Monday, April 4, 2011


Those who don't write poetry often wonder why anyone would spend time on a market so unpopular and little read. It's not for the fame-hounds or money-hungry, that's for sure. Even when you are lucky enough to have a book of poems.

Consider these quotes:
"There's no money in poetry, but then there's no poetry in money, either." - Robert Graves

"Publishing a volume of verse is like dropping a rose petal down the Grand Canyon and waiting for the echo." - Don Marquis

Yet, to me, poetry is absolutely essential. And since I posted today at Smack Dab in the Middle about why I write for the middle grade audience, I thought I would continue the theme here, except address the subject of writing poetry.

1. It's short. You can write an entire poem in a day - or at least several drafts of a poem. This makes it perfect for the time-challenged, young mothers, over-extended. Unlike a novel which takes hours upon hours, you can crank out a first draft of a poem in minutes. You can hand your lines to a reader and experience immediate gratification.

2. Word play is fun. When every syllable matters, things get intense. But that's where the joy is. That's where assonance and meter and rhyme come in. Writing poetry is about playing with language. You can even make words up, if you want to. And oh, the satisfaction when you find Just The Right Word -- is there a better feeling in the world?

3. It makes you a life-long student of the world.
When you write poetry, you approach life with curiosity and wonder. Leaves don't ever merely fall to the ground. Some dive, some twist, some jet, some dawdle. Poets are keen observers. We are constantly on the lookout for analogies, patterns and oddities in nature and in relationships. We see things, hear things others don't. Because those are the things we want to put into our poems.

4. It gives you permission to explore all emotional terrain in a safe way. Poetry is compressed emotion. The whole point is to create an emotional experience for yourself and for readers. If you have fears about death, you can put them in a poem. Anger, sadness, joy, despair... poetry is the place for the most sustaining and destructive emotions. Your job to be passionate. This passion is the vehicle that will take you toward your own emotional truths.

5. Different is good. Unlike many other areas of life, when you write poetry you are expected to be a little odd. You might even be celebrated for this oddness. You can embrace all that is eccentric about yourself -- and even cultivate new eccentricities. You can do this on the page or in real life, and no one blinks. Because you're a Poet. And poetry is not bound by a strict set of rules. (The only rule is there are no rules.) It's quite liberating, actually. And allows you to invest more fully in the best poem of all: You, Your Life.


  1. I've always said poets are weird creatures. I'm glad to hear it corroborated. As always, I love your "take" on poetry. I featured you at my blog today. Come visit!

  2. I love these reasons to love poetry (and that quote about the rose petal is so true).

    Kay Ryan once said that it is the job of the poet to protect the thing that does not match (or belong, maybe) the world.

    Poetry makes me more present in life.

  3. Those all sound like very good reasons. :)


Your thoughts?