We all want our poetry to sing. We want it to soar to heights unseen. *Insert 100 other cliches here*
We pour ourselves into our poetry and work very hard to hone this challenging craft. I find that personally, poetry takes me days to write when I can bang out an article (five times the amount of words) in half the time.
After all this work, and heart, and pure creative grit, why wouldn’t we take the time to perfect its presentation?
First and foremost — and some pubs will even require this (Thank you!)— get rid of the double-spacing.
I can not shout this loud enough. That double-spacing is so ultra-annoying to me that I find myself refusing to even read double-spaced poems.
When you hit “enter” in Medium as well as a lot of other blogging editors, you get a double space. You have to correct this manually.
Here is how to do it:
Method #1 — At the end of the line you are typing, do NOT hit “Enter.” Instead hit “Shift + Enter” and this will single-space your material.
Method #2 — If you have copy-pasted your poem into the editor and double-spacing is implemented automatically, go to the end of each line and hit “Delete”, then (without moving your cursor) hit “Shift+Enter.” This will first remove the double-space and then add in a single space instead.
Learning these methods will help you to present your poetry in the visually correct stanzas or free-verse form you intend. All that double-spacing looks like you are presenting your poem for workshopping, and not as the final draft you intend for it to be.
Secondly, Proof-read, like a LOT. Seriously.
Poetry requires intense attention to grammar, spelling, tense, and punctuation.
If you lack punctuation throughout a poem and then throw in a random period, this appears sloppy. I am being blunt but if you are serious about presenting professional poetry, pay attention to the small things. Small things are HUGE in poetry.
Be sure that your verbs are in agreement with their preceding nouns. I see the failure to implement this frequently. Also, tenses can’t bounce around unless you intend for them to, and I would suggest doing this carefully, if at all. I do have some poetry with more than one tense but this was done with a measure of caution as to not confuse the reader. We want them to analyze and absorb complex meaning — not wince at the confusing syntax.
Thirdly, do not mix metaphors or mix imagery.
This seems simple, and perhaps more related to writing good poetry than it speaks to the blogging aspect of presenting your work, but it is crucial to writing good poetry and I cannot let it go unsaid.
If you use the word “furnace” early in your poem and maybe the word “heat,” do not use then use words like “bubbles up” or “tsunami” in the next phrase (unless earthly destruction of Biblical proportion is what you are describing )— keep the imagery parallel and consistent.
Choose one “theme” of imagery and carry this throughout. Because a tsunami does not “burn” and flowers growing and blooming does not necessarily evoke images of electricity or cars driving, the inconsistencies will throw off the “mind’s eye” of the reader. If you choose nature imagery — use verbiage that supports this. Here are examples of consistent verbiage that supports the imagery:
Nouns: trees, flowers, soil — use harvesting or growing verbs to describe the action: arise, plow, bloom, germinate, create, die, “living and dying” verbs
Nouns: child, toy, memory — remember, toy (as a verb), learn, play, leap, run, emotional verbs, softer verbs (for example memory waned/ceased/grew fuzzy rather than memory tanked or memory bombed)
Nouns: vehicles, clocks, machinery — mechanical or electric descriptions, harder verbs (like tanked, growled, hissed), verbs implying movement not growth. Mechanical things can, however, have “life” or “death” descriptive words like recently in a poem of mine I described the “throaty gulp” of the brakes of passing trucks.
Basically, you have to make sure that the verbs you choose are things that you can envision realistically or metaphorically, and keep the images you “see” consistent. A consistent set of images makes for a clearer journey in the mind of your reader. You will want to also use these concepts with regards to smell, taste, and touch/feeling images.
Feel free to break the consistency “rules” after you first understand how to implement them. (Learn to drive before learning to race derby-style!) When you present your work on any blogging platform, seasoned writers and readers will pick up on the inconsistent use of imagery or mixed metaphors, and you want to be professional in your writing if blogging your poetry is a chosen publication form.
“Get to work. Your work is to keep cranking the flywheel that turns the gears that spin the belt in the engine of belief that keeps you and your desk in midair.”
― Annie Dillard, The Writing Life
Lastly, choose impactful images (pictures) even if they are only mildly related to the topic of your poem.
Let’s face it, choosing images for poetry is difficult. I find that pictures that too closely resemble the poetry will drive the reader to a more guided conclusion regarding the meaning of the poem. If this is what you wish, then take the time to choose the picture most resembling the meaning of your poem or the scene you’d like to set.
A good example of this is my poem On Dappling Pond. (Link below) I understand that writing a thorough poetic description of the feathering of a Mandarin duck would be more effective and a more beautiful experience if the reader knew what the heck a Mandarin duck looked like. I can either trust my reader to Google “Mandarin duck” and “Muscovy duck” to get a better visual, or I can simply include those images. As this is not a metaphorical poem but a story-telling one, it is easier to follow along with the amusing tale of these two ducks if the reader has an idea of what they look like.
Another example of the creative use of images is Undone by Indira Reddy:
i unravel in jagged bits,
from my mile-high walls,
the truth of you,
As you can see the imagery captured in the poem is quite urban, but the picture is of a woman in a bathtub with floating flowers. The picture captures the readers' attention and draws them to the poem, then the great writing of the poem keeps the reader and allows them to devise their own internal pictures of the poem’s meaning. The picture used is more for either shock value or as an attention-grabber.
The best images for a blogging-style poetry post will be interesting, full of character, and elicit emotion or interest.
GET the reader — then keep them.
One final thought:
Let’s keep poetry alive! Let’s encourage poetry to exist with great value in our blogs and on Medium. And let’s give our readers something to move them. To all of you out there writing poetry and posting it for online value — I applaud you for honoring this great genre of writing.