Finding the Poet Within
July 28, 2007
When you write, whether it's prose, advertising copy, or poetry, get in touch with your poet within.
Poetry is simply playing with words. I love reading Lewis Carroll's work because his prose and poetry are, to me, the ultimate games of word play. He invented words. He used words that almost force you to feel something. That's what makes the difference between an outline of a story and a piece of art.
Listen to the Poet
To find your poet within, you must first listen to the poetry in everyday language. Listen to the way the a southern boy speaks compared to a New York girl. Think about how you could write those accents and dialects without saying that the character has a southern or New York accent.
Then listen to poetry artists. Go to poetry readings. Listen to song lyrics. Read works aloud. Listen to other people read works aloud. Try listening to audiobooks rather than reading once in awhile. Watch a storytelling performance or take a storytelling class to help you learn turn words on a page into characters and interesting narrators.
Listen for alliteration, metaphors, similes, anaphora, anastrophe, assonance, consonance, onomatopoeias, rhythm, pauses, diction, puns, imagery, soothing words, tension building words, rhyme, tone, etc.
Be the Poet
Now, when you write, listen. If you don't mind speaking what you write while you write, then certainly read aloud. If you are in a place where you are embarrassed to read aloud (or you want to spare others from listening to your voice constantly) use the voice in your head like an actor performing the scene.
How does your writing sound?
How do the words make you feel?
Can you imagine vividly what the setting sounds like and looks like just by reading the word?
Be the Audience
It usually helps to set your work aside for awhile, so you can come back to it with fresh ears and a empty mouth (not yet filled with the words of your story from memorization). Read it again aloud. Again ask yourself the questions.
How does the words make you feel?
How does it sound?
How does it appear?
Can you imagine it vividly?
Listen to Other People Read Your Work
Typically, you need to have a friend or family member who is willing to sit there are read to you your own work. If you don't have such a friend, try recording yourself reading the work, taking a break, and listening to your recording days or weeks later.
Kids love art class because they get to play with paint and create things that didn't exist before. They can make a mess just for fun or try to create still life or express a concept on canvas. It doesn't matter if it's a perfect masterpiece or something that will end up in the recycle bin at the end of the day; they just enjoy the process of doing it.
When you write, let yourself be childlike. Play. Play. Play.