HowTo:Write Good Poetry
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Well hello there! I suppose you would consider yourself a fan of Poe or of Maya Angelou, wouldn't you? I guess that also means you too would like to write good poetry, huh? Robert Frost would be proud! Lucky for you, some of the top poets of all time and from across the world have somehow compiled this guide to teach you, yes you, to compose verses that will make women drop to their knees and beg for more metaphors. You'll be famous! You'll be a star! But let's not get ahead of ourselves. Roll up your sleeves, grab your quill and parchment, and let's get down and dirty in the trenches of the war that is poetry!
- 1 Writing Poetry for Children: An Evening with Shel Silverstein
- 2 Sitting Down with T.S. Elliot: Writing in the Modernist Tradition
- 3 A Romantic on Romanticism: Learning with William Wordsworth
- 4 Conclusion
Writing Poetry for Children: An Evening with Shel Silverstein
Yes, it is I, The Giver of Giving Trees, and I have graciously agreed to tell you all of my deepest secrets! This will be the defining moment of your life, the moment you realized that the light is indeed on in the attic, and that with my help, you truly will make wonderful music with your words. I promise.
Step 1: Choose a Concept Children Like
Mostly you need to start out by thinking to yourself, what is it that children exactly like? This question eventually leads to the related question, what is it that children do? And the even more related question, what is it that children like to do? You have to ask these questions whenever you set out to craft masterful works of word art for children. Children tend to like:
Step 2: Come Up with a Funny Story
Once you have chosen your concept you need to create a story to weave around it. Children like funny stories that generally have a moral teaching or a good ending. This is poetry though, so our job is easy! I've made poems that contain less than 10 words before! Honestly, if you can't become a writer, then you'll probably end up writing children's literature. If you can't do that, you tend to become a poet. If you're black like me, well, you just end up being a children's poet. It's pretty much the only genre of writing left over.
But I digress! Don't you see? We can make a story as crappy and small as possible and get away with it!
At this point, you need to think about your concept. For the sake of demonstration, let's say I have chosen puppies. Think about what it is that puppies do that's funny, especially to children. It's fairly obvious, I think, that puppies Poop. A lot. Children often find defecation to be funny, so this should be a winning concept. You have to be careful though in order to not offend your target audience within your niche as a poet. What I mean is that, I am known as a wholesome children's poet, so my audience, and particularly their parents (our source of income), would be offended if my poem about puppies contained excessive amounts of shit. Be clever and use soft words! Bad example, use mild words, not soft...
So here we go:
|A puppy is playing in the yard with his boy and the puppy defecates all over the yard. The boy has to pick it up or his parents will scold him severely. The puppy keeps defecating as the boy struggles to pick up the plops.|
This would also be a good time to point out that sometimes it is good to skip the conclusion and just leave the reader with a cliffhanger. This allows the reader to complete the poem in their head. Many of my critics have just called that laziness, but I insist that it is indeed a legitimate technique of poetry!
Step 3:Compose Your Poem
Children are simple animals, thus they only require simple tricks to amuse them. Rhymes are a wonderful way to entice them into believing your work is good. I, the great Uncle Shelby, only use the best rhyme schemes available. Unfortunately, because of the small minds of my (our) audience, I would suggest going no more complicated than an ABAB or AABB rhyme scheme. What do I mean by this? Here's an example of a poem using ABAB rhyme scheme:
|In the month of May
I like to wash my feet
This is what the neighbors say
'This feat cannot be beat'
Sometimes when I am feeling intensely artsy, I ignore the rhyme scheme at the end of my poem, usually on the last line. This tends to make the reader think that I'm a brilliant poet. I don't recommend this technique for first time users. For our poem, we shall simply use the AABB rhyme scheme, it is after all the easiest one for a kid to comprehend. Now, having chosen the rhyme scheme, it is time to fabricate our poem.
Poetry in Motion
Now, recalling our example story, we need to determine how long this poem will be. I generally like to use two or three stanzas on average, and for this we will use three. Beginners who are not at my level of awesome talent should probably just stick with one stanza. We now have to find words that fit the story and rhyme. Our poem revolves around pooing puppies, which by the way is a great example of alliteration, so words and their rhymes might be:
- diarrhea - see ya
- poo - shoe
- runny - sunny
- dog - log
- and so forth
Ideas are already flowing into my head! My creative genius is at work! stand back as I bring forth into the world, poetry!
|As I played outside in my yard
My puppy stood carefully at guard
He looked at me as if to say
'Oh my, what a grand day!'
That's when I looked down at my shoe
and noticed a pile of puppy poo
And since the day was quite sunny
that puppy poo turned quite runny...
My puppy continued to make quite a mess
as the piles grew in excess
My parents will soon be back
and I hope all I get is a smack...
Yes! This is fantastic children's poetry! I have done it again! Well, I hope you get the gist of how to do this, because I'm including this in my next collection of children's poems and you can't use it! Thank you for coming along on this fine journey, hopefully I will see your works published alongside mine in Barnes & Noble someday!
Sitting Down with T.S. Elliot: Writing in the Modernist Tradition
I say there, don't get so close to me. Back away. That's better. You may know me by my proper title, Lord Sir Thomas Stearns Eliot, Order of Merit, but you may simply call me Mr. Eliot. You may be familiar with some of my works, including Old Possum's Book of Practical Cats which may or may not have been turned into a relatively smashing Broadway musical, and my Four Quartets. You may be wondering to yourself, what is it that Mr. Eliot can offer me? I could care less about you, I have been paid a rather fat sum of money to teach you how to write a modernist poem.
Step1: Realize That Life is Horrid
And that there is nothing you can do about it. Your life is out of your control, you are an insignificant speck of dust along for the ride my dear, and the divine is out to ruin you or reward you depending on fate. You are forever caught in the tug-of-war that the universe is playing with our small little planet. Even while realizing this, you must also realize that despite this, humanity is capable of making wonderful art. This is the difference between modernism and post-modernism: we modernists at least still recognize that humanity is capable of good and we conform to some sort of poetic structure sometimes, port-modernism is just a pile of depressing drivel. Once you realize this, you can start to create modernist poetry.
Step2: Identify Your Inner Feelings
Now simple urchin, we must get in touch with our inner self, identify those feelings that particularly make us feel modern. Once you have done that, we need to decide on a structural technique to use. Modernist poetry is famous for its use of only one form of poetic technique at a time and ignoring the rest. Simply put, if we rhyme, our poem cannot follow a rigid pattern, if we use only 8 syllables per line, we can't rhyme and if we chose to put a comma before the very last word of every line, well, you can't really do anything except that. This is one of my very favorite techniques, one I used quite extensively in making one of my more famous poems, "Wasteland," written in 1922. You may recognize the first line, "April is the cruellest month, breeding" See what I did there with the comma? Priceless. And highly modern. I would give you the second line for context, but then you would need context for the last word of that line and so forth, and I can't just recite all 434 lines can I? Perhaps you should just grow some intellectual curiosity and read the damn thing yourself!
At any rate, we should begin our quest to create a modernist poem by first identifying something that is cold, dark, and detached from the regular everyday. Death is always a good fallback, but for our example, I intend to make autumn incredibly depressing and bleak. Another key point is to somehow tie this into some rather extraordinary event in your life through the use of vivid metaphors. This is generally easy to do despite what most experts say. Let's assume that my pet rabbit has just passed on to the Great Beyond and this has made me very depressed. it is Autumn, so I feel compelled to express myself in a modernist poem.
Step3: Express Your Disdain
It is now time to craft our poem. Remember our one form of structure, using a comma to break up the last word of the line, and our inner feelings of sorrow for the loss of our rabbit and our hatred for the autumn season which took him away from us. Here is how this would look as a modernist poem:
|Is it so hard to conclude, that
Life is short and brutish, for
A rabbit? His soft, white, delicate fur, which
Playfully swept around as he bounded about in the cool breeze, of
Autumn. How the cold grasps of late Autumn play against my fears, for
It is Autumn itself that gave you influenza, and
It was Autumn that took you away from me, how
The leaves so dead and wilted do remind me of you, with
Floppy ears and bushy tail.
Now that is how you write a modernist poem! They didn't make me an officer of the British Order of Merit for nothing, now did they? Hopefully you didn't learn anything from this, so that you may never surpass my greatness and overtake my glory. I will forever be the greatest modernist poet, not you.
A Romantic on Romanticism: Learning with William Wordsworth
Oh! How I do love thee, you beautiful person! I am overly thrilled and excited to introduce you to the grand world of English Romanticism, a world that I helped create with my good pal, Samuel T. Coleridge. You need to get rid of all that depressing modernist tripe and reaffirm your love of the world, which is beautiful and dangerous. Realize that only through excessive and forced emotion can you truly understand what it means to be human! Come with me, as we journey through the wonderful world of romanticism!
Step1: What do you love?
This is perhaps the most important step in writing your romantic poem. You need to identify something that you deeply, and truly, long for. For me this is usually the company of other human beings, I'm often quite lonely and spend my time writing poems that nobody wants to buy. After all, the Scare of 1799 certainly took a toll on people's fortunes. Alas! I am poor, but at least I have my poetry to express my love, my deep and sincere love. Oh how I just love life!
Well, at any rate you need to chose your object of affection before we can begin crafting romantic poetry. I suggest it be something or someone near and dear to your heart. I particularly like pears, so this is the object I shall shower with affection through my mighty quill!
Step2: Expand Your Vocabulary
This is particularly important for crafting excellent poetry. We good romantic poets make use of wonderful and rich descriptive language. In order to be taken seriously as a romantic, you must have many words at your disposal. You can go about this in two ways. If you are rich and wish to make poetry for fun or for your friends and relatives, you should invest heavily in a good and thorough education in only one of the best British boarding schools. If you are poor and you wish to simply eek out a meager living by making poems by moonlight on the cold streets of London, I would simply steal a thesaurus old chap.
Once you have your new and wonderful vocabulary, you are ready to create your romantic poem!
Step3: Start Your Poem
Romantic poetry is often formed with core poetic concepts and structures, but is not incredibly rigid. I don't think I'm creative enough in order to make a poem that complicated anyways. My contemporaries don't quite think so either. But that is neither here nor there friend, it is time to make a romantic poem about the joys of eating pears! Ours will be a free verse, flowing from the heart. Well, my heart anyways. And away we go!
|O! Pears! You're crunchy sweet like so many clusters of chestnuts
Perfect like the crown jewels of dew suspended in the mist
Gently dangling from tree branches at dawn
I trudge up the mountainside, hoping to catch your great joys
And bring you home for lunch.
O! Pears! Our meeting, so brief but beautiful
How I long to keep you forever, but
You are so delicious and smooth to the touch
And I must eat you.
That refreshing bite!
You are so delicious, my pear
There is nothing that will keep the beauty between us secret
Secrets of the universe revealed!
Bliss is truly a sweet sweet pear.
Three poets have taught you how to experience the world, how to capture that experience, and how to profit from capturing that experience. Since you have learned this fundamental and timeless strategy for making it big, you are now ready to venture off into the world! You have gained all of the skills needed to become a well-versed word artist. Your journey has been long, hard, and strange, but you have prevailed. Your time with us is at a close, my friend. We unleash you unto the world to birth into existence beautiful passages and prose, make us proud, and for God's sake, don't embarrass us! Make tons of money too, that would certainly make us proud. Don't forget to share some of it with us also!