Poetry That Doesn't Suck
Editing Poems for Improvement
The two biggest mistakes new poets make are either not editing at all or over editing. With practice, you'll eventually get a feel for when your poem is 'done'. Until you learn to do that, I'm going to give you some tips for improving your poetry through editing.
First Tip: Words you don't usually need.
Poetry will often sound better without excess articles and conjunctions. "Huh," you say? Articles are words such as the, that, an. Conjunctions are words such as and, but, until.
Should you run out and erase every one of these words from your poems? No. But you should ask yourself if you really need the article or conjunction when writing. Look at the two examples below.
EXAMPLE 1: Roses are red/ and violets are blue.
If you remove the 'and', it reads cleaner and has a more poetic feel. Change the line to Roses are red/Violets are blue and it automatically sounds better.
EXAMPLE 2: Roses are red/ the violets are blue.
In a poem, it's okay to read into the lines. If you remove the 'the' from Roses are red, the violets are blue , the lines means the same but its cleaner and has a better cadence. Read the two out loud and you will see the extra word throws the syllable off and puts an extra unneeded pause in the line.
Tip 2 Cliches are not your friend.
When you are writing fiction, cliches in dialogue aren't always a bad thing but in poetry it is a big no-no. Poetry is all about your personal experience, why would you use someone else's words to describe your experience?
Example 1: I loved her with all my heart.
I've heard this in a dozen bad romance movies but what does it actually mean? Poetry is about the personal experience. It's about the details. People will read this line and they won't pay attention to it because its what they expect. Cliches aren't absorbed by readers but rather skimmed over. You want readers to pause, a cliché doesn't do that.
Example 2: I loved her like fresh kitty litter.
Okay so that's not a great line but you stopped, didn't you? You paused and said 'What?'. Perhaps I loved her more than warm towels in winter. These two lines are personal...they mean something specific to the writer which will inspire the reader to know more.
The first example is so generic and overused in writing that it means very little.
Tip 3: The warning words.
Some words should only be used in poetry with extreme caution. Words like love, soul, love, heart, tear, misery and angel are so overused in poetry that these words have almost no impact on the reader. It's not that you can't use them, it's that you should only use them if you have to.
Example 1: My heart weeps.
Example 2: My soul is dying.
These two examples don't have the emotional impact you think they would have. It's like when you are fighting with someone who constantly says 'I'm going to kill you'. If they say it during every fight but never do anything about it, then the words don't have any impact on you or your behavior.
I'm not saying that you can never use these words. What I'm saying is that you need to use them carefully and with the full knowledge that they may hit your audience at a lukewarm temperature.
Tip 4: Never let anyone tell you never.
I'm not a poetry expert on your poetry. Robert Frost couldn't be an expert on your poetry either. Some reviewers of your poetry will try to rework your poetry to fit their personal style. While I recommend trying out new styles and types of poetry, it's still your personal work. If you want to pull an ee cummings and write everything in lowercase letters and with odd line breaks, do it. But if you do it, you have to do it purposefully. You have to stand behind it even when someone tries to rework your lines into four line stanzas.
Tip 5: Listen, Listen, Listen to Yourself
Record yourself or better yet have someone read and record your poem. Listening to your poems will let you know when lines break too abruptly, when your rhyme doesn't do the job or when your brilliant.
Tip 6: Read other poets.
Read classic poets, read new poets, listen to experimental poets. Try different styles out. You'll grow as a writer even when the form doesn't work for you.
A Rhyming Poem Sample
Sites to help with your poetry
There are so many fun things online with poetry now.
If you want feedback, you should try some poetry feedback sites such as TNBW or The Next Big Writer. Untlike sites such as Urbis or Forward Motion, you'll get more detailed poetry feedback with TNBW. But even if that site doesn't work for you, try out some free memberships on some sites. TNBW (www.thenextbigwriter.com) has a free reader membership, so does WDC (www.writing.com).
If you want more personal feedback, check out your local coffee shops and college campuses for live readings. Many times, the public is welcome to read their poems on open mic night.
But if you live in an isolated area such as myself, then check out the online poetry shows on BlogTalkRadio. Many of these shows have open mic nights where you can read your poems to dozens of people all over the world. All you need is an internet connection and free Skype Account or a cell phone with unlimited minutes. :)
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