1. Pchew
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    Pchew Member

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    help writing poetry?

    Discussion in 'General Writing' started by Pchew, Mar 30, 2012.

    I wanna get more into poetry :). Does anybody have any tips, websites i should look at, or anything that can help me? :)
     
  2. Lemex
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    Lemex That's Lord Lemex to you. Contributor

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    Any site with poems in full, they are not hard to find. Wikisource is a good place for poems (and prose) in the public domain. Even some prose and essays on poetry.
     
  3. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    I'd suggest starting with a textbook on literature written for schools. Such a text will give a broad cross section of poetic styles, and will also provide some analysis to get you started. Don't turn up your nose at high school literature texts, either. You may find more clarity in explanations, and more depth than you may expect.
     
  4. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    yes, all of that... also, i mentor aspiring poets, so if you want any one-on-one help, you can drop me a line any time... i can also send you links to the best poetry sites...

    love and hugs, maia
    maia3maia@hotmail.com
     
  5. Lemex
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    Lemex That's Lord Lemex to you. Contributor

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    The Ode Less Traveled by Stephen Fry is a fairly decent beginner book. It details some of the key terms and methods in poetry, but I hate to say this (even though Fry admits this himself) he's no expert on the subject. More of an enthusiastic amateur. Reading the book I couldn't help but find some passages subjective, and others underdeveloped. You get the sense from the book that he scurts around areas of poetry he's not terribly familiar with, or not terribly knowledgeable about.

    Poetry by John Strachan (which was mandatory reading for me in my first year of university) is another book worth checking out, with a more in-depth discussion on poetry - the key ideas, terms and methods. It's better than the Stephen Fry book, but lacks Fry's characteristic humor.
     
  6. Phoenix Hikari
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    Phoenix Hikari Contributing Member

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    To learn about poetry, read poetry. To learn poetry, feel poetry. To understand poetry, write poetry. And do something for the sake of heaven, don't get so interested/obsessed about the rules that make poetry. Poetry is an art that's meant to fly freely and not be bounded by the laws and rules, perfectionists try so hard to apply.
     
  7. JackElliott
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    JackElliott Senior Member

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    The Triggering Town by Richard Hugo may help you.
     
  8. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    I disagree strongly. Poetry isn't just random words thrown against the wall, and keep whatever sticks.

    Rules and structure in poetry are to the benefit of the student poet. They provide a foundation the novice can build upon. Creating poetry without any structure is much more difficult, like building a mansion without beams and posts and load-bearing walls. Any stricture they impose is more than balanced by the support and guidance they provide.

    Before you break the rules, you need to understand the purpose of the rules in the first place.
     
  9. Kaymindless
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    Kaymindless Contributing Member

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    I'm with Cogito. Studying and attempting to write structured poetry, while not always fun, is going to build a good foundation for whatever type of poetry you find you enjoy.
     
  10. Phoenix Hikari
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    Phoenix Hikari Contributing Member

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    Of course, that's why I said 'don't get so interested/obsessed' and didn't say 'never learn/look them up'. With no foundation one's writing will read like nothing but cat's scratches.
     
  11. schmiler
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    schmiler New Member

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    I agree with this. I learnt about poetry in secondary school, college and then university. I think each stage taught me a mass of things that without knowing, wouldn't have created some of the pieces that I have. Reading poetry is a great start (doesn't even have to be famous pieces). You could try buying an anthology and looking through to see how the greats have done it and what you like/don't like about their techniques. I started writing poetry before I really learnt anything about it and I still have them. My techniques and language have changed but the voice is still the same. Find yours by writing and refine it by reading.
     
  12. JackElliott
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    JackElliott Senior Member

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    For someone just learning to write poetry, I don't think writing poetic forms is the right way to go. It's too difficult, and there's the chance the writer will fall into bad habits and select words not because they are the right ones, but because they're the ones which fit.

    Better, I think, is no structure or a semi-structure where the writer can learn first how to write a poem with specificity and imagery. From there he can choose to tackle forms if he wishes.
     
  13. digitig
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    digitig Contributing Member Contributor

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    I don't know of anybody who actually tries to apply laws and rules to poetry (except the universal rule, "make it excellent"). But I agree with what I think Cog and others are saying. Too many people think they can write anything they like and call it "poetry". And indeed they can, but it's almost certain to be extremely bad poetry. There's probably far more dross written under the name of "poetry" than any other form of writing, by orders of magnitude. So although I agree with you that there are no "rules" for poetry there are a lot of tools that are tricky to use well. If you want to write good poetry then you have to become skilled with at least a substantial set of those tools. Otherwise it ends up even worse than Cog describes: it's just "words thrown against a wall". Limiting it to "whatever sticks" is a rule too far for all too many. :(
     
  14. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    I'd suggest that it's the restrictions/structure that make it poetry. It doesn't have to be rhyme, or rhythm, or meter, or layered imagery. But something has to define the poem - delineate it, give it shape.

    The framework chosen by the poem is like the sculptor's choice of medium. A bronze stature will have a different presence than a sheet copper work or a stainless steel wireframe, all else being as equal as possible. The choice of medium, and its limitations, is a component of the final piece.
     
  15. digitig
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    digitig Contributing Member Contributor

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    Yes, I agree (sort of). But I'm careful not to define that in terms of "rules". There isn't a rule that says it has to have rhyme, and there isn't a rule that says it mustn't, and so on. But I say "sort of" because I can see that even something with a complete lack of structure if consciously chosen by the author as the best way of getting the desired effect might still be poetry [1]. That "if consciously chosen" is still a restriction, though, so it still "sort of" fits within what you are saying. Where I'm pretty sure we're agreed is that if the original questioner wants to write good poetry then they should not only read lots of poetry but should learn to recognise the techniques that poets use and learn to use those techniques. Critical reading -- working out why something works or doesn't work -- is important for all writing, but probably particularly so for poetry.

    [1] I'm not an inherentist, so technically I ought to say that if a reader can discern that the complete lack of structure is a particularly effective way of achieving the effect they perceive then the work functions as poetry for them.
     
  16. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    I carefully avoided the word "rules" in my post as well.
     
  17. Pchew
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    Pchew Member

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    Thanks everybody for all the advice! :). Im working on writing right now, as well as spending time reading peoples poems in the "poetry" section :).
     
  18. digitig
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    digitig Contributing Member Contributor

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    It might be worth looking at a copy of Ruth Padel's 52 Ways Of Looking At A Poem: or How Reading Modern Poetry Can Change Your Life. She analysis 52 modern poems for the techniques they use. Like pretty much everything that analyses poetry there's a danger of making the poem look like a cryptic puzzle, but it's still one of the most accessible works I know that does this sort of thing with modern poetry.
     
  19. superpsycho
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    superpsycho Contributing Member

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    Being new to writing poetry I did a web search for "Types of Poetry". I suggest you try it. Poetry is not about rules but it is about structure and there are a lot of forms with more being created all the time. Each form has it's own rules.
     
  20. Floatbox
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    Floatbox Member

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    I think this is one approach, but maybe perhaps not the best one. Does the spirit of poetry lie in academics and analysis? I buy that formal study can inform one's poetry, but it is essential to admit that the process of studying poetry is not the process of writing poetry. To an aspiring musician, one might point him to Bach and music theory, but the guy in the basement funneling a bad breakup into the few chords he knows will know more of the rush, the passion, the authenticity of real art. Because the creation of poetry and art is not just about technique, it's about having something significant and beautiful to say and having the guts to express it honestly. This is why a hiphop artist can touch people without studying formally. And I cannot see any poem of any artistic value being made with knowledge of technique and historical context alone.

    On a basic intuitive level, this post is much more evocative of the poet's spirit. I'd argue that poetry should operate on this level - that the difference between poetry and non-poetry is the difference between cog's advice and phoenix's.
     
  21. JackElliott
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    JackElliott Senior Member

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    It's also part of the reason the internet is drowning in awful poems.

    When I was learning guitar, my stepfather (who was my teacher) often showed me the technical aspects of music -- chord progressions, etc. I got the sense that it was important to understand this stuff, even if I didn't want to. And, later on, I remember him telling me to learn these rules, learn them so well that when you're on stage you forget about them and just play and be confident in the fact that all of that training, even though you are not consciously thinking about it in the moment, will prove its worth.

    I have this condition, I suspect it's terminal: I always tend to roll my eyes when other artists suggest that art, particularly good, enduring art, happens by 'magic'. Because often times it doesn't. Allegedly Kerouac, master of spontaneous prose, revised the hell out of his work. But you wouldn't know it by reading. And that's what we love about Kerouac.

    Ignoring the rules or the proven techniques of an art form on the basis that they may interfere in the artistic process is extremely naive.
     
  22. Floatbox
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    Floatbox Member

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    I stand by my original statement. I think it is an appropriate comparison for a beginner.

    Hey, I didn't suggest that. Good Art does not happen by magic. No, instead I'm talking about what we mean by the term 'poetic'. What is it about the attitude of the poet?

    Is that what we love about Kerouac? That he mastered spontaneous prose through revision, and we cannot detect said revision in reading him?

    Here's Tolstoy on art.

    90% of all work will be crap, unfortunately. They can be poor imitations of other art. They can be dull and lifeless, or vague and pointless. They can suffer from delusions of significance. The worth of art originates from the worth of the artist's perception and so we must first celebrate the perception if we are to ever begin as poets. And the funny thing is, when I didn't understand this, that is, when I didn't know what the point of art was, I took comfort in knowing I was doing 'good work' because I was following the rules just like I was taught to. The dissonance I felt was knowing deep down that the rules didn't have anything to do with it.
     

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