One of the projects I’m working on right now is a collection of poetry. The only description I can offer at this time of development is that the collection of poems will move between light and dark.
While tackling a collection of poetry is a big endeavor, the art of writing poetry is much smaller, written a single poem at a time. I’m not talking about the epic poems, some of which can books in and of themselves, which must undoubtedly be broken down even further, but the smaller, more common poems.
You start with an idea—usually an image or a turn of phrase, sometimes a concept. You write the poem, sometimes over the course of several days, sometimes in a single great spurt of inspiration.
But you don’t just want to stop there.
Like any other form of writing, the possibility of a poem is best realized through crafting and polishing. Of course, it helps to know what to look for in your poem.
Here are some questions to ask yourself:
- What is the unifying element of the poem—is it the structure, an image, a concept, a feeling?
- How do the other lines support that unifying element?
- What works?
- What doesn’t work?
- What could work better?
- What works best?
The answers to these questions may encompass entire stanzas or lines, or the answers may center on a single word or phrase. Sometimes changing one word can turn mediocrity into excellence. Sometimes every word of every line is close—so close—but not quite right. Often the crafting a poet needs to do falls somewhere in-between.
Experiment. Keep each draft of what you come up with. Find the pieces of the whole that go together—you may need to pick and choose between drafts in order to do this. Then, once you’ve put together the new, crafted version of your poem, it’s time to polish it. Make sure each word, line, stanza contributes to the whole to achieve the unified purpose.