P O E T R Y
is that it is not
a bunch of prose
***like a diary entry***
written all strung out in poetic lines.
Most of us got quite a few bum steers about poetry from school. Often they never ask us to read poetry and one day they hand us an assignment to write a haiku or free verse or whatever. The assignment sheet often included a few poem attempts written by other school children to keep us down to that level. The teachers would elicit the kind of poetry they wanted— in ghettoized minority-group schools, kids were expected to write about their poor, miserable lives to make readers feel racial guilt— the kids mustn’t be allowed to let their spirits soar or anything. Kids had to write environmental crap and pollution and how people must quit having children since kids are just another form of pollution— for reasons of indoctrination, rather then any intention of letting kids write actual poetry with actual poetic values.
School poems were praised for political reasons or just because every creative thing had to be praised to the skies to raise ‘self-esteem.’ And so we have teenagers or twenty-somethings who pull out their self-concerned, whiny, prosy diary entries and write them in poetic lines and expect to be praised somehow.
Poetry is not just prose in poetic lines! Poems are full of meanings and images and sounds and rhythms and are more like condensed prose than prose-in-poetic-lines.
The way to learn poetry is this: READ poems of all sorts, good and bad, rhymed/metered and not. Avoid poetry from university poetry mags which can be heavy on dreck. Read poetry for YEARS, find some favorite poets and if they are people like Robert Service, so be it. Read your favorite poems over and over until you can recite them.
Then, when your poetic brain has ripened, start throwing words against the wall. Don’t revise them or plan them or make much of them. Just compose, write it down, and file the poems. Write on the computer or legal pads or a bathroom wall. By the time you’ve written a hundred or so poems, there are probably some good ones in the collection. If desired, get ‘Poet’s Market’ from Writer’s Digest Books and find some places to submit your poems to. In time you will get published. If you get published in more than one ‘zine, perhaps you are a Real Poet and can self-publish your poems in book or ebook form. Or perhaps you aren’t. Who knows?
And this is the One True Way to write poetry and become a poet. Or that’s what I’m claiming today, anyway.
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cats are melting
into the blue tiled floor