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Some General Notes on Poetry, II

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Tue Oct 17, 2006 6:48 pm
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Incandescence says...

Centering Poems

Ever wonder why they do it? Back in the old days, when poems were typed up on the old Royal manual, one didn't see too many poems centered on the page. Too much work, for one thing. All that retyping and whiting out. Then word processors and computers came along and all the bad poets quickly discovered the centering function. Suddenly centered poems started popping up all over the place. Why, you could even run them off and send them to the print magazines. It made all it look so creative and poetic, right? Wrong. It's merely another sign of laziness and - ninetynine times out of a hundred - a good indication that what you are about to read is going to be really, really bad.

Leaving out "the"

I was tempted to give an example of what I'm talking about but decided against it. There's enough examples of this kind of writing on the poetry forum. Someone, somewhere, decided that leaving out the "the" articles in poems somehow made them sound more heartfelt and meaningful. It doesn't. All it does is make every piece written this way sound exactly like every other piece. It isn't clever, it isn't creative. It isn't even original. It's merely another sign of bad poetry.

Manufactured Words

Occasionally I come across what I like to call manufactured words. There are dozens of examples of these but a good one is the use of "ly" at the end of a word. "Tranquilly", "Heartbreakingly". (Please note a conjugation of two words usually doesn't constitute a manufactured word, so long as it is clever and original.) Every time I come across one I wonder why the writer simply didn't choose another word? I guess because they sound so poetic, right? Wrong.

Too Moving to Critique

I know you've seen this before. The poem about the baby dying in the hospital. Or the homeless waif out on the street. Or the deeply, deeply personal one about how Daddy abused the poet when he/she was six. We mean, it's all so sad, so true, you can't actually say anything about the poem without coming off like a completely insensitive clod, right? Wrong again. This is the cheesiest and most obvious form of emotional blackmail. Don't be deceived by it. Even more important, don't do it yourself.

Spelling, Punctuation and Grammar

Er, well, obvious, right? Er, well, no. You'd be surprised how many people I see submitting their works for critique, in the classroom and on the YWS, who don't know how to spell, don't understand the use of apostrophes, can't grasp the basic elements of grammar and use the wrong words entirely. I'm not talking about typing errors here. Here's a couple of examples: I got you're letter today. She paid me a nice complement. Her eyes shined like diamonds.

What absolutely baffles me is how people who cannot construct even simple declarative sentences (something one picks up in junior high school) seriously believe they can write poetry. Like someone trying to compose a symphony without knowing the first thing about music, isn't it? Like wanting to be an architect without having a clue as to which end of a hammer is used for hitting the nail.

If all of this rings true regarding your own work, here's my sincere advice. Take up some other artistic endeavor. Poetry isn't for you.

Now, there's always more, and I'll be adding to this page as I discover/remember the clunkers that regularly appear in my classes and on The YWS's pages. Check back often. And don't be disheartened. No-one said writing poetry was easy, for Heaven's sake.

"If I have not seen as far as others, it is because giants were standing on my shoulders." -Hal Abelson

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266 Reviews


Gender: Male
Points: 1726
Reviews: 266
Tue Oct 17, 2006 10:15 pm
backgroundbob says...

U no, that was just 2 heartfelt + superdedooperemotionsentimentally chargificated for me 2 possibly consider commenting on it.

Might look better centered, though.
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