April Is National Poetry Month, Writing Advice for Poetry from Marie Kane, Write from Abundance and the Power of Verbs

Writing Poetry

Writing is frustrating and fulfilling, difficult and satisfying–and writing poetry is even more so.  I taught high school English for twenty-right years, and loved it.  Yes, it was often demanding and exhausting with too many bleary-eyed nights grading papers, writing comments that one hoped students would read and use in a revision, but feared they would not.  However, teaching kids how to write–persuasive essays, research based papers, speeches, debate proposals, memoirs, and poetry and fiction–was something marvelous.  Teaching Creative Writing became my favorite.  When I began teaching the class in the 1970′s, I knew absolutely nothing about the craft of teaching it.  My poor early students!  I only knew that I loved to write poetry and short stories; so my students and I carried each other along until I had read enough, written enough, took enough graduate classes, and taught the class enough to know what I was doing.  I hope what I’m saying here aids any writer with this challenging–and marvelous–craft.

Here’s some ideas I have found  to be useful when writing poetry or fiction.  I make every attempt to keep these in mind when I write.  After all these years of writing poetry, they are probably ingrained, anyway.  I’ll have more tomorrow.

>Write from abundance.  I write a lot, more than I need for a poem.  If I’m stuck, (which I often am) I might write continuously for five minutes, then ten, and see what happens.  (SEE DIGGING DEEPER FROM 4/3 AND 4/4 2014 ) I may find a gem or two among the words and lines.  Distill, distill–find the lines that you’re drawn to, and restart.  Soon, a piece of writing begins to form.  Think how a sculpture is fashioned–from a block of solid material, form emerges; the unwanted stone is whittled away to reveal the art within.  Think about poetry this way.  From the hundreds of thousands of words known, some are selected, put together, fashioned, formed, crafted and the result is a poem, short story, novel–or any of the other myriad things we write.  So write A LOT in the beginning–you can toss anything that is not useful to the piece.  Or, do what I do.  Create a document where you save the lines or words you have ejected from a poem, etc.  I have often used a word or a whole line from these ‘rejects’ from other pieces.  (I’ll have a post about this, too.)

>Verbs are the engines of writing.  Well chosen verbs move writing better than anything else.  Avoid forms of the ‘to be’ verb (is, are).  Instead of using a generic verb such as ‘walk’, try for something more accurate, such as “saunter,”  “jog,” “march,”  or ” slouch”–any specific word to describe the action.  Look at your poetry; –is there a strong verb that can take the place of a weak verb and an adverb?  “Walk quickly,” is a two-word descriptive phrase that is more concise as “stride,” or “pace”; the verb and adverb, “look angrily” is better as “glare,” or “scowl.”    Make every word count, especially your verbs.


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