What’s Behind Good Poetry?

Hello, poetry world of BayArt! This is from the desk of Queertastic, your poetry editor. When it comes to poetry, whether it be reading poetry or writing it, I realized that there’s a plethora of complications behind what makes the string of words that you put together art. What is it about your punctuation choices, you word choices, or even your humor that leads to you making a masterpiece? This reflection was prompted by when I went through a collection of some of my old poems. A few of them were embarrassing, and a lot of them just flat out didn’t make sense. As cringey as my foray into  my old poetry was, I learnt a lot about how your poetry grows with you.

I get the privilege of reading multiple poems per week, grace of the featured poetry program (find out more about it here) and as a result I now feel the need to address at least one post to the poets of BayArt. I  love reading all the different works that I receive, and I will never stop learning from them.  I think after spending a few months here as poetry editor, I can say with relative confidence that I’ve been able to tack back a few lessons from them about what makes or breaks a poem. I’ve put them into list form for convenience, and who knows- there might be a part two. Also, another thing to note before reading this is that these are simply my opinions, the ones I’ve been able to garner from my experience here at BayArt and as a poet. I’m putting them here with the hopes that you can learn something from them. Whether or not you actually do learn something from them, I can’t control. I write this with only the best intentions for you, lovely poets! Also, I’ve read and loved poetry that goes completely against the below opinions. There are no rules in poetry.

Good poetry can come from bad experiences.

I wrote a post about this recently on my personal blog that you can find here should you so wish to read it. What I’m going to do is summarize that post in a way that is less personal and more facts. After looking through my old poetry, I saw that young me really did love writing angst filled verses when she was angry or sad (some of these verses were downright tragic, my favorite being “why oh why / are people’s expectations oh so high”, cringey, I know). People write when they’re sad because they feel the need to hear their own voice and articulate their own emotions. Sometimes, this priceless communication morphs into poetry that is transcendent of your own personal boundaries as an artist. When I looked back at old poetry, I looked back at memories and emotions that were for the most part intense and unpleasant. And yet, the poetry wasn’t as bad as the experiences were. In a nutshell, perhaps at times you have to capture things that you want to forget. It sounds counter intuitive. And yet, after I sat down to think about it for a while it made perfect sense. It’s worth a shot, try it out.

In fact, good poetry can come from anywhere. 

Literally anywhere. That ray of sunshine that streams through your window, the dust settling on your curtains or the light of the city that diffuse through the panes of glass in your balcony. It’s not like you need a huge event to write poetry, sometimes all you need is that one tiny bit of inspiration. A child’s smile, or perhaps and extraordinarily ripe banana that looked so glaringly yellow that you couldn’t help but write it down. What I’m getting at is that you define what content is and what it isn’t. Do you think the stuffed panda on your bed is poetry material? Well, then it is. Poetry is art, and art is whatever you make of it. I think an amazing example of this is all the poems about boredom that I’ve read.

Sometimes, all you need is one line of genius.

Yep, on some occasions all you need is that one line. Having one brilliant line in your poetry can be enough to give your poem structure and a higher impact. In addition, that one killer line could lead to a plot for your poem that will act as sustenance for a variety of new themes that you can explore. One of my favorite things to do is place this killer line somewhere towards the end of the poem, or even just at the end of the poem. It gives your poem a lot of dimension at times, and it’s fun to see if you can build verses around a single line.

These are the only three tips I can give you guys when it comes to producing poetry that you’re proud of, because sitting down to think of ways to make poetry good is difficult. This is because poetry is subjective, and poetry can be made beautiful by artfully breaking some of the rules, or coloring out of the lines. That is why I love it so much! As I said above, these are just my own opinions and at the end of the day I still am not sure what makes good poetry. By reading all of your poetry everyday, my views of what good poetry is and isn’t keep shifting.

So go forth, poets, and create. Maybe one day you’ll break all three of these rules (who knows, we have to wait and see) and maybe you’ll write your own “rules”. If you have any poetry to share, e-mail me at eno.7cups@gmail.com and if you want to get your poetry featured, find out more here.

Love, Queertastic.

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