Friday, July 04, 2008

Advice to a Poet

1. If poetry's just a pleasant hobby, write as often or as seldom as you wish. If it's a passion, or if you find it's your special gift, write often.
2. Read poems. Read good poems or great ones. Ask yourself what makes them good or great.
3. Edit poems. Re-read poems you wrote days or months ago. Sometimes you'll see weak spots that can be improved. Try updating the words of a hymn. Try repairing amateur poems from the internet. You'll quickly find some that start well but go bad fast. Fix a stanza or two.
4. Don't plan to make a profit at poetry. If you want to try, aim at an existing market, such as individual poems that are framed or ready-to-frame, children's books, or greeting cards. However, to actually make even a small profit in any of these markets, your poetry must be very, very good, or else you must have more business sense and determination than I do.
5. If you dare, ask friends or family to read one of your poems and then tell you what they really think.
6. Make your own greeting cards.
7. Write down poem fragments that come to mind.
8. Don't make the common mistake of thinking that the only good poems you can write are depressing ones. A poem you write when you're depressed may or may not be good; don't believe it's good until you read it carefully when you're NOT depressed.
9. Try writing a poem about things that strike your emotions. Write about a Bible verse or a photo or a scene or a mood.
10. Learn your craft. You should be aware of such things as rhythm of sounds, rhythm of ideas, alliteration, rhyme, imagery.
11. Don't write heresy. Glorify God through your poetry. That doesn't mean every poem must be religious, but none should be false. Don't write about dead babies becoming angels, nor about patriotism bringing eternal salvation, nor about God healing everyone immediately in this life.
12. Depend on the Lord to guide you. If your poems aren't written through his power, they are of no eternal value.
13. Share your poems with others, but realize that most of your family and friends aren't interested.
14. If you want your poems to be of value to more than a very few people, make them clear enough. That doesn't mean you can't write poems that require some thinking, but if you write poems that only a few scholars can understand, realize that you're severely limiting your potential audience.

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