Poetry is very much an art. That means that writing poetry entails exploration and practice. More than that, though, the exploriation involved in writing poetry can be very enlightening. There are words that come easily to us, then there are those that take finesse, thought, and persistence to find. Those are the words that can oftentimes be burried beneath your skin, deep behind the emotional conext of a larger situation.
There are many shades to each word, just as there are shades of each primary color that a painter uses. Sadness, for examples, is a word that is so large, that it cannot possible mean the same thing for every situation. That is why a poet uses images, figurative language, and other poetic skills to slice away at adjectives and abstract language. The poet digs between the meaning of certain words, and looks to unearth a meaning that does not exist in conventional language.
Exploring ways to define the different shades of words is an experience that, whether you write poetry simply for therapy, or you write poetry in hopes of one day being published, will help you to reach a direct path to heightened awareness. You will become more aware of your own thoughts, how you perceive them, and you will learn to read the meaning of simple objects and situations in your every day life.
Here are some basic exercises to get you thinking honestly about your writing.
Rewrite a classical poem using your own point of view. Play with perspective. Write it from the point of view of someone you know, or write it as a response to the original author.
Write a poem about yourself, but don't show it to anyone. Here's a basic template. Feel free to rewrite the lines, and don't answer the blanks by writing the obvious. You should come up with something that resembles a poem, and perhaps if you are clever enough with the manipulation of it, it could very well be a poem. This exercise isn't designed to create a masterpiece, rather, it is designed to show you the kind of poet you are.
When you are finished with this piece, not only will you see some details about yourself in general, but you can look at the way you manipulated the exercise to see a certain style. Ask yourself these questions: What kind of metaphors did I use? Did I completely change the direction it seemed this exercise was supposed to take me? How did I restructure the lines? Did I add rhyme?
I Am: an exercise in poetic self actualization
My name is (first name).
When I was (child age) I [. . . ].
When I was (older age) I [. . . ].
I've always wanted to [. . . ],
but when I turned (age), I [. . . ].
My thoughts are like a [. . . ],
they [verb] like [. . . ].
My skin is [. . . ]
I'm wrapped in a [. . . ].
I ripped myself from [. . . ],
when I was (age).
Even when I turned (age),
I knew that [. . . ],
I know for sure that [. . . ].
Now I [. . . ].
I am [. . . ],
Write a letter to some object. Throughout our daily routines, there are objects that we see that have some kind of effect on us. Of course letters and special momentos have significant meaning for us, but have you ever been caught up in thought about a particular item that doesn't fit into the momento category? That's what you will write a letter to.
Again, this exercise isn't designed to create a masterpiece. It is more of a self-defining process. As with the other exercises, you might end up with something that could be considered a good poem, but the idea is to make you see how you observe the things around you. Keep a notebook handy with you throughout the next day, week, or month. The next time you drive to work, take your kids to the park, or go to a grocery store, keep mindful of the way you percieve ordinary things.
In summary, there really is no such thing as good or bad poetry, only undiscovered poetry. Simply writing down what you think sounds poetic won't reach the audience, and it won't do anything for you. You do need to dig around, scratch your skin until it bleeds. Then and only then will a true poem surface.
The process of writing one poem may take you a day, or it may take you a year. Finding the rawness of your poetry is as enlightening as discovering the meaning of life.
Devrie Paradowski is the author of “A Ray Squeezed Through, " http://www.lulu.com/content/139977 a weird combination of dirt smudged poetry, failed attempts at self discovery, and awesome mistakes. Visit her literary website at http://www.literaryescape.com or chance a visit at the poetry exercise website, http://www.poetryexercises.org