One quotation that has always stayed with me was written by Roger White:
“When life touches us,
Poems appear like bruises.”
It’s true. Poetry does, or should, come out of deep emotion – feelings too intense to be described in mere prose. Writing poetry is difficult, and it should be, otherwise there would be no value in it. But it is not impossible.
We need a combination of qualities – cadence, diction, tone, attitude and form , that will make your poem an original thing , and make it your very own. Every act of writing is an excursion into memory. Let the poem know what you’ve learned in your life. Too much detail can be deadly to a poem, and except from the hands of an excellent writer of prose, almost never sounds new to us.Especially avoid stock adjective-nouns and stale comparisons. Cliches like a bubbling spring, searing heat, blatant lie, quick as a wink, make us cringe.
Be true to your sense of yourself. Trust who you are. Don’t make intimate revelations too revealing as sometimes they can embarrass your readers. The poem must be interesting, because that means it is not imitative. It’s important to read your poem aloud, whether it’s free verse or rhyming, so that you can work on the words until the sounds are satisfying. This is the way to make the poem your own.
Here’one one I had published a short time ago in a poetry magazine in the U.K. Noel Coward once said that nothing is as powerful as the sound of cheap music. The music I heard on this day was not cheap, but lovely, and it brought a sudden sweep of memory that I had thought was long forgotten:
A woman in the street
Strummed a guitar;
And suddenly I heard it …
Lost for decades
Lost, but not forgotten –
The chords took me back
Across the years
To when we sang it together …
Before all music stopped.
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