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Chapter #19 - Any Time is a Good Time to Read or Write Poetry

i. Read Some Old and New Poetry This Month

Read some poetry or write some. April is National Poetry Month, but you can read or write any time; and everybody should get in on the action. June is the month for weddings and love poems. People write poems in all seasons to fit the holiday or weather. If you are not ready to write it or read your own, go to a poetry reading, or check out some poetry books from the library. Look up some poetry sites online and see what is being done in poetry these days. If you are a writer, read on, and maybe pick up some tips about the direction you want your poetry to go.

Try the Internet link at the end of this chapter to read some poetry online.

ii. What Is Your Overall Purpose In Writing?

Do you consider yourself a potential master of poetry or a dabbler? You may be trying to add to the conventions and traditions of meter or forms. You may try to invent new forms better than sestinas or haiku, or go beyond free verse. You may be trying desperately to interweave all the poetic devices such as alliteration, metaphor, aphorism, conceits, or to go to the next logical step into the untrammelled territory of the twenty first century. You may be overly involved with the lives of recognized poets instead of your own life. You may be trying to live the life of poetry itself. It may be a living organism to you, an evolving life form....

If you don't know about alliterations and aphorisms, look them up at a poetry glossary online. Or get a poetry teaching book from your public library or bookstore, or at an online bookstore.

iii. Are You a Dabbler in Doggrel?

If you consider yourself a dabbler, you may be having so much fun that you don't think of whether your poetry has any critical merit. You may be all wrapped up in what academicians call contrived rhymes. You may find yourself more at home around cowboy poets than at a university poetry reading.

You won't be able to intimidate a cowboy poet by pointing out that he writes doggerel, or by telling him he has manure on his boots.

iv. Is Entertainment a Goal?

Do you try to entertain yourself or others with your writing? If you are into poetry as entertainment for either yourself or others it makes little difference. It is still entertainment. It has been said that the people who are most highly regarded in our society are the people who provide diversions for others. Poetry as diversion definitely has a secure place. There may not be much money in it but we haven't yet got to poetry as money.

v. Poetry as Money?

Ok, poetry as money, What is there to say? You're kidding of course?

Actually, poetry can conceivably make you some money, too, if you devote your energy to marketing instead of writing. Even Bill Gates showed himself to be able to function primarily as a marketer for awhile. A poet could do the same thing. It will surprise everyone if you make as much as Gates has done, and do it with poetry. You can learn something about marketing poetry, but you may have to choose how you ration your time, if money is a top priority.

vi. You Are an Artiste Perhaps?

Is poetry an art form to you or a means of communicating with your classmates and other poets. Artists create for artists, mostly; and for themselves. They barely tolerate their patrons, unless they are lucky enough to find one who encourages them to do what they were planning to do anyway. Communicating with your classmates is exactly the same thing. People love to toss ideas and artistic efforts around among peers of similar interests. Painters can hardly wait to show another artist their latest painting. Poets are just as eager to show their work to a peer.

vii. Seriously Now, Are You Joking?

Do you take writing too lightly or too seriously? By whose standards? Everybody but Edgar Allen Poe will consider you too morbid if you lean a little to the somber. You will have your work cut out for you to get lighter than Ogden Nash or Edward Lear. If you are anywhere else in the spectrum you will alternately be accused of being too serious or too trivial. If you are fairly consistent you will be identified as one or the other. If you write all over the spectrum you will be labelled as inconsistent.

viii. Horror of Horrors, Do You Love Tragedies?

Are you attracted to people who live tragic lives? You may be one of those who loves to read Kafka and Sylvia Plath and watch movies like Amadeus and Lust for Life. You may have an autographed copy of the writings of Poe and be in ghoulish heaven with the contemporary trend toward horror in every aspect of art. If you want to think just a little on death you can read Emily Dickinson for a lighter dose. You will find plenty of morbidity everywhere you look. Morbidity can be found from the beginning of art history to the present and with no signs that it is losing ground. You can find morbid stories in Homer as well as Stephen King. I can't name the modern epitome of horror poetry as it is not one of my preferences, but you fans of the macabre can, I am sure.

ix. Love, Requited and Not

Are you primarily motivated by love? What, another Browning? You may be one of those people who dwell in thoughts of your beloved and think up rhymes in their praise from midnight tryst to aubade. Maybe your butterfly is your only peer of consequence. You could be crushed if your latest poem misses its mark.

x. Religion is a Real Topic of Poetry Despite Censorship

Is religion your main topic? Are all your thoughts of God and righteousness? You may be one who is devoted to exploring eternal values and rejecting the temporal plane. You will find plenty of company in the great poets of history from Blake to Eliot and beyond both. Shakespeare was well versed in scripture. Of course that is where the saying well versed comes from. You will also find a lot of poets on the web with similar or strangely different slants on your point of view. You will certainly find people who are rabidly angered by any mention of such things. You may also get ideas for sermons (if you are a minister.)

xi. Following the Rules, As Teacher Says...

Are you mostly interested in following the rules of poetry taught you by a teacher? Cultivating the process of developing as a poetry student in this way is fun and will lead you to greater heights as you continue to develop. There is no end to the conventions and critique of poetry; so you will have a long road to travel if you choose. You can also jump off into a personal expression at any time.

xii. Do You Have Your Own Reasons For Writing?

What is your reason for writing this poem? I am not about to assume that I know. Whatever it is, it has much potential. Chances are it has been tried in some form many times. If you read a lot of poetry you will find others so remarkably similar in some way that you will be amazed. Your reason is partly an outgrowth of your place in history and partly a rejection of it. It is your frustration with or calm acceptance of paradox.

xiii. Why This Particular Form? Have You Considered Others?

What is the form of this poem, and how does it enhance the reason for writing it? Maybe you have never considered writing in different forms from the one you have always used. If you have taken a class in poetry you have probably tried at least a few different forms. If you haven't, you could benefit from knowing the expected limitations of the form you have been using.

Are you just playing with words to see what turns up, And will you decide later whatever the purpose might be. Just having fun, are we? Recording a few thoughts for posterity or just taking notes on life as it swiftly passes by. Those are certainly valuable things to do. You can make poems or essays from them later if you like. All you have to do is write on any topic that interests you at the moment.

xiv. Does Everything Become a Poem?

Do you try to make a poem out of everything you write? You may be working too hard or maybe you are up to the job. It may be important or not. You can certainly cram more importance into almost anything you write. But, after all, how many poems do you need? How about two like The Iliad and The Odyssey?

xv. How About Work as a Topic?

Does your work get into your writing? They say write what you know. It may be pretty interesting if you are writing from professional experience. There are a lot of us who don't know much about your field. Most poets have other jobs.

xvi. What Sticks Are in Your Bundle?

Your writing may include more than one of these topics. If you are an adult, it probably will include a few of them over time. If you are very young, you may be having a lot of fun just making up rhymes. If you are in love, you probably are too involved at the moment to have much interest in all these other possibilities. But there comes a time of grief, too, and you should still write. It will ease the pain to write about it. If you keep a record of all your life events and ideas you will be able to scan back through them and remember. Preserve the levity and the pain, the love and the loss. Your love of words will also grow; and words are great companions in whatever you do.

xvii. Sorting It All Out

Poems for publishing may include everything at first; but you will become more discriminating later, and want to select just the best to publish. Any mature poet only publishes a small portion of total output. When you begin, you need help from someone who has good instincts. They will be able to help you avoid publishing something that may otherwise forever embarrass you. Although there is a danger of that for all poets, they must also develop toughness and resistance to criticism. There is a lot of personal disclosure poetry being written.

Here is a poetry link for your enjoyment and information. They include several types of poetry for you to sample.

The Atlantic Online - "The Atlantic places you at the leading edge of contemporary issues -- plus the very best in fiction, travel, food and humor. Subscribe today and get each issue a month before it hits the web. You'll pay just $14.95 for one year (11 issues)."

Article written by Don J. Carlson. All Rights Reserved

For more information, please contact: Don J. Carlson

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