In December 2014 I made a post pretty much outlining the dos and don’ts of poetry. Here and now, I’d like to go over my past self’s tips and revise or make clear what I meant, as my understanding of poetry has grown greatly over the last 12 months.
1. Don’t use repetition.
Unless you know what you are doing. I see many poems on this site and elsewhere that don’t have a great grasp of when to use this device. From my experience, It tends to work out better if the repetition is formulaic, and offers increased emotion for the reader. Don’t use it for the entirety of your poem, and don’t throw it in haphazardly into a single verse of the poem, unless it helps to keep the overall flow or rhythm of the poem in place. I think this is what my past self was trying to convey. It is a very difficult device in my opinion. An excellent example is The Bells by famous Edgar Allan Poe.
2. Don’t open with a question.
I may actually be guilty of doing this in the past, I don’t actually remember if I am or not… Regardless, I do see people throwing around questions in the same way the misuse repetition. It all comes down to know when to use it. If you think throwing in a question as the first line of the poem will help, experiment with it, as what you do first in your poem shapes the reader’s notion of the rest of the poem. Also, the first time you write through your poem (i.e. first draft) may not necessarily be the best. Revising and reworking is highly recommended.
I tend to find that opening with a question musters a lot of pathos in the reader, and I don’t like to necessarily do that in my poems, as I like to throw in the emotion later on when I can. However, you may want to be your poem to be pure emotion, with very little structure. It all depends.
3. Build Up.
I actually kind of still agree with this one. Like any piece of medium, you want to grab the viewer/reader by not overwhelming them. This may be a reason why I don’t engage in attempting to give the reader feelings until later in the poem. When I read through a draft when writing a poem of sentimental nature, I don’t want to feel overwhelmed by my love, fears, or sadness from the outset. I may not be in that state of mind later. A reader might not have that feeling active in them when they start to read the poem. This is why you must build it up in them, evoke it in them.
These were the three points I made in my original post, and reading through it, I think my past self may have come off as a little obnoxious. Perhaps I read a bad poem and was in a foul mood when I wrote it. Anyway, I hope that the above advice helps you when writing your verse, and that you have a happy new year.