Poetry GuidelinesA Lesson by
How can we become better writers and attract more readers.
What is Poetry?: Poetry is not some random jumble of lines like what most people would like to believe. There are specific rules and guidelines to poetry that make poetry, poetry. Now there is the original standard of poetry that we know of, like Homer and Vergil, who constructed lines in specific meters and rhymes. Now this was their life style, and for Vergil it took him a decade and a half to make his masterpiece. However, we can’t expect to achieve such greatness, especially with the language barrier that separates us. The Latin language was more versatile and followed a very strict set of rules that I believe better allowed these poets to write. Since we, in reference to English speakers, do not have a well-constructed language, I believe this has trapped most writers into settling for something less. Plus, with all the free time people around the world have today, amateur writers are rampant. What this means is that more poetry is being written. However the biggest difference between now and the generations past is the route of communication in which our poetry is circulated. With the world wide web our poetry can be circulated around the world for anyone to view. But what does this have to do with what I call the deterioration of poetry. Before I begin I would like to say that anyone who wishes to write, may it be prose, which most people mistake for poetry, or anything else, is their own way of writing. My only concern is the people who claim to write poetry but have no idea what poetry is, and therefore, do not write poetry. I believe most people believe that if they write something in the “basic format” of what a poem looks like, that they have written a poem. Now I will give you a definition of the modern definition of poetry. This definition is a more free and basic one that allows room for improvement and understanding. This definition will be explained throughout these other titles of how to correctly construct a poem.
Presentation: What is the first thing that someone sees when they open up, click on or receive your poem? It’s font, style of wording, color of words, overall length, length of lines, bold, italics, or underlined writing, etc, etc. First impression is everything; I have not read some poems all because my first impression which told me that this writing is not worth reading. Font should be appropriate, meaning, it should be at about the standard twelve point font. If you wish to emphasize something in your writing there are appropriate ways to do so, as I could say about each of these topics. Your style of writing is also important; I have picked up a piece of writing where I could not actually read the style they had picked. You want to avoid distractions to readers, and often times, presentation flaws, are the biggest ones. Color of words are usually a bad idea; with all of my poetry I only have one that has colored wording, and only two of the words in that specific poem at that. This should be used at your very best discretion. Length is a touchy subject, some people have so much to say and therefore they have a very long poem, or vice versa. Another important thing, and this also goes under another topic, is content, and you need only the necessary information in your poem. The only thing that is truly important with length is that you don’t leave it too short. I’ve seen people write a line or a two and call it poetry, that’s not right at all. Length of lines is also important, as I’ll tell you more later on, the lines should be around the same length (most times—with poetry, there are always exceptions). I’ll explain why in the meter section. Lines should also not be really long, meaning that they should run (on a computer page) to about half of a page at most. I’ll explain more of this in the lines sections. Bold, italics and underlined writing are generally used for emphasis, but in fact, I believe they generally remove the emphasis in a writing. I’d recommend not using these, if your words were meant to have emphasis then you would have written it that way without your useless attempt of trying to do so with this lame “technique”.
Title: Titles are also part of presentation and therefore, just like everything else, it’s important. They are one of the first things that a reader sees, sometimes even the first, and you need to capture them in with this. If you have a boring title or a cliché title, then what is going to draw me to want to read it? Now, not all poems are about something completely interesting, great poems sometimes are about a tree, or a snake, or a vague description of an emotion. How can we spice it up? Well we can’t always, 100%, make it an interesting title; or even make it interesting to every single person, as we all well know. But the idea is to do our best. If you feel like you are incapable of judging your own writing, like many do, seek help, it will usually work. Another thing, when deciding a title you must always make sure that your title correctly represents your entire poem. Don’t be a loser and misrepresent your poem or mislead your reader.
Lines: Lines in a poem should be properly constructed. The reason for this includes the use of meter and rhythm flow that please the readers’ eye and the speaking of the phrases. However, this will be better addressed in the meter section. The lines should be near the same length as this will help the general flow of the poem; this is one of THE most important things, making sure your poem has a good rhythm that is easy and desirable to read. This is a rough rule, lines can be different lengths, but what I am talking about is a general rule of thumb. (As are most of these rules.) Many of these can be bended and have exceptions, but these guidelines are here because that is what will get you recognition for standing out in the literary fields of “norm”. One of the best ways to figure out if you have a consistent and appropriate flow to your poem is to find someone who can be honest with your writing. As poets we must rely on outside sources to help us improve. I admit, as a poet myself, I struggle to better my writing without an honest opinion. Each line is fundamentally important to your entire poem, think of it as a piece to a pie. If your pie is missing a piece in a pie contest, will it win? Not at all. So each line must have a completed structure of its own. Along with this, a line is a complete thought; therefore, you must treat it as such. A poem breaks down, the entire idea that your poem is behind, the stanzas that make up the separate ideas of a poem, and then the individual lines. Lines should also contain only a certain amount of information; I’ve seen lines that are almost, if not, full sentences; the point of a poem is to reveal something great and grand in a shorter amount of words. Too often we add too much detail to our lines and forget that we, as humans, can relate with each other on very many levels. The poem is merely a gateway to what truly lies underneath us all. And therefore we can draw from this that, when writing, we must condense our words to a minimum.
Meter/Flow: I have touched on this a few times, and what it comes down to is that, when one reads a poem they want smooth transitions between words, lines and stanzas. If you struggle reading your poem out loud, chances are your reader will as well. By creating a soothing flow to your work it will naturally attract your readers. No matter what kind of great ideas you have, unless you can present them in a correct and soothing presentation, you will not enrapture your reader with what you wish to reveal to them. Picture your poem as a rap, regardless to whether or not it has a rhyme scheme to it or not. A good rapper doesn’t even need to have words that rhyme in order for his words to sound great. But because they are written in such a way, they are attractive to the listener. When composing your poem, pretend you are a rapper, and let these words come to you at a steady beat, if you will. This leads into my next point. Rhythm is all in the perception of the writer, your meter of rhythm may not fit what others will view it as. So again, I urge you to seek outside critiquing in hopes that an honest review will set you straight.
Information/Ideas: These next two topics are suggestions that I put together for readers and writers to consider when reviewing poems (which will be explained in the “Review” section) and constructing poems. Let us face the problem at hand, all the good topics to use have been taken and there are the good ones and the ones that shame these topics. Then there is the problem of finding a new and interesting topic that will intrigue readers, however, this is both unlikely and the fact is that I cannot help you find something new; that is inside of you for you to find and so I will not touch on this option. So what can we do to write poetry that will interest a reader, and the fact is, unless we have something new to bring the table, our poems will not be recognized. The solution is to find a new way of presenting this idea in your own unique words. Instead of painters painting the same white clouds, blue sky and green mountains, some painters used different colors, etc, etc. Writing is the same way, paint your poem in a different light. Find what unique aspect you have to present to your reader and then: try your best.
Review: How can we better assist our fellow writers in helping them become better? The first thing is to comment when you feel it is necessary, even if it is really fantastic or just too terrible for your time. Now why should we help writers? That sounds like too much time to waste especially when we do not get anything out of it. But, that is where you would be wrong. In reviewing poems we will become better writers. Having a critiquing eye for others’ work will help us hone our own skills. But how shall we give good reviews? First read the entire poem then contemplate what you should say based on the guidelines I have roughly presented. Look at title, information, presentation, structure, etc, etc, and then decide what are the most important things you wish to show the author of this piece. Then construct your review methodically and nicely. No one likes a review where the reviewer is a complete jerk. Say what you need to say in the least amount of words, but do not sugar coat it to the point where it seems like you are trying too hard, be subtle, but direct. Consider if this were them reviewing your piece.
If you think I have missed something, passed something over, you think I should add in more information concerning a topic, you have questions, or anything, feel free to message me.
Added on September 25, 2011
Last Updated on September 25, 2011