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  LiveWire / Teen Forums / The Literature Forum / Viewing Topic

Poetry Writing Guidelines
Replies: 23Last Post July 7, 2006 5:55pm by dovelove
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( anonymousss  )


Enlightened One

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Poetry Writing Guidelines
*All information courtesy of Writing Poems:  Sixth Edition, The Poetry of Robert Frost, The Norton Anthology of Modern and Contemporary Poetry:  Vol.1, 2 and my ol’ noodle.  Other additions provided by:  Katerie.

It has come to my attention that this particular forum yields a multitude of writers, and more specifically, poets.  It has also come to my attention that many of you…need help.  I can see a lot of potential in quite a few of you, but I think, perhaps, you need some guidance and instruction.  So…voila.

Key Definitions

Writing Taboos
-Clichés
-Mixed Metaphors
-Obscurity/Abstractions
-Forced/Altering rhyme schemes
-Redundancy
-Applying Angst Effectively
-Ambiguous/Redundant Wording

Writing Essentials
-Titling a Poem
-Line breaking/Form
-Imagery
-Metaphors/Similes
-Assonance/Internal Rhyme/Alliteration
-Tone
-Spelling/Grammar/Punctuation
-Theme
-Originality
-Revision

Common Types of Poems
-Sonnet (Petrarchan, Shakespearean, Spenserian)
-Villanelle
-Pantoum
-Haiku

In addition, if anyone has any suggestions or feels that I've missed something in regards to the 'guidelines,' let me know, and I will certainly take it into consideration.

(Edited by dovelove at 11:15 am on July 8, 2006)

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4:09 am on Oct. 21, 2005 | Joined: Jan. 2003 | Days Active: 470
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( anonymousss  )


Enlightened One

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Key Definitions

Ambiguity:  a poem’s ability to offer more than one plausible reading at a time
Alliteration:  the repetition of consonant sounds in several words in a passage
Assonance:  the repetition of vowel sounds
Cliché:  stale, too familiar words, phrases, and metaphors
Concrete poem:  when the physical poem takes shape
Connotative:  figurative (meaning)
Couplet:  most elementary stanza, two lines; when rhymed, a, a, called a heroic couplet.
Denotative:  literal (meaning)
Diction:  word choice
- Five levels:
- Formal
- Informal
- Neutral
- Colloquial
- Vulgar
End rhyme:  placing rhyming words at the ends of lines
Foot:  basic unit of a metered pattern (iamb is the most common, in English)
Form:  preserves and, at its best, expresses content
Internal rhyme:  Rhyming a word within a line
Irony:  discrepancy between the author’s attitude and attitude(s) expressed within the poem
Line breaks:  create pauses and introduce unexpected emphasis in a poem
Obscurity:  elements which create confusion and abstractions in a work
Onomatopoeia:  imitate the meaning of words (buzz, rattle, snap, whirr)
Metaphor:  transferred qualities from one thing to another
Meter:  the counting of the measure of beats in the lines of a poem
Mixed metaphor:  a metaphor that combines unrelated, even contradictory, elements
Narrative:  tells or implies a story
Persona:  when a poem’s speaker is clearly someone other than the poet
Personification:  treating something inanimate as if it had the qualities of a person
Quatrain:  four-line stanza
Simile:  when a metaphor is stated directly, syntactically announced by ‘like’ or ‘as’
Syntax:  structure of phrases, clauses, and sentences
Tercet:  three-line stanza
Tone:  a poem’s complex attitudes toward its subject, including the attitudes of the speaker and poet

(Edited by anonymousss at 4:03 am on Oct. 22, 2005)

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...And so am I


4:10 am on Oct. 21, 2005 | Joined: Jan. 2003 | Days Active: 470
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( anonymousss  )


Enlightened One

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Clichés

Clichés are the worst thing you can do, in any creative writing!  You’ve heard and seen them over…and over…and over…until your eyes and ears bleed.  They are unoriginal, boring, and just sort of make you want to roll your eyes.  Always try to avoid using clichés—be creative!

Some phrases that utilize oh-so-obvious clichés:

My heart is broken
Hated her with a passion
She felt alive
He will face his fear
Young and innocent

Some phrases that utilize not-as-obvious clichés:

She felt so vulnerable and exposed
They all marched into the future
He was a loving husband
She arrived like a queen
The sound rang in her ears  

The following is a link to a website chock-full of clichés for all occasions—just so you know what not to use:
Clichés

(Edited by anonymousss at 8:10 am on Oct. 21, 2005)

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...And so am I


4:13 am on Oct. 21, 2005 | Joined: Jan. 2003 | Days Active: 470
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Mixed metaphors

Ugh, these can make you cringe.  It usually happens when an amateur poet fails to control or focus the nuances of a particular metaphor, ignoring a metaphor’s literal for its figurative meaning.

Example:  If we’re to marshal our forces, we’d better swing at every pitch and try to etch our cause into their consciousness.

See, first we have a likening to the military…then baseball…then art?  No, no, and no.  Not only can this confuse a reader, but it just sounds…bad and not well-thought out at all.  A focused metaphor is a good metaphor.


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Roses are red, violets are blue, I'm a schizophrenic...
...And so am I


4:14 am on Oct. 21, 2005 | Joined: Jan. 2003 | Days Active: 470
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Obscurity/Abstractions

Your reader needs to understand what you’re talking about.  But believe me, it can be quite hard to recognize what is obscure and what isn’t.

Example:

Why this vile truth?
To be a captive,
a World War II Jew,
ensnared,
because of you.

Now, depending on context, this stanza may or may not make sense.  However, though this stanza is somewhat focused, it can still potentially present many abstractions.  You could ask:  is the speaker talking literally or figuratively?

A more (perhaps) obvious example would be:

How unusual, to watch
as the snow floats to earth
this September,
as a sky fills with brilliant red
beyond the once dual fortresses.
All is lost.

Now, while a few might actually comprehend the meaning of this particular stanza, the majority would simply utter, “Huh?” without realizing that it is describing the World Trade Centers the day of 9/11.  ‘Snow’ obviously refers to the ash falling, and the rest falls into place (after you’re told what the hell it’s on about).

(Edited by anonymousss at 4:10 pm on Oct. 24, 2005)

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...And so am I


4:15 am on Oct. 21, 2005 | Joined: Jan. 2003 | Days Active: 470
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Forced/Altering rhyme schemes
What I mean by 'forced':  an unimaginative and monotonous rhyme scheme that does not offer any exciting change in rhythm.

Example:

Today I went to school
And then I failed my test
But everything’s okay;
I know I am the best!

This is not exactly brilliant writing.  Makes you almost want to bob your head up and down when you read it.  Almost.

Know that not every line must match up in length!

Now, when I say ‘altering rhyme schemes,’ I’m talking about the extremes.  If you decide to rhyme one specific way, don’t change it!  Of course, you might want to do it to represent a different speaker in the poem, but in general (as I am aware there are always unique exceptions), it just makes your poem choppy, leaving your reader stopping mid-sentence.  It, in essence, ruins the flow of your poem.

Example:

I saw him today  A
He was no help  B
I shall keep him at bay  A
Or perhaps eat some kelp  B

Then all of a sudden…

Everything felt awesome  A
Everything will blossom  A
Don’t worry about it  B
It’s just a little bit  B

Just kind of makes you go, “What in the hell?”  Or it does for me, anyhow.  Feels like two completely different poems jammed into one.

(Edited by anonymousss at 2:22 pm on Jan. 21, 2006)

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...And so am I


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Redundancy

This is pretty self-explanatory.  And I am not referring to repeating verses/ideas, because that is perfectly acceptable (and in fact, many different kinds of poems are supposed to do that).  I am talking about repeating an idea with different words, usually in the same line.

Example:

He strolled to the store
walking there himself

You’ve already stated that the guy’s strolling…no need to reiterate it.

(Edited by anonymousss at 4:12 pm on Oct. 24, 2005)

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Line breaking/Form

Gotta somewhat have form.  It does not need to be strict, just not…everywhere.  This is where line breaking can help.

Know when to line break.  A lack of knowledge in this particular area leads to an incoherent, fickle, and choppy poem.  When you’ve got a rhyme scheme going (especially, end-rhyme), it really isn’t that hard to know how you’re going to break your lines.  However, when you start dabbling in contemporary, blank verse, poetry, that’s when it becomes more…difficult.

Example of a bad utilization of line breaks:

Fine lines and cobwebbed
veins carved and
molded into the skin of the hands of
my aging mother.
So much like
the clay swirling in
her grasp, the dull whirring
and circling, an artistic longing, unwinding.
The slow, steady
pace of
Adjuma takes control

Example (of the same stanza) of a better utilization of line breaks:

Fine lines and cobwebbed veins
carved and molded into the skin
of the hands of my aging mother.
So much like the clay
swirling in her grasp
the dull whirring and circling
an artistic longing,
unwinding.
The slow, steady pace of
Adjuma
takes control


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Roses are red, violets are blue, I'm a schizophrenic...
...And so am I


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Imagery

Use it!  Pull out those descriptions and really use your imagination!  It’s basically, show, don’t tell.

Bad example:

It was cold in December.

Better example:

The wisps of smoke-like breath wholly veiled the flesh-flushed pinks of ice-covered faces; digits tingled, anesthetized from December’s arrival..

A bit drawn out there, but you get the point.


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4:19 am on Oct. 21, 2005 | Joined: Jan. 2003 | Days Active: 470
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Metaphors/Similes

These literary tools are so important.

Basically, these particular elements, in addition to imagery, are really what give a poem its interesting content and wonder.

Some similes:

…the snow is like crushed aspirin.  
--Cinema Vérité:  The Death of Alfred, Lord Tennyson

your own whiskers
that look rumpled as if something’s
been in them already this morning

--Pamela Alexander, from “Look Here”

their faces memorized like perfect manners
--Eavan Boland, from “The Dolls Museum of Dublin”

The beach hisses like fat.
--Elizabeth Bishop, from “Sandpiper”


Now some metaphors:

Silent as time, simple as snot
--William Trowbridge, from “Slug”

When I have fears that I may cease to be
Before my pen has gleaned my teeming brain

--John Keats, from “When I Have Fears”

The words are purposes.
The words are maps.

--Adrienne Rich, from “Diving into the Wreck”

My Life had stood—a Loaded Gun—
In Corners—till a Day

--Emily Dickinson, from “My Life had stood”


When attempting to incorporate a metaphor or simile, first think of subject that undergoes transference (known as the tenor).  For example, I want my tenor to be…an eyebrow.  Okay.  What does this eyebrow look like?  Thick.  I want it to be furry and thick.  All right.  Now, what’s something that’s furry and thick?  How about a caterpillar?  Good, now we have a vehicle (caterpillar), the source of the transferred qualities.  And now, with a little alliteration, I’ve got a decent metaphor going:

His eyebrow arched, a coffee-colored caterpillar crawling across his bridge of a forehead.

I keep writing more in favor of prose because that is usually what I am familiar with, so pardon that particular aspect.  Nonetheless, you can apply the same, rather dumbed-down techniques for poetry.

(Edited by anonymousss at 4:13 pm on Oct. 24, 2005)

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Assonance/Internal Rhyme/Alliteration

These particular elements of poetry are just as important as utilizing metaphors and imagery; they can be used in any kind of poetry.

Let’s first deal with assonance.  These are vowel rhymes.  

Example:  lot and fop.  Pretty straight-forward.  But nonetheless, another:

Why are the stamps adorned with kings and presidents?
That we may lick their hinder parts and thump their heads

--Howard Nemerov, from “Power to the People”

presidents and heads form the assonance.


Internal rhyme:  rhyming within lines, occurring anywhere throughout a specific stanza, so…

Example:

And I keep hearing from the cellar bin
The rumbling sound
Of load on load of apples coming in

--Richard Wilbur, from “Year’s End”


Now, alliteration, which is the repetition of consonants.

Example:  But when loud surges lash the sounding shore
--Alexander Pope, from “An Essay on Criticism”


In a particular unfinished poem of mine, I combine all elements into one stanza:

I choke, convulse
Must breathe
But the devil downed my heart
where it lies alight,
and I will take you with me.

(Edited by anonymousss at 4:15 pm on Oct. 24, 2005)

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Tone

This is pretty much where the poet gets to set the attitude and ‘feel,’ so to speak, of the poem.  Tone incorporates the speaker’s and poet’s attitude toward the subject.  If you’ve ever critiqued poems/prose, you should definitely know what I’m talking about.

Tone gives a poem character, from dark to light, cynical to optimistic, irresolute, etc.  Edgar Allan Poe would be more associated with dark tones whereas Shakespeare, in writing of love (when he’s not off killing all of his characters), can be associated with a lighter tone.

In Robert Frost's “Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening,” which sets a somewhat dark tone.

Whose woods these are I think I know.
His house is in the village, though;
He will not see me stopping here
To watch his woods fill up with snow.

My little horse must think it queer
To stop without a farmhouse near
Between the woods and frozen lake
The darkest evening of the year.

He gives his harness bells a shake
To ask if there is some mistake.
The only other sound’s the sweep
Of easy wind and downy flake.

The woods are lovely, dark, and deep,
But I have promises to keep,
And miles to go before I sleep,
And miles to go before I sleep.

Though there are always multifarious interpretations when it comes to forms of literature, it is generally accepted this particular Frost poem (if you noticed in the final stanza) is a metaphor for death.  The speaker looks into these woods, and yearns to seek the comfort of darkness (death), but remembers that his life must continue because of “promises” (in his life).

(Edited by anonymousss at 4:17 pm on Oct. 24, 2005)

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4:21 am on Oct. 21, 2005 | Joined: Jan. 2003 | Days Active: 470
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Spelling/Grammar/Punctuation

Yes, you do need correct spelling, grammar and punctuation in poetry.  Not only is it a courtesy to your reader (like in all writing), but it can make or break a poem’s flow.  But just as important, it gives meaning to your content.

For example, capitalization:

If I wanted to refer to the southern states (in the US) in time of extreme racism, it might be best to write:  Deep South instead of deep south.  Capitalizing those two words lets the reader know exactly to which south I am referring.

In relation to punctuation, simply put, it’s a necessity.  Commas let a reader know when to add a slight pause (which are ever-present in poetry).  You have periods to inform of a stop, etc.

Just like writing any decent paper.


More on this, provided by Katerie:

This concept cannot be stressed enough.  Even if the content is remarkable, your poem will be brought down several notches because of the appearance and presentation of your writing.  Punctuation for poetry is fairly open, but whatever you do, use it.  Don't forget about apostrophes in words like "won't," and "can't," as well.  

Stick with one tense.  Don't switch from past to present unless you're creating the illusion of a flashback, or really know what you're doing.

Finally, know what to capitalize- it's generally, again, pretty free-range, but proper nouns are always capitalized.

(Edited by anonymousss at 4:08 pm on Jan. 29, 2006)

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...And so am I


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Theme

Hopefully, as a poet, you’ll know what you’re talking about—must have a theme in mind.  If you have limited knowledge in a particular area, either do some research on it, or don’t write about it.

If your poem happens to be rather abstract, try to go stanza by stanza, and ask yourself:  What am I trying to portray/say in this stanza?  This line?

Try to focus your poem as much as possible.  I mean, sure, you could write about the atrocities of (general) war, but wouldn’t your poem be much stronger if you wrote of a specific war?  That way, you could really grind in those details and descriptions.

(Edited by anonymousss at 4:18 pm on Oct. 24, 2005)

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...And so am I


4:22 am on Oct. 21, 2005 | Joined: Jan. 2003 | Days Active: 470
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Originality

Self-explanatory, really.  But please, try to think of some other topic you could write about other than death, depression, and love/lust, seeing as it tends to be overdone amongst adolescent circles.

Now, there’s nothing wrong with writing about those things, especially if you feel you know a lot about it and could really pour your heart into it…however, at least be original in the way you do it.  The previous Frost poem was concerned with death, but it was ambiguous in a very clever way—a metaphor.

Nevertheless, challenge yourself—pick a topic you’ve never tackled:  9/11, an imagined place, c’mon, use that noggin!  If you’re Christian, perhaps you could write of heaven/hell (do try to stay specific)…if you’re not Christian, and in fact, hate over-zealous Christians, maybe you could write about that!

(Edited by anonymousss at 4:22 pm on Oct. 24, 2005)

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...And so am I


4:23 am on Oct. 21, 2005 | Joined: Jan. 2003 | Days Active: 470
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