Saturday, November 17, 2007

4 x 4 Poetry Meme

Whirling Dervish at stoney moss tagged me with this meme:
List at least four things you think a beginning poet should attend to and four mistakes you think a poet should avoid.
I sketched out my answers before I read what the other folks had written. There's a bit of overlap, but maybe that means we're on to something.

4 things to attend to:
1 - Use your emotion as fuel. For a beginning poet the burning drive of a strong emotion can make your pen fly. What you end up with may not be good, but it gets you going. And a nugget may emerge here and there. I started with teenage angst (a long time ago).

2 - Find out where you like to write. See if you need to turn off (or walk away from) the TV to write better. Or maybe you need a buzz of crowds in a public place to spark your muse. Or favorite music. Personally I write best when it is quiet - not even music. But my ideas come to me everywhere, which brings me to

3 - Make sure you always have a pen and a little bit of paper with you so that when the great idea slams into your brain, you can jot down enough of it so that later you can use it. If something you see or hear or smell or touch makes you go, "hmmm" then maybe it is worth musing about through poetry.

4 - Read your poems out loud. Read slowly, as if you had never seen the words before. When you hear the words out loud, they take on a different life. Of course, this is also a way to find any inadvertent typos.

4 things to avoid:
1 - Don't ignore other poets. Read a bunch of them. You won't like some. You'll be turned off by some. You'll wonder if some poets even know what their poem means. But you'll also find words that stick in your brain. You'll find poets who speak directly to your heart. You'll learn new words and new forms. And you may even feel compelled to write a poem in response someone else's poem.

2 - Don't try to sound like anyone but yourself. This doesn't mean everything has to be autobiographical. You can place yourself in whatever character you can think up. But don't try to BE some other particular poet. The world already had a Shakespeare, an Emily Dickinson, a Rudyard Kipling, and a Maya Angelou. Go ahead and play with writing in their style, but don't let admiration become an obsession to BE them. Be yourself.

3 - Don't give up. Some of what you write will be dreck. Some will be trite. Write them anyway and then move on. And don't be afraid to edit: cut, add, rearrange the parts. Let the poem steep in the back of your mind and when you aren't trying so hard, something really cool may come to you.

4 - Don't forget that your reader doesn't know what is in your head until you write it down. Leaving some things up to the reader's interpretation is fine, but if the reader has no idea what ANYTHING means, he or she may give up on your poem. Leave them some clues.

I hope that beginning poets will pick from these meme responses the things that ring true for them and discard what doesn't work. There is nothing like the pleasure of having a completed poem, when you can look at it and say, "I made that!"

Now, who to tag? I guess I'll ask these poets I like to read: Clare at Clare's Sunflower Sky, and Holly Mac at Stuff I Said


Clare said...

Hi Sister AE! I love what you wrote for what to attend to and what to avoid -- wonderful gems of advice -- very encouraging and practical, too! Having pen and paper handy is crucial -- I've even literally written on my hand when I couldn't find a scrap of paper! I love reading poems out loud -- I think poetry is meant to be heard and felt this way. And being ourselves is hugely important -- in writing and in living our lives. You did an awesome job with this post -- I learned a lot from it, too! And thank you very much for tagging me to do it also -- I will post mine sometime this weekend! I hope you have a great weekend!

Whirling Dervish said...

Hi Sister AE

Glad you joined in- I especially liked the idea of carrying pad and paper with you. I've often thought of this (for poetry reasons as well as for a general idea book for my looming dissertation), but have never done it. You've inspired me- I'll dedicate some today!

sister AE said...

Hi, Clare. I'm glad your up for this and I'm looking forward to what you come up with. If you trace back to see what my tagger (and her tagger) wrote, you'll get some other interesting takes.

Thanks, Whirling Dervish. I finally got tired of writing on deposit slips and business cards. I bought a small notebook that fits in my purse.

Crafty Green Poet said...

Having paper always with you is so important, remembering to use it is also important (that's sometimes my failing!). I enjoyed reading your advice here...

sister AE said...

Hello, Juliet. Another tricky part is remembering where you wrote something. I spent a large portion of last week looking on the various computers I use (work and home) to find something I was SURE I had written. I eventually discovered it, yes, on paper in the notebook in my purse!

Holly Mac said...

Sorry it took me a couple of days to respond, but here's my ideas on the subject...


sister AE said...

Thanks, Holly Mac. I'm happy you took up the challenge.

(note for anyone following her link - you'll need to add an "h" to the beginning)