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Ten Genres To Avoid in Poetry

Updated on May 6, 2013

Ten Genres To Avoid in Poetry

Are you a novice poet? Or perhaps you have been writing poetry for a long time and find yourself getting rejected very often. It could be the genres of poetry that you a writing within. It seems silly to say that as a poet you need to adhere to specific genres or avoid others, but if you want to be published, you may need to reevaluate the sort of poetry that you are writing.

Is it any good? Does it do something emotionally? Or is it flopping on cliche? Ask yourself these questions. Form a writing group.

This lens will detail the TEN Poetry Genres that you should Never ever ever write in...because they will not get you anywhere in this precocious industry.

The Mystery Poem

The point of this poem is largely to obscure its subject. The reader's (only) job is to figure out what the speaker of the poem is referring to.

Example:

There was red in the room,

trees blew hard in the wind,

it went through the forest and down

into the morrow of you,

coloring the world and bending the rules,

eating strawberry stew...

Do you see what I am saying? We have no idea what is going on in this poem and it does not illicit an emotional response. All poetry should give images and an emotional response to the reader. I don't need to make sense of the images that you present, but I do need to know what you are talking about.

The "They Said" Poem

This poem expresses disappointment or outrage that some situation has not resulted in the way some unnamed "they" predicted in would result.

Example:

They said that the world was going to be great,

the sun would shine and I could wake to a brand new day,

life would be golden and sweet,

That never happened,

I lay here in this wired crossed bed

eating jello pie and pudding pops,

watching All MY Children a

and getting chemotherapy.

See? Who the heck is They and why would they say something so abstract and untrue. Don't do this. It sucks and you will never become a poet if you stick with this sort of poem.

Poems Poets Poetry

Poems, Poets, Poetry: An Introduction and Anthology
Poems, Poets, Poetry: An Introduction and Anthology

If you want to be a writer, start here. Helen Vendler is the BEST poetry analyst of our time and this book will give you the tools to craft amazing poetry. Currently, she heads the poetry department at Harvard University, which is like being the Pope of Poetics.

 

The "You Said" Poem

This poem expresses disappointment that the silent interlocutor has acted in a way that differs from the speaker's oversimplified or unreasonable expectations.

Example:

We walked along the grass eating up the sky,

Our hearts bounded at the forefront,

Eyes meeting, hearts beating,

You said that it couldn't get any better than this,

vows would be exchanged mere months to pass,

At the altar I stand in sorrow,

You never showed up,

No golden gown or ring to bear,

no fire to burn or hearts to spare...

Okay, seriously, bad bad poetry. It is so bad that I just wrote that without thinking...all bad poetry doesn't need a second look or a revision...throw it in the fire or the trash or hit the delete button.

Avoid this idea of making the speakers life reliant on some absurd promise or expectation.

The Cliché Poem

This poem explores the extent to which hackneyed phrases preclude communication of emotional resonances. Avoid the overused.

Example:

The sky was falling on us in the storm,

bits and pieces barely touching the ground,

not everything can be avoided,

you grabbed my leg and pulled me

under , saving me in the nick of time,

trees swinging, tornado spinning,

I'll love you until the end of time.

I cannot ever continue to write that garbage. I get cliche poems in my classes every single quarter and it drives me nuts. You, as a young poet (or an old one, but by young, I mean apprentice) have not earned the right, and neither has Frost or any other poet for that matter to slaughter your poem's content with ugly cliches...be creative....

Writing Poetry - Drake

Writing Poetry
Writing Poetry

A great reference book. Yes, it is expensive, but no, it is not replaceable to the craft of poetics.

 

The Hopelessly Abstract Poem

This poem substitutes generalizations for images, thus eliminating a reader's points of access, entrance, or attention.

Example:

Bloodied glass swims in the ocean,

dreaming of falling through the sky,

Patience hits the water,

Love eats at my soul of hate....

See abstract. Abstract. This would be great if we could see what Love looks like, Patience too....

The Antiquated Poem

This poem imitates the diction, rhyme, and/or meter of a 19th century or older poet without adding anything to the form or content that was not much better presented by the original.

Example:

Twas an evening to be remembered,

and the fellows with their top hats

and tweed coats ere the ladies

flapper dresses.

Twain in the morrow

we shall be forgotten

of the whismy of the latter evening.

By going back to a language that we no longer use and doing it unsuccessful it scream novice, bad poetry....If you want to write a historical poem, go for it, but make it worth reading. What can you say in that dialect, that you couldn't state in your own lexicon?

Poetry Matters

Poetry Matters: Writing a Poem from the Inside Out
Poetry Matters: Writing a Poem from the Inside Out

This inexpensive book will teach you about the inside of the poem before you know what the "big picture" is going to look like. Super helpful for me during grad school and I highly recommend this book.

 

The Chopped Story

This poem imposes line breaks upon an unsatisfying short story written originally in conversationally imprecise diction.

Example:

Molly was running through,

green grass loving the sky

Bob was wearing a

over coat,

underneath a bridge...

If you want to write a narrative, it needs to be poetic in nature. Full of rich images, not worrying about staging, rather the words must be PERFECT.

The Sentimental Trap

This poem presents the greeting-card subjects of grandparents, puppies, or, potentially, young lovers, especially when accompanied by hopeless abstractions.

Puppy dogs are sweet,

Running around so neat,

Circled the water bowls

and the treats.

Ew.

The Poem with Obvious Rhymes

This poem over-accentuates rhyming end words, as the poems of Dr. Seuss and Shel Silverstein do.

Example:

The roses were wilted,

The daisies are gilted,

Mother in her plaid coat,

riding on the boat.

Okay, there is nothing wrong with great rhymes, but over the top and EXTREMELY juvenile will distract the reader from any subject matter you are actually presenting to the reader. Stick with slant rhymes and AVOID end rhymes.

Merriam Webster's Rhyming Dictionary

Merriam-Webster's Rhyming Dictionary, New Second Edition, trade paperback
Merriam-Webster's Rhyming Dictionary, New Second Edition, trade paperback

Don't go to crazy with this reference book. Use slant rhymes.

 

Unrevised Poems

This poem contains accidental illogic, slapdash diction, or forehead-smacking constructions that lead to reader to wonder how many times it has even been read by the author.

By now, this should be a "duh" so I will not provide an example.

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