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How to write good poems.


Myth Weaver
Some say a poem need not rhyme
That alliterative verse does just fine
And epic Beowulf stands the time
along with Greeks who matched no lines
And yet, what harm, is there to find
When poems speak with words that chime?

Personally, I think the rhythm is much harder to get right.
If I were to rate what I considered important in a poem, id say this:
1. Emotional connection
2. Clarity of content
3. Musical prose
4. Meter
5. Rhyme
1. A sentence that carries enough emotional gravity is considered poetic without having to have anything else. If it hits like a ton of bricks, it doesn't even need to make alot of sense.
2. Next is clarity of subject matter. Hence the haiku describes something, then hits with the emotional connection on the last line. Both are needed.

Then I move down from there. If I can make it rhyme, awesome, but if it does its job well I can stop at any point along that list and be satisfied.

The poems I write that end up getting filed under 86 are ones when I move the wrong way up that list. When I do that, it probably shouldn't be a poem.

Edit: the only exception to that rule I can see is the epic, history-relating poem, but as a novelist I'd say that if I don't have something pretty emotionally heavy to convey in it, I'd rather make it a page out of a history book or a flashback.

PPS: Checking back, I think I'd swap rhyme and meter, actually.
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Continuing the thought, I think depending on how weak the previous steps are depends on how much of the list I use. I don't think I've ever made a sentence-poem with such face-smashing emotion that I could stop right there and back away.
Usually I already have a pretty good idea of what I'm going for. I write it in paragraph form for context and emotion, then start converting it to see if I'm going to stop at musicality, like alliteration and assonance, or if I start seeing a cool pattern and am having a "I can think of words" day shoot for meter and rhyme.


I reckon a lot of readers and writers of (especially modern) poetry share that mentality, but for myself, I appreciate the skill required in fitting a narrative, setting and message within the confines of a clear scheme. I find that there is an admirable restraint there. Then again, my own collection features plenty of looser verse in it. Certain imagery or themes can benefit from a more free approach, but even there I personally expect to find assonance, consonance and alliteration in abundance.
I agree; I find the constraining nature of poetry to be super beneficial in my work - it forces me to think about the language I am using in a different way. While it takes me more time to come up with how to say what I want to say, I find that it helps facilitate the actual saying of it in a different way than prose does. And when I transition to writing prose after having written poetry for a while, I find the words and flow even of the prose come more naturally and turn out better because I have been forcing my mind to think in a poetic manner.