Tag Archives: poetry

My #1 Poetry Pet Peeve

I didn’t realize I had any pet peeves about poetry until I took one of my high school English classes. One 6 weeks we were supposed to write a poem in the style of the literature we were studying, and we were required to read them aloud to the class. This was all fine, until a classmate of mine got up and introduced the “po-EEEEM” she was about to read.

Something about her pronunciation of the word “poem,” with the emphasis on the second syllable and a strange stressing of the “e” vowel, set my nerves on edge. And it wasn’t a simple misspeaking–she continued to call it her “po-EEEEEM” through her entire presentation. It was all at once nasally annoying and haughty, as if her “po-EEEEEEM” was the best “po-EEEEEEEEEEEEEM” that had ever been written.

Somehow I made it through that presentation without going off my rocker. But, since I’d never heard the word pronounced like that before, I chalked it up to a personal choice on the classmate’s part, and thought no more about it. It was so outlandish and silly-sounding, too overdone for normal life…surely no one else would pronounce it like that. After all, who could seriously pronounce “poems” as “po-EEEEEEEMS” without cracking up, right?

WRONG. Several of my classmates in poetry and literature classes throughout college apparently labored under the same delusion–that pronouncing “poem” as “po-EEEEEEM” instantly gave their opinions and works an otherwise unreachable touch of class, artistry, and intelligence. Never mind that I was sitting there with my hands clawed around the edge of my desk as if someone was raking their nails down the chalkboard at the front of the room. And usually, the people who pronounced “poem” like this were the most conceited English majors in the room, acting as if their subjective opinions on literature were mathematically provable facts. Either that, or they were convinced that they were the next “famous dead poet,” and the rest of us were all just wannabes.

For me, then, the “po-EEEEEEEM” pronunciation has become shorthand for “I’m a huge snowball of arrogance barreling straight toward your brain and nothing can stop me!” It stands as an instant signal that this person thinks very highly of themselves, their opinions, and their art, and that everyone else is just a little bit less important. (You know, sometimes I really hate that the fine arts often attract this type of personality, because it gives the rest of us artists a bad image. We’re not all high-and-mighty nose-in-the-air types, after all!)

So if you ever see me cringing at a poetry reading, remember this post, and you’ll probably understand why. Just remember to duck the snowball of arrogance!

4 Simple Tips for Writing Poetry

As a poet since at least the age of 7, I’ve experimented quite a bit with writing and reading poetry, working with word choices, line breaks, rhythms, punctuation, and several other tools to help get just the right effect for my poems. For me, poetry is very natural and has always been so.

But for some, poetry can seem at first like the most approachable and the most difficult literary form out there. Sometimes it seems like poetry is so “simple” that it’s easy to over-complicate it or mess it up.

If you’re new to poetry (or even if you’re not), try out the following 4 tips to create and shape your own lines. You might be surprised at the grace your words can have!

#1: Read Your Poetry Aloud

This is the first and probably best overall tip for writing poetry–reading your words aloud can help you solve most poetry issues, such as off-beat word rhythms, weird punctuation, awkward word choice, and the “flow” of lines together. Plus, it can help consolidate the idea behind the poem, so that you can cut out unnecessary material if need be.

#2: Play with Line Breaks and Spaces

Poetry can have a visual effect as well as a verbal and mental effect. Check out the differences in these three examples, all identical except with regards to line breaks and spaces:

Example #1

you smiled
and my watch stopped ticking
you spoke
and my heart and breath waited
to make sound
so they wouldn’t drown out
your voice

Example #2

you smiled
and my watch

you spoke
and my heart
and breath

to make sound
so they wouldn’t
drown out
your voice

Example #3

you smiled and my watch stopped ticking
you spoke and my heart and breath waited
to make sound
so they wouldn’t drown out your voice

The line breaks and spaces in a poem give the reader’s eye a little rest, as well as implying small pauses and intakes of breath. As for the “correct” line breaks and spaces, it’s all subjective; it’s all up to your interpretation as to what “feels right” in your poem. (Side note: of the three examples above, I like #2 the best–the short lines lend a slightly breathless quality to the words of this love poem, and the amount of spaces make me think of halting, stuttering, “first-date” kind of feelings. Which example do you like best?)

#3: Use Your Natural Language

You will get the most natural and flowing poetry if you use words and phrases that are natural to you. Don’t get me wrong, it’s nice to have a few “vocabulary words” in your poetry every now and again if it makes sense, but your poetry doesn’t have to look like a dictionary or thesaurus threw up in it, either.

Trying to use unfamiliar words can make poetry feel stilted and un-expressive–the last things you want your poetry to be. Make your poems sound as much like you as possible, warts and all; after all, you’re the only one who can write like you!

#4: Commas or No Commas? That’s Your Discretion (Mostly)

Punctuation in poetry is a relatively thorny issue–some folks say you need it, others (like me) think that line breaks/spaces can achieve the same goal without cluttering up your verses. But there’s really not a wrong way to use punctuation in your verses, since poetry is not just communication, but art.

Do whatever looks and feels natural for your poetry, whether it’s putting punctuation in or not. Just please try to avoid the following style, which I call “comma-itis” (LOL):

when a poem,
has commas at the end,
of every line without,
really making sense,
it really annoys,
most readers,
no end.


Poetry doesn’t have to be daunting–trying any one of these tips (or all of them together) can help you write a set of beautiful verses. Put pen to paper (or open a new text document) and see what you can come up with!

Being a Newb at Art: Not a Bad Thing

Most people look at newbies or people who are new to something, negatively. Newbies are seen as lacking knowledge, always needing help, and not worth the time of experienced people. This most certainly goes for artistic pursuits; many times, I’ve seen experienced artists of every type look down on the “newbs” in their field, as if they have no talent or aren’t worth even talking to.

But, in my opinion, being a “newb” at something doesn’t mean you won’t have any talent for it. In fact, I’ve found that instead of my own newbish-ness getting in the way of learning more, I feel freer to explore whatever I’m trying to learn. I’m not yet so “experienced” that I’m locked into thinking a certain way or always doing things a certain way. Creatively speaking, being a newb can actually be more fun and more enlightening.

Newbs Have More Fun! (And Make Better Art)

Why do I say that being a newb is more creative and enlightening? Because as artists, as creative people, we can get sucked into the trap of “creating what other people like” or “creating art that sells” instead of “creating what we want.” We can easily fall for doing things the way other people have done them, just because the other people were successful and we want to be successful, too.

The bad thing about following the crowd in this way is that it can kill your desire to do art for yourself, as I have found out with my novel and my webdesign. Try to please others too often and for too long, and you end up completely dissatisfied with your soulless work.

But allowing yourself to be a newb, or getting back to a newb state of mind, can free you from this constrained thinking, and thus get you back into creating what makes you happy and what expresses your thinking the best. For example:

  1. Visual Art: Being an art newb means you can paint, draw, sketch, and/or sculpt any way you please; you aren’t constrained by the “laws of the Masters” or what’s currently avant-garde.
  2. Music: Being a music newb means you can put chords and melodies together according to what sounds good to YOU, not what sounds good to some dusty expert, or even what other musicians think.
  3. Dance: Being a dance newb means you can try out different poses and motions without worrying that it’s not part of a “traditional” dance routine, and without trying to do moves that you physically can’t do yet.
  4. Drama/Theater: Being a drama/theater newb means you are free to play any kind of role you want and explore many different characters without being typecast yet.

Creativity is All About “Thinking Outside the Box”–Why Put Your Art in a Box, Then?

In essence, being a “newb” at art means that you’re still defining your style, still exploring your art, and still having fun with it. The moment you lose that sense of wonder and exploration for your art is the moment the artistic sense in you wilts, in my opinion. See: my novel, and my increasing difficulty with writing it because I’m afraid nobody will “like it enough.” As soon as that fear crept in, writing slowed to a crawl for me.

But it is possible to get your “newb groove” back, as I have written about recently. Just allow yourself to experience art the way you used to, allow yourself to be childlike and “newbish” all over again. You’d be surprised how well this works! After all, yours truly just wrote a new page in her novel. 🙂

To the Man I Saw on Broad River Bridge

This poem is based on an actual experience I had about a week ago.

You were just standing there,
leaning on one of the posts
I saw you just in passing
Your eyes were cast down

All I saw was the side of your face;
you looked a little pained
I don’t know if you were crying
I was going by too fast to see

I couldn’t slow down or stop for you
because of drivers behind me
But as I passed I wondered
As I passed, I worried

A small request to God was made
in the moments right afterward
as I drove away

I prayed for you not to jump
Prayed you’d be all right
Prayed you’d know it would get better soon
and wouldn’t take flight

I don’t know what you were there for
or if death was even a thought
But I’ve stood on a bridge in my mind
too many times to count
…and one more prayer can’t hurt

My Life as Tetris (A Poem)

I think we’ve all been here at one point or another…LOL

So many Z-bars stacked up on one side
and all I need
is one straight bar

Piles and piles of L-bars and T-bars
carefully arranged on the other side
and all I need
is one measly straight bar

But alas, the lovely simplicity
of a quick reward
eludes me

Maybe if I keep stacking these pieces
with no gaps,
I’ll get a bigger payoff
when I do get a straight bar

But for now I just have to stack them further
and pray they don’t tumble in on my head
before I get that last blasted straight bar

Words as Pictures: The Wordle Way

A few years ago, while stumbling about on the Internet, I discovered a very creative site, and I think it’s one of the best modern ways to use words in visual art (besides web design, of course).

Wordle is a Java-enabled way to make blog entries, feeds, articles, pasted-in text, or even Delicious tags into a graphic. Now, I know that doing graphic arrangements of words is not new to the world of visual art, but Wordle does it in a particularly interesting fashion, with the largest words being the most used in whatever text sample it gets.

Some Personalized Examples

For some beginning examples, I used Wordle to do a couple of graphics based on two large samples of my writing, below:

Based on my webmistress page
It amuses me that “Grits” and “driveway” are two of the biggest words…LOL

Based on Crooked Glasses’s RSS Feed
You can tell the gaming post was prevalent on my feed this particular day. Haha

In both these cases, I chose the font color and style, as well as the background color. I also chose how the words spread themselves across the image. All of these tools and many more options are available to you through the Wordle interface–play around with it and see what you like best!

Some “Famous Poetry” Wordles

I also used Wordle to make word pictures with a couple of my favorite poems, seen below:

From the poem “The Raven” by Edgar Allan Poe

From the poem “Stopping By Woods on a Snowy Evening” by Robert Frost

Wordles as Wall Art/Gifts

Making a Wordle would be a fun thing to do with a particularly inspirational monologue, poem, or prose piece you like–print it large and frame it to put it on your wall, or just stick it on your bulletin board with tacks and call it a day. Anything that gets it into your line of sight on a daily basis would work well.

Also, if you wanted to give a Wordle as a gift, you could easily copy in the text of something a family member or friend has written, and transform their writing into evocative visual art that they can enjoy. Choose favorite colors for the words, arrange it all for best effect–it can make a beautiful personalized gift.

You could even write in just random positive words that describe the gift recipient into the text box provided. Just make sure the words that you want to be largest are there multiple times, and you’ve got it! Almost anything that uses words could become a word graphic using Wordle…you might come up with a totally new way to use it, too!

Try It On Your Own Writing!

Take the largest sample of writing you have, or the most vibrantly written work you have. Anything you want. It could even be a long Facebook status. Copy in your text, and see what Wordle can do for you. It’s not only a fun timewaster, but a great tool for design and art, too. 🙂

Poem: Not From This (Social) Planet

This was a dribble of content I couldn’t do anything with, until I turned it into a poem…and then it bloomed, suddenly and unexpectedly. I hope you enjoy this very different Tuesday on the Soapbox entry…

Sometimes I wonder if
I just landed here some years ago
Look out the back window
Wondering where my spaceship is

Been here long enough to acclimate
And yet the society I live in is baffling
I’m supposed to be a human
But human nuances perplex me

I don’t understand why “friends” trash-talk each other
I don’t understand why humans
Like to see each other in pain
I don’t understand why it’s funny to watch someone else fail
I don’t understand why people
Like to yell at those they love

Cloaking this misunderstanding
Is easy most of the time
But I can’t hide my grimaces from everyone
Someone’s bound to notice

Too sympathetic to not react,
Too chicken to speak up
I am caught in a trap of silence
And it’s easier to stay in it

I don’t understand why wars have to be fought
I don’t understand why humans
Defend things and ideas more than each other
I don’t understand why it’s funny to provoke another to tears
I don’t understand why people
Hate someone else’s ideas enough to kill

Was I really born as a human,
Or do I have shape-changing alien skin?
Am I really part of this society,
Or will I one day be called back to space?

It really makes me wonder,
Because there’s so much I don’t get
About how we all relate to each other–
And why I’m beginning to mimic it

I don’t understand why distant death is worth a shrug
I don’t understand why it’s weird
To cry for someone you never knew
I don’t understand why it’s okay to ignore someone else’s need
I don’t understand why humans
Have to need and be hurt before they understand

Glassics: Saturday with the Spark

This is a complete topic review of all the posts in the category Saturday with the Spark. Looks like I need to do more drawing/art-related posts, as well as general creativity and crafting posts! But don’t worry, I’ll get to it all. 🙂


Sight-Reading Fail
Seeing and Feeling Music
Perfect Pitch
Melodies from Dreams
Joining My Voice with Others
There’s a Reason the Piano is Called a Percussion Instrument
Phases of Songcraft
Confront the Giant in Song
Studying the Songcraft of Others


Novel Therapy
Poems: Kernels of Art
Writing as a Pressure Valve
A Twist in the Web: Complex Subplots in Simple Storylines
Awake in the Middle of the Night? Write!
The Enemy of Creativity: Self-Censorship
Coming Up with “Novel” Ideas
Journals in Verse: My Personal Poetry
The Impromptu Writers’ Club
Connotation: The Search for the Right Synonym


Happy Little (Sketched) Tree
Little Doodles of Life


Getting All Beaded Up

General Creativity

A Fickle Playmate: My Muse