Shelley Widhalm of Shell’s Ink Services poses by one of her poems that was selected in fall 2021 for the Forces of Nature exhibit at the Windsor Art & Heritage Center. The exhibit will continue through January 2022.
By Shelley Widhalm
I write a poem a day every day—some days I work ahead. Sometimes I get behind. But I keep writing.
Poetry can be practice for flash fiction, description and longer works. It also can be a final product that is both an art and a discipline employing specifics of form and use of language.
A poem’s form ranges from free verse open in structure to a fixed form with specific rules. Free verse doesn’t have a meter or syllable count or rhyme scheme unlike the fixed forms of sonnets, sestinas, villanelles and haikus. Semi-fixed forms like prose poems combine poetry and prose in a block of text written in poetic language.
No matter the form, poetry uses poetic devices to add musicality to words. The devices include alliteration, the repetition of initial consonant sounds; consonance, the repetition of internal consonant sounds; and assonance, the repetition of vowel sounds. Onomatopoeia occurs when words imitate the sounds they stand for, such as hiss, buzz or squawk, and slant rhyme when nearly identical words have similar sounds, like “feel” and “real.”
Poems also can take a lyrical or narrative approach. A lyrical poem is about a single image, thought or emotion expressed as a snapshot or fixed moment of time. A narrative poem tells a story and has a plot with beginning, middle and end.
No matter the form and approach, poems are about feeling, emotion, stories and moments or they capture an experience, thought, idea or observation.
To Write a Poem
- Think of the intent of the poem and what should be expressed.
- Use the senses—seeing, hearing, smelling, touching and tasting—to describe thoughts and observations.
- Play around with words and descriptions, putting random words on the page and rearranging them.
- Avoid using clichés, trite words, generalities and vague concepts, opting for comparisons and concrete language instead.
- Cut words like “and,” “that” and “the” and other unnecessary words.
- Give specific details instead of generalizations or vague descriptions.
- Explore what the poem is really saying and look for ideas that can be further explored.
One Final Thought
Poetry, no matter its form, shape or the devices it uses, becomes art as it uses language to create something of beauty, and its craft through the employment of those devices to make that beauty.