Guide to Writing Great Poetry in Less than 15 Minutes
Long Term Writing Help
To ask for the right method to be a writer implies that there is logic to the process of creating a story or a poem. There is no set method to the way you should set things down on paper. Often, fiction can come fully formed and there is only then the process of shaping it and reworking it until it’s done. Writing a story is like baking a cake, you only have to assemble the correct ingredients and let it bake the required amount of time and (presto) it’s ready for consumption.
Poetry however, is a different story. Keep a notebook, unintelligible to anyone but you, of different thoughts, images, and words that you like the sound of. When you have a bunch of them that seem to fit together you have the beginnings of a poem. It’s like a puzzle; You only have to fit it all together in the correct sequence. It’s different of course, if you are working with a form and don't make a mistake in not making that distinction. Poetry written with a specific form in mind needs more attention to detail and allowances made for the restrictions of that form.
Creation of something from nothing is a high. Your first draft of anything will always have a place in your heart because you love every word of it as you write it. Even when you look back later and wonder what you were thinking, you still have the memory of that shining moment when you scribbled it down on a cocktail napkin or the back of your phone bill. Quite often, because of that high, we have trouble changing anything about it. Defensive is an understatement of how we feel about our work. People always underestimate how important the revision process really is. When that first draft is done, it’s time to distance ourselves from it for a bit so we can approach it without regret to dismantle and rebuild it properly. Often, we have the regrettable tendency to be afraid to just scrap the whole thing and begin again. Take what you really like from your poem and build on that. Toss out cliches, wordiness, and too many rhymes unless you're writing a limerick.
If you want to see a major difference in your poetry, read more of other poets. Your writing will quickly become more specific and less contrived. Poetry should be dense and filled with great images. Crafting poetry is more of an introverted exercise, whereas, with fiction, generally there's an action-driven story taken more from the world around us than our own experiences and preferences.
Simple 15 Minute Method
1.) Get out your thesaurus and a piece of paper
2.) Think about what you want to say with the poem. If you're not sure what you want to say continue on with step 3 anyway.
3.) Flip through your thesaurus and find some words that you might not have thought of before to either describe your thoughts or because you just like them. Don't get to crazy with the words, use ones you're familiar with. Write down words. examples: lucent, feasible, ponderous, inconstant, flim-flam, saccharine, memory, yearn, flicker. Write at least 20 words. You may not use them all in your poem, but they'll be helpful.
4.) Now think of images or experiences. Your own unique set of experiences throughout your life has prepared you for this. If your mind is blank, flip through the internet for a couple of minutes and get some fodder for your imagination. Write down the images by the word that you'd like to use them with on your list of words. examples: lucent- stars, feasible- lies, ponderous- redwood tree, inconstant- heart, flim-flam- food, saccharine- kiss, memory- light, yearn- chores my husband needs to do, flicker- sunlight. Write at least 20 images. You may not use them all in your poem, but they'll help.
5.) By this time, you should have a good idea of what your poem is about. Come up with your first line. It should be attention getting and make the reader think. examples:
"We need some pines to assuage the darkness" By: Marvin Bell
"Child of my winter, born" By: W.D. Snodgrass
"I want the lies you tell me" --our example
6.) Now link your words and images together to continue the theme of that first line. example:
I want the lies you tell me, like the flicker of sunlight through the evergreens upon my face, the lap of the sea about my ankles. The stars, lucent eyes, lie too. etc.
7.) Decide where you want your line and stanza breaks. A simple rule of thumb is one image or experience per line. You can put stanza breaks anywhere you like, but try to make sure each stanza stands on it's own. (almost like its it's own mini poem)
8.) Revise the poem you've created and take out unnecessary words or phrases. Try not to be cliche unless it's on purpose and enjoy the process!
9.) Come up with a title that sums up your poem. If you choose not to title your work, be advised that the first line will be a title. After this you should have a completed and original poem that you can be proud of. Revise it as many times as you need to until you're happy with it.
The Lies You Tell Me
I want the lies you tell me
like the flicker of sunlight through the evergreens upon
my face, the lap of the sea about my ankles.
The stars, lucent eyes, lie too.
"Look at us," they call, "we still burn bright,"
but no, that one's been gone a thousand years, its light
I need the lies you tell me.
How forever is feasible, ice cream never melts in summer,
how you will fix the roof, the creaky stair, the sink.
Redwoods are a dying breed,
ponderous, fantastic creatures. Ask one
what it's seen, what it thinks of the world. All say the same,
"I stand, despite everything."
I choose the lies you tell me.
A cur loves its master, kick or kiss,
she still greets him wagging from both ends.
And will a heart beat on
when it's never yearned, never even tried
to soar? Only scooped up the few remains, inconstant
in its flim-flam fare.
I love the lies you tell me.
They melt over me, honey-sticky, saccharine.
Your fingers on my lips,
tangled in my hair, tracing
the slope of my shoulder, my breast,