An illiterate’s guide to poetry

by zack soh, photo credits.

Common misconception: most, or even all poems rhyme. They don’t; nor must they conform to a “roses are red, violets are blue” style. If you’ve ever wanted to write a poem, or even just read and comment on one, then this guide is for you.

1. Avoid clichés at all costs. Unless you’re trying to portray the cliché in a new light to change the readers perspective, try not to use clichés – they make your poem boring and unoriginal. Readers only see others’ overused words in your poem, not yours.

2. Know what you’re writing about. You may be tempted to write some abstract complex stuff that sounds cool but means nothing, and chances are, if you don’t know what you’re writing about, neither will your reader. (Also, such lines may come across as pretentious, which isn’t exactly favorable)

3. Don’t use bombastic words. If the reader has to look up the words in your poem every 2 seconds, they’re bound to get irritated and give up. You can use them once in a while if you need a specific jargon to express an idea, or conform to a theme (for instance, the word legato in a poem with a theme of music), but not too often even then.

4. Use vivid imagery. A good way to convey your message is through constructing imagery that your reader can actually imagine, then linking the image to a certain line of thought. Through imagery, you can give the reader a deeper level of understanding of what you’re trying to say; a bit like show not tell.

5. Try to have a theme. It makes it easier for both you and the reader: it’s easier for you to construct consistent images around the same theme, and it’s also easier for the reader to imagine what you’re thinking, and follow your trail of thought.

Please note that these are just guidelines; you don’t have to follow them if you don’t want to. Last of all, have fun writing! 🙂

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