Shelley Widhalm of Shell’s Ink Services reads her poetry during a poetry reading in November 2016 to launch “Sunrise Summits: A Poetry Anthology.”
By Shelley Widhalm
Poetry is an art and a discipline that ranges from whatever goes to the very specifics of form and use of language.
It can take many shapes from free verse that is open in structure to a fixed form that follows specific rules to the semi-fixed form of prose poems. The fixed forms include sonnets, sestinas, villanelles or haikus that have specific meters, syllable counts and rhyming schemes. Prose poems combine poetry and prose through a block of text written in poetic language.
Free verse poetry doesn’t have a specific meter or syllable count or a consistent rhythm and sound. This form is open but still engages one or more of the poetic devices that add musicality to the words.
Some of the poetic devices include alliteration, the repetition of initial consonant sounds; consonance, the repetition of internal consonant sounds; and assonance, the repetition of vowel sounds. There also is onomatopoeia, or words that imitate the sounds they stand for, such as hiss, buzz or squawk, and slant rhyme, the similar sound of two words that are nearly identical.
Poems, no matter the form they take, are about feeling, emotion, stories and moments. They have tempo, rhythm, color, sound and movement as they capture an experience, thought, idea or observation.
To Write a Poem, Here are Some Things to Think About
- Think of the intent of the poem and what it is you want to express.
- Use the senses—seeing, hearing, smelling, touching and tasting—to capture your thoughts, ideas, feelings and observations.
- Play around with words and descriptions, or simply put words on the page and rearrange them.
- Decide if you want your poem to be lyrical or narrative. A lyrical poem is a snapshot or a fixed moment of time; it is a poem of a single image, thought or emotion. A narrative poem tells a story and has a plot with beginning, middle and end.
- Avoid using clichés, generalities and vague concepts, like love, hope and war.
- Avoid overusing trite words, such as tears and heart, opting for comparisons and concrete language instead.
- Avoid overuse of the words “and,” “that” and “the,” which often are not needed. Cut unnecessary words to tighten the poem’s language.
- To get to the concrete, describe the specifics, such as how a sunflower lowers its seed-filled head to show change from day to night.
- Once the poem is written, reread it to cut excess words to get to the heart of the poem.
- Explore what your poem is really saying and look for ideas that can be further explored. Your subconscious may have made connections your conscious mind doesn’t readily see. This can happen as you surrender to the writing and the beauty that comes out of the unfolding of words.
One Final Thought About Poetry
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.