Introduction to Poetry

My Genre X…

In my first experiment I will be writing a series of poems. How many exactly? I don’t know. But, I do know I’m interested in experimenting with poetry because I think it will totally transform my origin piece. Since my origin piece was a 6-8 page personal narrative, I was able to write many scenes about my relationship with my brother and the paper was much less condensed. With poetry, I will be forced to pick small, specific moments to focus on. Maybe as small as important dialogue and conversations.  

I’m also considering either writing these poems partially or completely from his perspective, or at least what my interpretation of his perspective is. I think a series of poems is especially fitting for my topic because part of what makes me want to write about my relationship with my brother is because it is pretty distant, and marked by few words and interactions. I don’t need pages and pages to write this story well, I can write in a series of sentences and stanzas. 

My relationship with my brother is dynamic and has changed a lot over the years. I’d like to integrate its dynamic nature into my piece by writing each poem in a different year or stage of our relationship. 

After doing some research on poetry, I’ve found that different sources actually have some similar takes on how to write this genre. According to this lovely little writing blog, it can all be broken down into 10 simple steps:

1. Know Your Goal

2. Avoid Clichés

3. Avoid Sentimentality

4. Use Images

5. Use Metaphor and Simile

6. Use Concrete Words Instead of Abstract Words

7. Communicate Theme

8. Subvert the Ordinary

9. Rhyme with Extreme Caution

10. Revise, Revise, Revise

For some reason, this brief ten step list made me more confused and lost where to start than before. It almost seems too easy. 

Unfortunately, on my next google search I came across another list, also 10 steps and also seemingly too simple:

  1. Understand the benefits of writing poetry
  2. Decide which type of poetry to write
  3. Have proper poem structure
  4. Include sharp imagery
  5. Focus on sound in poetry
  6. Define the poem’s meaning
  7. Have a goal
  8. Avoid clichés in your poems
  9. Opt for minimalistic poems
  10. Refine your poem to perfection

So far, the only thing I’m sure of is to definitely not use cliches. 

My next move was to look at samples of poetry, hoping it’d properly show me the ropes of the genre. After googling the “best poems of 2019” I came across a very diverse grouping of poems on the New Yorker:

https://www.newyorker.com/magazine/poems

Lately, remembering anything involves an ability

to forget something else. Watching the news,

I writhe and moan; my mind is not itself.

Lying next to a begonia from which black ants come and go,

I drink a vodka. Night falls. This seems a balm

for wounds that are not visible in the gaudy daylight.

Sometimes a friend cooks dinner; our lives commingle.

In loneliness, I fear me, but in society I’m like a soldier

kneeling on soft mats. Everything seems possible,

as when I hear birds that awaken at 4 a.m. or see

a veil upon a face. Beware, the heart is lean red meat.

The mind feeds on this. I carry on my shoulder

a bow and arrow for protection. I believe whatever

I do next will surpass what I have done.

In this poem by Henry Cole, which according to the NY Times is one of 2019’s best poems, I noticed a very unique writing style. The way he breaks his lines, even interrupting sentences midway really intrigued me. I love the emphasis this places on every last word of a line. Each word seems amazingly intentional. I think this is what makes poetry stand out from other genres. There is no room for filler or jargon, only the “real”. 

After reading a few poems I began to realize poetry offers a whole lot of freedom and very few “rules.” Since I’m one to like a lot of instruction and direction with my writing, it will definitely be a challenge to experiment with this genre, but I’m excited for it. 

3 thoughts to “Introduction to Poetry”

  1. I really like where you’re going with flipping a personal narrative into a series of poems. Especially since the poems can be artistic, yet focusing on the “real” of the situation. I feel as though I will use a similar strategy in my first experiment writing short stories.

  2. I really like the idea of writing different poems for the different stages in you and your brother’s relationship, it can be something really fun to play around with! I also like how you are talking about only the “real” being included in the poems. If that’s the route you decide to take, do you think that’s going to be easy or hard to do?!

  3. I admire you for taking on such a challenge. I know how hard it can be to try and portray very complex feelings into just a few words. And because poetry is so diverse, I understand your frustrations with trying to find sources that give you a step-by-step guide. However, I think finding a piece of poetry that resonates with you, like the NYT piece, is a great way to start to understand your style of writing.

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