Sunday, September 06, 2009

Why the Poem Wasn't Working...

In my deep-cleaning of my closet, I found a group of poems I had critiqued by another poet and his responses to me on why he thought they weren't working. He gave me some of the best advice I've ever received from a poet...ever.

Here's a few things he said about three of my poems that weren't working well and some things I try to remember when I write --

Poem #1 / Problem #1--
The Unevolved Poem

There is no evolution in the poem. It's interesting, but the poem doesn't have a real sense of purpose, it never really goes beyond it's topic. And as an added bonus, the poem also lacks energy.

Idea to fix it-- Go back to the first moment I was compelled to write about this and try again, try a new path, try to go further, to push the topic further and see if it evolves. Think deeply about what sparked the poem, then allow the poem to move past this original idea.

Poem #2 / Problem # 2 --
The Coward

The poem starts with a sense of urgency and begins to evolve, about halfway through, the poem loses its courage. This is a poem that has purpose, but then the writer becomes afraid of where its going (for whatever reasons) and doesn't follow through.

Idea to fix it-- Mark the place where the poem begins to go off track, think about what you're afraid to say, and write it anyway.

Poem 3 / Problem #3 -- The Repeat Offender

This poem has a purpose and then repeats it, again and again. It needs a shift, it needs to move forward as it stays in 2nd gear.

The repetition works for awhile, but creates a need on the part of the reader, a need for change. Again this poem lacks evolution. The poem does the same ol' song and dance the whole way through.

Idea to Fix -- Be aware of how the poem is repeating itself and how repetition can become boring if the reader knows what to expect. Create surprise by allowing the poem to go to a new place that surprised both writer and reader. Go through the poem and highlight the strongest parts and delete the rest. Write, wash, repeat. Stop trying to control the poem, allow the poem to lead you to a new place. Put foot on clutch, shift to 3rd...

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