create
a rhythmic bump I don't care for and
is not in accordance with iambic meter.
But, it is a matter of taste. I was trying
to show the importance of understanding
formal structure which is not everyone's
cup of tea but I think essential to creating
good poetics. Thanks Ozy. tom

OK, your comment is accurate if you are talking about writing in strict iambic meter and having a formal structure; however, the version I mentioned could be part of a poem in less strict form. Sometimes it is good to shake up the meter of a poem a bit to give it some energy and less predictability.

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PostPosted: Thu Feb 16 18:11:15 EST 2012    Post subject: Re: Some Thoughts On Poetry Reply with quote

I agree with that completely and you,
especially, understand formal structure
so you can take advantage of varying
the rules to fit the poem. Good observations
Ozy. They help my overall essay and I
thank you for making it better. tom
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PostPosted: Fri Feb 17 9:28:07 EST 2012    Post subject: Re: Some Thoughts On Poetry Reply with quote

Ozymandias wrote:
Seems to me the right way of reading the phrase you give would be "the BOY, broken HEARTed, in PAIN", which reads OK to me.

That is 2 2/3 anapestic feet. The first foot is broken. If we install the missing syllable, we would have something like this:

"twenty BOYS, broken HEARTed, in PAIN"

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PostPosted: Fri Feb 17 14:57:33 EST 2012    Post subject: Re: Some Thoughts On Poetry Reply with quote

***Claps and does a booty shake**** I guess now I change my blog. This is excellent and extremely well written.

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PostPosted: Fri Feb 17 15:09:09 EST 2012    Post subject: Re: Some Thoughts On Poetry Reply with quote

Thank you very much Lyla. I am
pleased you enjoyed this piece. tom
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PostPosted: Sat Feb 18 5:44:25 EST 2012    Post subject: Re: Some Thoughts On Poetry Reply with quote

fogglethorpe wrote:


That is 2 2/3 anapestic feet. The first foot is broken. If we install the missing syllable, we would have something like this:

"twenty BOYS, broken HEARTed, in PAIN"

Twenty broken hearted boys
With broken anapestic feet
Are making so much goddamn noise
They're waking up the whole damn street!

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PostPosted: Mon Feb 20 2:04:59 EST 2012    Post subject: Re: Some Thoughts On Poetry Reply with quote

fogglethorpe wrote:
Ozymandias wrote:
Seems to me the right way of reading the phrase you give would be "the BOY, broken HEARTed, in PAIN", which reads OK to me.

That is 2 2/3 anapestic feet. The first foot is broken. If we install the missing syllable, we would have something like this:

"twenty BOYS, broken HEARTed, in PAIN"

I wish my mind worked liked that.

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PostPosted: Mon Feb 20 9:41:14 EST 2012    Post subject: Re: Some Thoughts On Poetry Reply with quote

fogglethorpe, would you please write a blog column with the meter theme, to help the likes of me here?

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PostPosted: Mon Feb 20 13:38:15 EST 2012    Post subject: Re: Some Thoughts On Poetry Reply with quote

Alana..sure. Give me a day or two and I will have it.

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PostPosted: Fri Feb 24 12:39:03 EST 2012    Post subject: Re: Some Thoughts On Poetry Reply with quote

alana wrote:
fogglethorpe, would you please write a blog column with the meter theme, to help the likes of me here?

Alana..I have posted it here in Coffee Shop.

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PostPosted: Sun Feb 26 12:54:44 EST 2012    Post subject: Re: Some Thoughts On Poetry Reply with quote

Very sound advice Smile
thank you!
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