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Chapter #14 - Teeage Poets: Teen Poets Are Supercharged

i. Why Teens Write Poetry

Teenagers write poetry for self expression, sharing feelings, thoughts and ideas and for all the same reasons that anyone else does. How is it different? Maybe it isn't. Teenagers may not have as many miles on them as adults, but their vision is sharper and their reflexes are faster. Sure, some people say their judgment is not as broadly based, but teens aren't afraid to experiment. And in most cases they have a lot of things to experiment with that their parents didn't have. Where their parents had dictionaries and encyclopedias, teenagers have always had the whole Internet as well. They also have the advantage of standing on the figurative shoulders of their parents and another generation.

ii. Teens Are Ready To Write Very Well

Teens have learned to read and have had a lot to read. They have lived at least 13 years in a very technological world with no memory of any other. They write about, and in, that technological world. They are comfortable with computers. They write a lot about relationships and a lot about fantasy. When teenagers write exercises for writing class, they often surprise themselves and their teachers with their insights and inventiveness. They have developed extensive vocabularies. They often surprise with their grasp of traditional forms of poetry. Teens have absorbed a great amount of the history and traditions of their communities. They help preserve and improve the world's ideas and values. They have begun this process, and will continue as they quickly assume the full responsibilities of the adult world.

iii. Write It - Save It. In Future Years You Will Be Amazed At What It Tells You Back

A common topic with many teens is the conflict between their world and the adult world. The teen poet helps define this often abrasive interface. In later years he also gets to see how well he predicted his own mature self. Hold onto anything you wrote when you were a preteen and you will have an even more valuable document of your maturation. What would a scribbled poem by a ten or fifteen-year-old Shakespeare be worth today? It would be a prize for whoever had the original document, but would draw very little attention from the general public. It would be examined very carefully by scholars to add to knowledge of Shakespeare's development.

iv. Writing Is No More Limited Than Thinking

When a teen sits down to write, he can of course write anything he thinks, but writing it makes it much more accessible to others. Reality is possibly the same for everybody, but imagination can be dangerous material. When you write it, anyone who sees the paper can see your thoughts. You may know; but others may not realize which thoughts are fantasy and which are real experiences or intentions. A teen who journals his thoughts in poetry or any form of writing should be aware that those written thoughts can be misinterpreted.

v. Writing Clarifies Your Thoughts

On the other hand, putting thoughts on paper may make them clearer to the writer. Thoughts which come from the unconscious mind continue to grow even for the writer after they are put on paper or on the electron tube. When a poem is read to others, the poet may get responses that allow him to develop the thought much more deeply and extensively. Write another version if you are hesitant to change the original. If it is worth writing once it is worth writing several different ways and at different times in your life.

vi. Others Teach You What You Mean

When you hear other people's responses to your poem, you start to realize more about what you had written. Others may understand in a different way that expands on your assumed meanings. It may mean a different thing to each reader.

vii. Writing Is Less Private Than Thinking

Thoughts in your head are private, although some people may be able to see evidence of them in your eyes. If you write them on paper, they are only as private as the drawer or bulletin board they wind up on. Even poems posted on the Internet may be fairly private; but can also unexpectedly explode into a very public form. If fame ever comes your way, every dumb thing you ever published or posted online may get dragged out. Don't worry about it: write it!

viii. Creativity Is The Ability To Be New

It is very common for a teen to have a blindingly powerful idea and to feel it is completely new, only to find later that many other people had a similar idea. After a number of such experiences a teen writer may be afraid to publish certain poems and to suspect that a really new idea may be one that is probably common. Read a lot of teen poetry as well as literary magazines to see how yours compares and how original your ideas really may be.

Try writing a poem that gets across the idea of love without actually using the word "love." This will help you step back one step from the most obvious cliches. Try writing about love with a different symbol than a rose. You will be starting where the first poet started. Try writing using an unlikely subject such as a rusted watch as a symbol for love. Try writing using the ordinary objects in your room as symbols for unique comparisons.

ix. Experience Teaches When The Idea Is Really New

Even when you write an idea that others have used, you are not likely to write it in exactly the same way. Ideas held in common by many people may be universal ideas worth preserving in many forms, or they may be untruths. Examine them and don't be afraid to affirm or disagree with famous ideas. Creativity is a word often used but seldom understood well. There is a great book, now about fifty years old, but still fresh in its ideas. It explains a lot about creativity that is of use to any new or experienced poet. The book is The Art of Clear Thinking by Rudolph Flesch. It is a valuable book to read in any phase of life.

x. Don't Be Intimidated: Follow Your Teen Writing Instincts

teens Although many teens write poetry, there are few hard copy publishers or contests which solicit specifically teen poetry. Teens must generally compete with adult poets, many of whom are college trained and educated. This may not be as much problem as it seems. A fresh approach may be plagued by cliches but also have stunningly brilliant insights. The intuitive mind of a teenager can be as much in tune with the subconscious source of creativity as any trained poet. Unsorted ideas may contain wealth just as river or ocean sand may contain gold.

Inexperience often contains the free thought of uninhibited creativity. Don't be intimidated by adults who can find flaws in your poems. A serious critic can also find flaws in all the old masters. Take your strengths and weaknesses in stride, and write enthusiastically. Save it all and reread your lifetime output. If you give it a chance it could grow in your lifetime to match any of the greats of poetic history. They were all teenagers once.

Article written by Don J. Carlson. All Rights Reserved

For more information, please contact: Don J. Carlson

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