A Creature Called "Poetry"

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Poetry is not at all like fiction. Oh, there are plotlines and protagonists, but poetry is to the point. With prose you get to spend a fair amount of time establishing your characters and plots. But with poetry, the author must grab the reader's attention right away and not let go of it. The writer must make her point quickly and, in most cases, adhere to strict requirements and forms. For that reason poetry is of its own devices. Pun intended.

It doesn't matter if the writer is flowery with her words and it doesn't matter if we agree with her perspective. All that matters is that we understand her message. And that, is precisely why we need to pay close attention to the details. That is, if we want to understand the meanings, and, if we want to be academic about it we can take it to the extremes.

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Concerning the details. One should read the poem through and get a feel for the entire piece before going back and examining the parts. A lot can be learned by the title and the language. What clues can the title provide? What is the mood of the narrator? How does the piece flow? Are there ebbs and rises? Are there abrupt stops or short pauses? What is the form? How is the poem divided on the page? These clues can tell us more about the poem than simply reading it over once. And I'm sure the author appreciates us contemplating these many things. Any time spent reflecting is time spent connecting. And that is the goal of most, if not all, writers - to connect with someone.

Beyond all the technicalities, a poem is a story, compressed into a tight space and meant to be contemplated, absorbed into our being.

When one writes a poem, she sometimes just starts off with a phrase or an idea. Where it goes from there depends upon what the writer wishes to accomplish with the piece. The goal might be to write a sonnet or to offer some free verse. The author might use one or two of the many devices available to the craft. Then there are writers who simply "just write" and see what comes of it. They may rewrite a piece half a dozen times before they are "happy" with it as it is. Then again, the piece is never really fully finished. Like a Monet painting the canvas is never fully complete. And that is the fun of it all.

For now, it is enough to want to write. Just take some time and do it. One of the most fulfilling moments in your career comes when you are "done" with it. Your piece is ready to share. Or not. There are many closet poets out there. So don't be shy about connecting with people. There are more eyes and ears who appreciate the craft than you might know.

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