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Master class tips for reading and writing poetry, part II

The more I read and write poetry, the more I see how it helps me approach other forms of writing. In my last post, I wrote about tips for reading and writing poetry. Here are several more tips from a master class I attended taught by poet Matthew Shenoda:

  • Make the title a jumping off point. I usually start out with a working title but then change it at the end after the poem is fully formed.
  • Analyze the “story” the poem tells, it’s angle, and how it pulls you in.
  • List all the things you can think of that the poem conveys. Look at how they are being conveyed. For example, look at the physical way the poem reads, such as the use of white space. In some cases, a single line holds multiple meanings. Poetry is the art of economy. Any time you allow a line to create multiple things, you are doing this. Aim for that in your writing.
  • Read around the action and look into the subtext. How is it executed? What subtext is at work in your poem?
  • Consider how the poem triggers senses? What sensory images did the poet use and what imagery can you use in your poem?
  • Go beyond the obvious. Avoid reading poetry in a linear way. We can’t read literature the way we read newspaper articles.

Poetry breaks conventions of writing. Poems reflect meaning in a more ethereal way. Like many other art forms, including music and abstract painting, people read and write poetry in a different way than the intellectual processes they might use for other tasks.

What can you draw from these tips and apply to your poem in progress?

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