And this is the next installment of Questions by Pegs of Pegspot and the remaining questions of “How to you build a poem and How do you know when to stop.” As was originally asked in the Writers Digest forum.
I have said before you need to open yourself. And you need to be willing to let the writing go in the direction it wants. Don’t over think it. Name what you feel, see, taste, smell, touch it, put it in a category. Examine it with that sixth sense you have. We all have it we just need to be okay with using it. Don’t worry, you don’t have to actually tell anyone you caught the 6th sense. And try not to be afraid if you see dead people, chances are most won’t hurt you.
I typically write free verse and I highly suggest that you check out the many, many types of poetic forms that are out there. There are several fun forms and some that really can piss you off, but you should at least try them 2 or 3 times before deciding that you hate a certain form.
Is your subject something you have directly experienced before, have heard about 2nd hand, or are curious about? It is not uncommon to do some research and reading on a subject before you write about it. Sometimes that is what led you to your subject to begin with. So you have picked your subject or it chose you. It has rolled around in your thoughts; showed you how it feels, what it tastes like, sounds like, smells like, what its texture and purpose is.
If you are having a hard time getting started try some free word association; write your subject down then branch out around it with descriptive words or just start writing those words out in sentences or short phases. Arrange them so that you have a beginning, middle and an end. Ok for the most part you want a conclusion to be reached. This does not mean that a poem can’t be open ended-meaning there could be more, but there’s not, sort of like a good book it can leave you wanting more yet you are still fulfilled/satisfied.
I know I have mentioned the same sensations over and over but I think you need to let these seep into your senses. I’m also pretty sure that there are a lot of poets out there that will disagree with me and that is fine and dandy. What works, or what I think works for me may not work for you.
Once you have a rough draft, you need to reconsider each and every word. Do they convey the best possible meaning for the work? Is this a soft floatly sort of poem or a hard sharp piece? Be sure your words match with the sensation. Words do have a sensation about them, ones that we don’t readily recognize at first because we are desensitized to that part of them. I mean come on we have been using the same words since we learned our ABCs. You need to consider the number of syllables and the stresses on those. Most poetry has a lyrical flavor to it, that happens with the way the sounds roll off your tongue and curve into the next one. Read them outloud.
I know this is not a direct answer as to how to write a poem but maybe it is enough of an explanation to help get you started on how to build a poem. There are plenty of books out there for you to enjoy and learn a way that will suite you.
You can become anyone or anything your brain thinks up. If you don’t like what you have written you can destroy it. There is a lot of freedom in poetry and writing in general as you can be free to say what you want and or desire whether it is nice or not.
And now… How do you know when a poem is finished?~~ when it is published, because after that if you change anything it becomes a new poem.
Let the poem sit and mature, age for a bit (a bit can be from a few hours to a few years) come back to it with an open mind and fresh clear attitude. Be ready to revise it or leave it as is.
For me it is when the poem feels finished, when there is no more to say, when I don’t make any more changes or if I keep making the same minor change(s) and flip-flop back and forth, Then I just have to make the decision that it is done. Some of my works may never be done some are so awful they should be burned.
And there y’all have it my confusing convoluted take on the How To of my poetry world.
I strongly recommend reading poetry (read a lot of it), writing it and critique the works of others it will improve your work.
You never know experience until after you experience.