You’ve been writing poetry since that first assignment in your high school writing class. You know the rules about writing poetry, right? Are there rules? Well, if you frequent the poetry forums across the Internet as much as I do, you’d find that there are a lot of amateur poets who adamantly declare that there are no rules for writing poetry and if someone even suggests reading poetry or books on poetry, many of the amateur poets will throw up a defensive front. My opinion seems to swing fervently toward the opposition. You have to know the rules before you break them; at least that’s what I always say.
I know that writing a sonnet in iambic pentameter is an art that has been buried in the tombs of the renaissance, but understanding it, along with the numerous other dying closed forms of poetry, is a powerful tool when writing that prosy contemporary piece. Being a great poet demands an intricate understanding of the way in which language works its edges into a reader’s conscience. A poem is a mosaic of sounds, syncopations, and images. All of the little fragments of a poem must work together in a unified fashion to culminate in something refreshing and new.
Refreshing and new? Well, you might wonder how understanding such archaic attributes of poetry such as meter and rhyme might help a contemporary poet craft a refreshing new poem. It is all about the sound and the innovation of it. Even scientists stand on the shoulders of those before them. You don’t have to manage a perfect rhyme or a measured foot in a poem to be jumping from the inspiration of Shakespeare’s sonnets, but having those rhythms and rhymes teetering in and out of the wrinkles in your brain will send a very subtle vibration of sound through your very own pieces.
In summary, read, read, read, know the rules, and then break the rules. Goodness help you, please break them.
Here are some references to help you along the way:
The Practice of Poetry: by Robin Behn
Writing Poems: by Robert Wallace and Michelle Boisseau
A Poetry Handbook: by Mary Oliver
-And don’t forget to read some contemporary poetry: