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View Full Version : What are some things one should have in mind when working on a poem?



Agent Cooper
05-07-2015, 09:34 PM
I have no problem with beginning a poem, finding some images, a shard of a mood, and some meaningful point here and there. Then the poem needs work and whatever I do to it is destructive. Nothing works. I got the first part down. But the work which is necessary to turn a decent poem into a good or even great one I seem to have no clue about.

So much failure for me leads to frustration.

What are some things I should keep in mind when working on my poems?

How do you do it?

What are the questions you ask about the poem?

What are the different mental states you are in?

I have found out I'm clueless.

Agent Cooper
05-07-2015, 09:40 PM
What I mean is there is only a short window when I can do work on a poem, then it closes and there is nothing I can do that improves it. This happens to every poem for me, and I don't know why.

Ambrosia
05-07-2015, 10:18 PM
Why does the window close? I have put aside poems that I felt still needed work and gone back to them weeks, months, and occasionally years and fixed the problem. What is shutting you out of that option?

Kylabelle
05-07-2015, 10:27 PM
Have some patience with yourself, first of all. You have an instinct for poetry; I have seen this in your posted poems for critique. Let yourself write as many poems as you can, work on them as much as you can, and then let yourself, allow yourself to set them aside (but don't say you're giving up on them! As Ambrosia says, sometimes years later the right thing to do will become apparent.)

I once labored over a poem that seemed to have a very powerful start but I could not make it go where I wanted it to, and every change I made seemed wrong, making it worse, or at least, no better! I must have written a hundred versions of that poem before I gave it up.

I can't prove this, but I believe that all that struggle did make me a better poet, even though I never did solve that poem and at this point have lost my interest. It has maybe one good line that I may use somewhere else, one day, but I don't particularly care if I do or if I don't.

I'd love to share what it is I do but I honestly don't know how to describe it. I become aware of areas of the poem that don't work as well as I would like, and I tinker with them but I also send them into the subconscious poetry repair shop and see what gets sent back to me. :)

Don't give up, please.

Agent Cooper
05-07-2015, 11:37 PM
Why does the window close? I have put aside poems that I felt still needed work and gone back to them weeks, months, and occasionally years and fixed the problem. What is shutting you out of that option?

You are right, maybe they close for a while but might slowly open up in the silence.

That has happened once or twice.

I have in my head the idea that other writers can work on a poem anytime the want, that they have scheduled inspiration.

Agent Cooper
05-07-2015, 11:48 PM
Have some patience with yourself, first of all. You have an instinct for poetry; I have seen this in your posted poems for critique. Let yourself write as many poems as you can, work on them as much as you can, and then let yourself, allow yourself to set them aside (but don't say you're giving up on them! As Ambrosia says, sometimes years later the right thing to do will become apparent.)

I once labored over a poem that seemed to have a very powerful start but I could not make it go where I wanted it to, and every change I made seemed wrong, making it worse, or at least, no better! I must have written a hundred versions of that poem before I gave it up.

I can't prove this, but I believe that all that struggle did make me a better poet, even though I never did solve that poem and at this point have lost my interest. It has maybe one good line that I may use somewhere else, one day, but I don't particularly care if I do or if I don't.

I'd love to share what it is I do but I honestly don't know how to describe it. I become aware of areas of the poem that don't work as well as I would like, and I tinker with them but I also send them into the subconscious poetry repair shop and see what gets sent back to me. :)

Don't give up, please.

Hmm.

From what you wrote in in the last paragraph I seem to do the same thing, but it doesn't work for me. Instead when I work on a poem often another one surfaces in it. It could be that I am not as developed in that part of the craft yet, so that I have go through all the work necessary to acquire the skill.

I am going to go through some of my older poems that didn't work and see if i love one or two of them enough to work more on them.

Thank you for the encouragment!

Kylabelle
05-08-2015, 12:49 AM
Good luck and keep posting please! :D I do think there are poets who become skilled enough that they can "go there" and do the work and come up with magnificence eventually... but working at times of their choosing and making progress for most of it.... I'm not someone who has read a lot of commentary about writing, the experience of it, from other poets. Others here may have more practical and skillful suggestions for you, which would be awesome.

But I do believe you have a voice and that you can develop it.

William Haskins
05-09-2015, 05:56 AM
every poem is a bizarre blood contract with your own mind. you either have to trust yourself or go to war with yourself. the former is infinitely preferable if you can manage to have any choice in the matter.

be kind to yourself.

Magdalen
05-09-2015, 08:05 AM
every poem is a bizarre blood contract with your own mind. you either have to trust yourself or go to war with yourself. the former is infinitely preferable if you can manage to have any choice in the matter.

be kind to yourself.

Ah! More on that later, but your post produced an insight regarding some surplus articles of internal conflict and the bonfire later this year, so thanks.

I think William's provided some good advice here. As for me, the mind, mind-full and mind-less process of writing a poem seems to be an individual/variable task list written in mirror-code, foreign language, and sometimes even just rhythmic thrusts of intuition, if ya know what I mean?!!?!

Debbie V
05-11-2015, 09:48 PM
I try to keep in mind where the poem came from, what prompted it in my head in the first place. (Sometimes I don't really know, but I guess.) I can do whatever I want with the words as long as I stay true to that kernel. That is the poem's truth that I needed to express.

The rest is keeping to the rhythm I've set or changing it consistently throughout and posting for critique and listening to what has been said. I evaluate and revise later if I decide I should, but first is listening.

Now that I look at this, the first step is one of listening to. What is it and what does it want to be? Each poem has a beating heart.

I hope this is helpful.

William Haskins
05-12-2015, 02:45 AM
a poem destined to be fully-formed will find a way to get there.

KTC
05-12-2015, 06:03 AM
I agree with William. I don't strap on any poeter paraphernalia or regalia. I don't sweep the floor. I don't brush the horse's underbelly. I just sit. I just write. I trust the poem to get there...

kuwisdelu
05-12-2015, 07:23 AM
What I mean is there is only a short window when I can do work on a poem, then it closes and there is nothing I can do that improves it. This happens to every poem for me, and I don't know why.


Why does the window close? I have put aside poems that I felt still needed work and gone back to them weeks, months, and occasionally years and fixed the problem. What is shutting you out of that option?

I'm the same as OP. I can't go back to a poem (or story) after a certain period of time and edit it. If I try (and I have), I end up completely rewriting it and it becomes a new piece. The "put it in a drawer" school of editing simply doesn't work for me.

My writing always represents a part of me from a certain place and time, and once enough time has passed, I'm not that person anymore, and can't write like he could. I can only write like I can now, and that usually means writing a different poem.

But that's okay too.

Norman D Gutter
05-12-2015, 10:24 PM
I keep thinking:

This is not prose.
Line breaks are not enough to make it a poem.
If it reads like prose if you remove the line breaks it's not a poem yet.
This is not prose.
Remember the toolbox of poetic devices.
Appeal to the senses.
This is not prose.
Compress the language a bit more.
Don't spoon-feed the reader; make the reader work for their entertainment.
This is not prose.
Go back over the completed poem and make sure each word pulls its weight.
Maximize metaphor and images.
This is not prose.

William Haskins
05-12-2015, 11:47 PM
so you want to be a writer?

Charles Bukowski, 1920 - 1994





if it doesnít come bursting out of you
in spite of everything,
donít do it.
unless it comes unasked out of your
heart and your mind and your mouth
and your gut,
donít do it.
if you have to sit for hours
staring at your computer screen
or hunched over your
typewriter
searching for words,
donít do it.
if youíre doing it for money or
fame,
donít do it.
if youíre doing it because you want
women in your bed,
donít do it.
if you have to sit there and
rewrite it again and again,
donít do it.
if itís hard work just thinking about doing it,
donít do it.
if youíre trying to write like somebody
else,
forget about it.


if you have to wait for it to roar out of
you,
then wait patiently.
if it never does roar out of you,
do something else.

if you first have to read it to your wife
or your girlfriend or your boyfriend
or your parents or to anybody at all,
youíre not ready.

donít be like so many writers,
donít be like so many thousands of
people who call themselves writers,
donít be dull and boring and
pretentious, donít be consumed with self-
love.
the libraries of the world have
yawned themselves to
sleep
over your kind.
donít add to that.
donít do it.
unless it comes out of
your soul like a rocket,
unless being still would
drive you to madness or
suicide or murder,
donít do it.
unless the sun inside you is
burning your gut,
donít do it.

when it is truly time,
and if you have been chosen,
it will do it by
itself and it will keep on doing it
until you die or it dies in you.

there is no other way.

and there never was.

Ambrosia
05-12-2015, 11:50 PM
You are right, maybe they close for a while but might slowly open up in the silence.

That has happened once or twice.

I have in my head the idea that other writers can work on a poem anytime the want, that they have scheduled inspiration.

I laughed out loud at the "scheduled inspiration". :D

I will sit down with a pen and paper, usually at a restaurant if I can afford it (because I like people to bring me coffee when I am trying to be all creative-like), and let what happens happen. Sometimes it results in a poem. Sometimes it results in some doodles on the page. And, occasionally it results in a journal entry because other thoughts are bubbling up that have to be addressed. I don't have a scheduled time to do anything. It is just when the mood hits. I can sometimes "turn on" the mood by using the above habit. But not always.

I don't believe it matters if you write another poem from an older poem, or see a different poem in the center of the one you wrote some time ago and develop that instead of "fixing" whatever you see wrong with the initial poem. What is important is that you create, wherever that creation leads you. It is not being unfaithful to an older poem to use it as a catapult to a new one. Or to make two poems from one. What is most important is that you trust yourself to do what is necessary in the moment.

One of the hardest things to do, I think, is learn to trust your own creativity.

Tazlima
05-13-2015, 12:25 AM
One of the hardest things to do, I think, is learn to trust your own creativity.

This is quoteworthy truth. Is it OK if I put it in my signature?

Ambrosia
05-13-2015, 04:48 AM
This is quoteworthy truth. Is it OK if I put it in my signature?

I would be honored. :)

Agent Cooper
05-13-2015, 03:05 PM
Many great things said. Especialy that you have to work with yourself, trust yourself and your creativity.

I don't do it yet in all the ways Bukowski writes about it. But I will try.

Tazlima
05-13-2015, 04:05 PM
Oooh, shiny new sig!

kuwisdelu
05-14-2015, 04:19 AM
I laughed out loud at the "scheduled inspiration". :D


I schedule inspiration. It usually involves a late night, a good book or movie, a bottle of whiskey or wine, and sometimes a few cigarettes, or other burning plants.

William Haskins
05-14-2015, 04:22 AM
or other burning plants.

that's how moses wrote the ten commandments, yo.

Kylabelle
05-14-2015, 04:33 AM
So that's what that bush was!!!!!!

kuwisdelu
05-14-2015, 05:35 AM
So that's what that bush was!!!!!!

That would be the other Anarchy Panty.

Magdalen
05-14-2015, 06:19 AM
That would be the other Anarchy Panty.

Panties do like to hang in pairs!

William Haskins
05-14-2015, 07:39 AM
Panties do like to hang in pairs!

and that is why god
gave us two ears.

Debbie V
05-19-2015, 06:13 PM
so you want to be a writer?

Charles Bukowski, 1920 - 1994





if it doesnít come bursting out of you
in spite of everything,
donít do it.
unless it comes unasked out of your
heart and your mind and your mouth
and your gut,
donít do it.
if you have to sit for hours
staring at your computer screen
or hunched over your
typewriter
searching for words,
donít do it.
if youíre doing it for money or
fame,
donít do it.
if youíre doing it because you want
women in your bed,
donít do it.
if you have to sit there and
rewrite it again and again,
donít do it.
if itís hard work just thinking about doing it,
donít do it.
if youíre trying to write like somebody
else,
forget about it.


if you have to wait for it to roar out of
you,
then wait patiently.
if it never does roar out of you,
do something else.

if you first have to read it to your wife
or your girlfriend or your boyfriend
or your parents or to anybody at all,
youíre not ready.

donít be like so many writers,
donít be like so many thousands of
people who call themselves writers,
donít be dull and boring and
pretentious, donít be consumed with self-
love.
the libraries of the world have
yawned themselves to
sleep
over your kind.
donít add to that.
donít do it.
unless it comes out of
your soul like a rocket,
unless being still would
drive you to madness or
suicide or murder,
donít do it.
unless the sun inside you is
burning your gut,
donít do it.

when it is truly time,
and if you have been chosen,
it will do it by
itself and it will keep on doing it
until you die or it dies in you.

there is no other way.

and there never was.

If this is the case, I should not do it. I learned long ago that I have no need to write it all down. My imagination will have its fictions or poems with or without the keyboard or pen. The muse can stay in my soul and never be shared. The actual writing (or revising for publication) is a choice, the rest isn't.