Poetry: Why and How to Do It

Kaylyn HaslundBY KAYLYN HASLUND
For the UAS Whalesong

I am the “Queen of Comma Splices” within the confines of the Whalesong office. This is because I write poetry, which doesn’t require as many commas as you would think. The thing is, poetry is a great outlet and form of writing that often gets ignored for novels or essays, and everyone should try it out at least once. Fun fact: I actually used to hate poetry with the passion of a thousand tiny babies. I really hated poetry for no real reason. That is, until it magically became my main source of creative work, and hey, it’s panned out well for me. It’s also a lot of fun, despite what people may say about the forms, which are many.

So, here are some reasons why you could try it out and how you can, because it could open a whole world of options for you individuals.

Pick your subject or theme, because it is the entirety of your poem. It can be about anything you want. This is the most important part of your poem. Without it you have no poem, which may seem harsh, but it’s the truth. You need to have something to write about before you start writing, you can’t just word vomit on a page and hope for the best. I used to do that and it was probably why I never really enjoyed writing poetry, because I didn’t see any importance in my subjects. This is also important because it shapes the understanding of the poem, depending how the rest of the work is built around the subject.

Pick your form. This could include couplets, triplets, haiku, epics, and so much more. Sometimes, I find, picking the form first can help you figure out where you’re going. It can also shape how it reads to readers, because having a triplet and then a couplet shows the importance of that stanza. The form is so important because it is the backbone of your poem, without it your poem can’t stand. If you move anything around you could easily change the reader’s understanding or even the meaning of your words. You should also be keeping your individual stanza lines in mind with this. If a line goes longer than all the others in its stanza, then it seems out of place when you could have just made that stanza a few lines longer. Where your stanzas are and what they do tell a certain story and create a specific reading of your work, which you would want to be held true to what you intended.

Use new and beautiful description. You don’t want to use anything clichéd, such as “She was like the stars against the night sky.” Instead you should try something more along the lines of, “She flickered like a candle, the wax of her hair dripping onto skin.” It’s just something to try out, because then you’re giving the reader a vivid image into the meaning behind the poem, about the person it may be about, or even the story it’s trying to tell. I also have found it to be one of the most fun parts of writing poetry for myself. Like, how can I make this new and   exciting? Have I heard this before and if so, how can I make it new?

Read it out loud and find the natural music. Poems are like lyrics and have a cadence in  accordance with them. If you can’t tell if your poem has one, try reading it aloud, because hearing it will allow you to hear the musicality of your own words. It’s important, because it can help you in the editing stage, because it can help you find were to put commas and periods. How you read a poem is crucial, because where you pause or stop shows the importance of the words themselves and how they relate to one another. Where should the reader stop to breathe? What type of temp could they be reading it to? I typically do this after a first round of edits and then begin picking apart how it should be read aloud.

Finally, make a title for your poem. I think, one of the most important things for catching a reader’s attention is the title. It should pertain to the subject or even be a lead in to the actual poem. It should somewhat indicate what the work is going to be about, without completely telling the reader everything. A title is the naming of your creative child and you shouldn’t just slap on something because it’s easy, though that isn’t to say you can’t have a working title.

I can’t say that poetry is for everyone. I don’t think it is. However, I do think that everyone should try it out before writing it off. It’s a fun creative form that you can play with a lot and you don’t even have to follow the “rules” I laid before you. I will leave you with wise words from an anonymous source: The worst thing you write is better than the best thing you never write at all.

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