What makes good poetry?
If someone was to ask this question to a crowd of people, that person would probably receive any number of different answers. But in my personal opinion as the author of poetry books, considering the fact that poetry is an art, who is to say what makes one piece good as opposed to another not? Like any art form, it is highly subjective.
But with that being the case, I do believe that there are a few things any poet can do in order to make the best of their own work.
1. Be inspired -
If you don’t have some sort of inspiration behind your work, the result won’t be as satisfying as if you do. While in other forms of writing you can simply just jump into it, this is not the case with poetry.
2. Express emotion -
Letting your emotion pour out onto a page is very important in this particular form of literature.
3. Let if flow -
The flow of the words in your poetry is also very important. The more natural and compelling the flow of the words, the better your writing will end up.
As a writer, I consider myself a student of language. This includes both the uses and abuses of words common to our everyday communication. And while many words are overused all the time, in my opinion there are two that stand out among the others. These words are “love” and “hate.”
Having written two books of poetry to this point, obviously a genre of writing that deals in emotion, I can understand the tendency to use such words quite often. However, I can also understand why doing so can essentially devalue them to some degree.
Let’s take some examples.
Love is the strongest and most powerful positive emotion any being is capable of experiencing in their life. So while you may really enjoy pasta or are a huge fan of my hometown Pittsburgh Steelers, you neither love Italian food or the legendary football team.
Maybe this actor or that one may not be your favorite, or a specific song rubs you the wrong way. However, I am willing to bet that you do not actually hate either the movie star or that particular tune.
Moral of the story – think twice before using such strong words in either your writing or casual everyday speech.
Ah, the smell of sulfur
Fills the hazy air
This breezy July night
And sets my thoughts in motion
To ages long gone by
This burning fuel of beauty
And blasts of brilliant rays
Is far beyond the predecessors
That dealt in gunpowder
And bullet induced flames
So once there was a struggle
That from time to time renews
But such July evenings
A selection from the book “Shadows and Shade” by Pittsburgh writer Jason Greiner.
It’s not uncommon that a person may be asked, “what is your favorite…?” Perhaps the question may be pertaining to movies, songs, artists, food, actors or any number of other possibilities. But while it may be a bit unusual for the average person, as a writer I actually have a favorite word.
Sure, you might expect someone you writes poetry books, or a person who teaches a language or perhaps an individual who writes speeches for a living to have a word that seems to tickle their fancy. But the average person?
You might be thinking that that seems a bit odd but in all reality, you probably have one as well. The difference is that you might not realize it.
Think about it. Is there a term you use often in your daily speech? Maybe there is a single word you always seem to say at the start or end of any conversation. If you take the time to really figure it out, you might just be surprised.
By the way, mine is aforementioned.
While it would be nearly impossible to say any one factor is the be all and end all of writing great fiction, there are surely some aspects of quality writing that are quite simply a must. And there is one place that is pretty much an essential starting point.
No matter if you are planning on writing poetry books, sci-fi novels, dramas to be developed into material for stage or film or really anything else, you have to have a topic. And it has been said that there are no original ideas just original spins on old ones. When taking into consideration all of the centuries of storytelling across countless cultures covering the globe, I would venture to guess that this statement is just about as close to the truth as it gets.
So, what do we as writers have to do about it? Just what the aforementioned statement says – create an original spin.
A few examples of old concepts done in original ways:
(These just happen to all be movie references.)
1. Man versus machine
Examples – “The Terminator” and “The Matrix”
2. Underdogs overcoming the odds
Examples – “Rocky” and “Dodgeball”
3. The poor uprising against the rich
Examples – “Robin Hood” and “In Time”
When I was a kid…
I dreamed of being a professional basketball player. While I loved the game and was pretty good, I turned out to be a whole 5 foot 6 inches tall. And, short, white guys don’t usually make it too far in that game, lol.
So, when I got a bit older, sometime during my teen years, I started thinking about what it might be like to be in a band. Of course I fancied myself as the lead singer. So what if I couldn’t hold a tune, play an instrument and hated performing in front of people. I’m sure we could work around all that somehow. Besides, girls dig guys in a band.
As a writer, I have made some attempts to write songs. But desipte the fact that I have authored two poetry books to date, I was never one who really had the knack for writing lyrics.
What I thought I was pretty good at was coming up with band names. So with that in mind, here’s some I don’t mind sharing that I created over the years.
In my early to mid teens…
A little later on…
Rules of Enragement
Sounds of Chaos
By the way, if any on your musicians out there want to “borrow” one of these names, go for it. Just make sure you give me the credit. And if you make it big, maybe a couple of million or so wouldn’t hurt either.
When I was a kid…
Like so many other children I had a vivid imagination. And along with that imagination came the desire to draw. Now when we all first start out drawing, most children’s pictures look pretty much the same. Later down the line, we notice some people really have a talent for this artform.
From time to time, I still like to doodle a bit but would never be one that someone could reasonably call good at drawing. Aside from some silly cartoon sketches like the one below, I’ll just stick with by skill set shooting portrait photos and writing poetry books. I’ll leave drawing to the experts.
Which all that being said, there is one thing each of us can to do sort of “cheat” if you will when it comes to drawing. Get yourself a nice photo of what you’d like to draw, go out and buy a pad of tracing paper and trace the heck out of that picture.
You can always start slow with something like the horse below. And after that, move on to a more challenging adventure like the image at the bottom of this post.
Perhaps you or I may not have the natural ability to draw like the masters of the art but we can at least try something close.
A simple tracing effort suitable for beginners.
Something a bit more advanced.
As is the same with any other art form poetry does require some level of natural writing talent and ability. However, no matter how much talent one may have, without the tools of the trade, it can be hard to realize your full potential.
Here is a brief list of items any poet should have in is or her “tool kit.”
1. A good thesaurus
This is necessary to keep the creative juices flowing with variations in your text. As a general rule, it is our tenancy to reuse some words more than others. By making use of a good thesaurus, you can expand the vocabulary range within you poetry.
2. “The Bibliophile’s Dictionary”
This specific book is a collection of unusual words and phrases that will be sure to capture the interest of your readers.
3. Poetic works by others
Last but not least it is essential to get your hands on poetry books by a variety of other poets. Study their work and learn from them as an athlete might study game films of one of his athletic heroes.
Utilizing tools like these is sure to help anyone develop their skills as a poet.
Combining my love or poetry with that of music, I decided to post a link I found to a like synopsis of various poetry books by musical artists.
While the finds as to what may be good versus what may be bad i do not necessarily agree with, it does make for an interesting and failry comprehensive list.