Sometimes it is hard to admit that I write poetry, but I do. I understand that some people think of poetry as snobbish, others think it geeky or boring, but I like poetry because it allows me to express emotions, show images, tell tales or write riddles —all with an economy of words.
When I write a poem I usually begin with one idea in mind, but there are several tricks I use to round out a poem. I try to include all five senses in my poems. I wrote a poem about a black cat, so I thought about things that are black and tried to pair those things with senses. I also thought about what cat ownership entails; for instance, owning a cat means having cat hair on all your clothes. I wrote, “Weaver of sweaters/ for the already clothed”. Through my choice of words, I strived to create the physical action of a cat intentionally putting fur on clothes.
I also like to do research on the subject of my poem. I wrote a poem about my mother who came of age during the sixties. I researched the slang and lingo from that era and included it in certain lines to bring the feel of that time into my own writing. (Honestly, I never say groovy- well, almost never.) I find that by doing research I gain a greater introspection into my own thoughts on my subject, and it helps me bring depth to my writing.
There are tricks for editing poetry, too. By changing the order of the lines the tone of a poem can be completely changed. I also like to try different line breaks and see how the new word emphases alter the meaning of the whole poem. Another interesting thing to do is change, or remove, all the pronouns in the poem. This can bring a whole new feeling to the poem and sometimes send it in a new and unintended direction.
The fun thing about poetry is that there is no right or wrong way to do it. You don’t have to be a Shakespeare or a Dylan Thomas. You can have short lines or long, you can write in couplets or without any stanzas, you can use full rhyme (which I almost always avoid since I am no Dylan Thomas), half rhyme or have no rhyme at all. Poetry doesn’t even have to make sense; it only has to sound good. Take the Jabberwocky for instance, it has nonsensical words, but they sound right and the poem conveys feeling and creates mental images.
I think everyone should try writing poetry at least once —it can be very liberating. Unless you want people to know you need never confess that you write poems. If you want help with a poem bring it to the Writing Center; I swear I’ll never give your secret away.