poetry writing tips from a 22 year old
(based on my limited experience and my own work)
hello, all. the first thing you must’ve noticed is that i don’t capitalize in most of my posts. for older writers, this might make them cluck their tongues. for younger writers, this might seem overdone. for me, it’s how i pay my respects to e.e. cummings and my years on the internet (he is currently my favorite poet). to be involved with fandom has led me to write and to study literature, and i am so used to typing in this manner that i could not imagine typing in any other way — except when i write essays. i see myself in the lowercase — it is reflective of who i am, someone who is reserved and only outgoing when i am completely confident. so this is the first tip: don’t let style define you — rather, you should define your own style. don’t get caught up in how other people will perceive your work, not because you don’t want to share it, because you have performance anxiety, but because you should not lose yourself in the editing process.
i once fucked a guy whose poetry included strange symbols and line breaks. it almost read like html, but his voice was retained, and he writes as if his work is a blueprint of his brain. this is what your work should be like because, god, no one wants to read anything that seems as if the author is entirely removed from the work. so many literary critics want to remove authorial intent from their discussions, but interesting poets reflect how the brain functions. if you keep that intact, your voice, we can see how your brain operates, processes events, through your style. how your brain registers reality, then transforms it, should shine through your work, but it should also not overshadow the content of the work.
it’s important to me to retain who i am, but it’s equally important for me to improve myself after i write. what i mean is that a poem is never finished. you could possibly edit a single piece for the rest of your life and you will never be done. isn’t that such a beautiful metaphor for life itself? this is my approach to my work after i write it. so many authors say to not focus on the editing, and this is true when it comes to fiction and nonfiction, but poetry demands editing. it demands your attention. do you recite your own poetry to yourself? i do. because i know that i need to appreciate my own work, that my work is for me first.
be selfish, know what you want. what you write should be what you want to read, and although this advice is reiterated by every writer, it will always resonate.
something i do when i can’t write, though, is close my eyes. i latch onto the first thing i see. poetry is about associations. the mind works in associations — and these associations are directly connected to memory through the senses. so if you’re stuck, close your eyes. and if nothing comes, then write about nothing. that’s what i have to do — what is nothing like? nothing is like emptiness? what is emptiness like? it’s grabbing for my phone to call the person i love knowing he’s not there. it’s reaching over to his side of the bed and touching air. ok. see, i’m getting somewhere.
begin with nothing, that’s some solid advice. at least, it is for me because i started out as nothing. no one is born a writer. it’s acquired through reading, observing, and feeling confident that what you have to say matters, as it always will.