3 Easy Ways to Level Up Your Poetry
I am often asked the question "How do I become a better writer?" Let me begin by saying I am by no means an expert, and writing is a highly personal and subjective art. However, I strongly believe in constant growth so here are three of the easiest ways to up your poetry game regardless of current skill level.
1. Tell a story
When I set out to write a poem, the first thing I decide is what story I want to tell. People want to read poetry they can connect with, and the best way to make that connection happen is to hide little stories in each piece. Be they epic, trivial, beautiful or tragic, if your poem tells a story readers are more likely to be immersed in your work. My absolute favorite poets (classical and modern; see Christina Rossetti, Margaret Atwood, and Alannah Radburn) are masters of weaving entire stories with the thread of just a few lines. Amy Kay also does a marvelous job telling stories through poetry, and I am particularly enamored by her "Dude" piece.
2. Use figurative language
The importance of figurative language in poetry cannot be understated. Your English teacher didn’t just drone on about similes and metaphors for the heck of it; they are crucial when it comes to writing poetry. You don’t have three hundred pages worth of space and time to get your readers to visualize a story, so evoking strong imagery in shorter pieces is important. Some of the most powerful poems I have read draw such obscure comparisons I am not even sure how the authors gave birth to them. I read a piece by Lauren Eden that compared falling out of love first to slipping out from underneath a lovers arm without waking them. Even though I first read this poem a year ago, it is such powerful figurative language that I still think of it to this day.
The following quotes provide a practical example. Though both quotes deliver the same message, one is more interesting and conveys stronger imagery and emotion.
I loved you, but you didn’t love me.
Our love was unrequited; a wolf howling to a moonless night.
Hopefully you can gather that "Example B" is stronger. I see quotes like “Example A” floating around Instagram all the time, and though relatable, quotes like this are bland, unimaginative, and frankly boring.
If you want to write good poetry, befriend figurative language ASAP.
3. Revise, Revise, Revise!
Never stop revising. When you think a poem is finished, really study it and find things to improve upon. My general rule of thumb is to proofread a piece and find at least two things to make better. Take out a line here, use a better synonym there, change a literal description to a metaphor. Sometimes I rewrite a piece four or five times, and sometimes even then the piece is not ready to be declared finished. Revising is both humbling and satisfying, and proves that even the most experienced writers still have much to learn.
I hope these three tips are helpful! If you have any questions about writing, feel free to contact me through my site or send me a DM on Instagram. I am happy to help aspiring writers in any way I can, and love connecting with you all! xx, Emily