Thursday, January 10, 2008

helpful hints for beginning poets

so you want to write poetry. Don't worry about being the next poet laureate. Just follow these few helpful hints.
What is a poem? a poem is often a combination of an emotion and an image that seem paradoxical. Here is an example. A friend of mine recently lost her mother to a long battle with Alzheimers disease. This was her first Christmas without her mom. Her husband's relatives came unexpectedly to stay and so my friend decided to decorate her house. While she was searching for packed-away Christmas decorations, she found a box of glass ornaments that had belonged to her mother back when my friend was a child. She was thrilled to find them. And saddened not to be able to sit down with her mom and say "Oh look at these! Remember them?" Instead, she hung one each in all the thresholds of the rooms of her house as she had seen her mom do long ago. The poem lies in the contrast between her joy in finding and hanging these beautiful ornaments that are each a memory of her mother and her mother's absence. Feeling grief and the image of each delicate shining ornament.
It is important to write from the gut not the head. Not to "think about " writing poetry. I sometimes recommend closing your eyes as the pen or keyboard reveals the words. You can always look at it later. Tinker with details after.
Don't end a poem all tied up nicely like a perfect predictable bow. A reader's mind likes surprise and respect. For example in keeping with my illustration of my friend's mother, suppose she paints us a wonderful word picture of her mother hanging these ornaments-- good memories as a child, and then surprises us with feeling angry because why did her mother leave her? with "what good are these glass things? when I can't ask my mom what to do about a life situation any more".."when I can touch the glass but not hug my mother." Another possible image she could use would beif she dropped an ornament and the sound and sight of the broken shards..and feelings evoked...


Erin said...

Excellent-that helps me so much. How do you know which type of ending is better?

zirafa said...

well done, rachael!