Finding Your Poetic Voice: A Process of How to Get your PoemsThere
It is interesting that I find
myself a writer. As a child, writing was difficult for me. I drew my letters instead of writing thoughts. It usually took me so long to write that the thoughts behind my pen would flee before I could capture them. It wasn't until I read a good deal of Shakespeare's work as well as Robert Frost's amongst others, that I found that my pen didn't have to travel fast, it just had to be efficient. Then I discovered the word processors on my parent's computers and I still have a binder of that kind of infantile work that helped me hash out how I write now. Even so, I have had a lot of help along the way. Some of the help was rude but I have found in the rudest of the critiques on my work, gems of understanding.
Most people don't like giving advice let alone receiving it. This is especially true about matters so personal as how one should write poetry. There are so many different formats, that it really makes it hard to nail down the style of a poet who never was educated in the forms, or critique it properly. The more I thought about my craft as I utilize it now, the more I realized that I aught to make a rude comment or two about the forms of expression that are poetry, which might help someone else. I say rude in that I reserve for you the right to be offended but I am not going to go out of my way to do so, it just might happen sooooo......
The first thing you aught to know about how I visualize poetry is that it is a way of speaking things that paragraphs can't express. It isn't necessary for the grammar to pass muster but its order needs to be how you express those thoughts the clearest. Good spelling will keep people in the loop as well. What separates a poet from a pretender, however, is the unique nature of the poet's voice.
Gaining that voice is difficult. The biggest conundrum involved is that you can't gain your own voice without having read what has happened before. Conversely if you start sounding like those you have read you become a hack and a bore. Most of the voices of poetry that are well known are so well tuned that it is usually pretty easy to tell what school of poetry a budding poet comes from. As I see things, the form of your poem is kind of like the decanter that one would put wine in. If you treat it that way, it would follow that what I am referring to as your "voice" is how you brew the wine not form the decanter.
The wine, as it were, is made up of the substance of your soul. There isn't any right or wrong here other then that I am working under the assumption that you are trying to communicate that substance. Communication is a two way street and as such is one where the writer is actually considerate of the needs of the reader to understand or at least interface with the work at hand. This being said, the wine should have many notes. Distilling each vintage for bottling and use of others may be found in separating each note and appreciating it for what it is. Functionally speaking, no one is in love all the time so writing about love all the time will work for a bit because most people don't have enough in their life. After a while, however, you become a button holed voice that people hear and discard when they don't want to hear about love. Repetition in any form isn't really appreciated in poetry unless it serves a purpose. That purpose is usually to intersperse the meat of the poem with the repetitions that let the reader know that you are talking about the same subject throughout. Some forms like Haiku are so constrained that there isn't room for repetition. In my cynical mind that is why some poets and readers like the decanter of Haiku amongst others reasons.
Ultimately when I went about forming my own voice, after studying the way other people brew their words, was that I stopped writing or reading anyone else work for a time. I started thinking about what it was I was trying to express and taking the shortest possible path to get there. I became rather philosophical about how I saw expression and what I wanted out of the vintage that I was brewing. Every time I would begin to write and found myself drinking a past poet I chucked the result. I studied grammar, not just the grammar we use now but the grammar of other languages and even our own language as one goes back in time. I read historical documents and appreciated that most of the rules that we make for our forms of speech ,acceptable in English 1A, are arbitrary and can be discarded almost at will. Discarding the rules that amused me and studying the result became a fascination for me. Some times I would convolute my grammar with as few warning signs as to what I was about and read it. I found new things every time I experimented in this fashion.
It has taken a lot of personal study and reading as well as forgetting to form the method I use now. Even then, when I hadn't written anything in a while it took some rather rude comments by Maven that I now hold as some of the kindest reminders I know. They brought back a lot that I had forgotten. Poetry in my view is a craft like any other in art. There isn't really any way of being acknowledged as a great poet except by believing in the inner unique way that you can speak of your wine that no one else can and then seasoning it not to the tastes of others but until you and your audience can at least connect. At that point, even if they hate you, if you stick to your voice but only try to improve your diction, you become a poet for real.