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Poetry: Back to the Basics

By Gary R. Hess. Category: Poetry

Poetry is seen by many as a series of meters constructing a story using rhyme. This is one of the most common misconceptions about poetry. The truth is, it comes in many varieties while describing many different objects and having different elements from within - rhyme is just one choice of what poetry may consist of and it doesn't always have to. Actually, poetry very rarely has rhyme.

Basic rules to live by:

  • Use the 5 senses.

    For an effective poem, utilize all senses of the human body: hearing, seeing, smelling, touching and tasting. No, don't actually have the reader eat the paper you write on, but you should describe the scenery, make your words so they know exactly what is happening. Is the floor creaking? Does the situation leave a bad taste in your mouth? Describe it like you would tell an interesting story to someone who doesn't know anything about you or what you are experiencing.

  • Don't force your rhymes.

    Rhyming is the most overused yet least accurately utilized tool of a poem. If you are ever going to rhyme, do it with meaning and purpose. Just because "five" rhymes with "hive" doesn't mean you have to use it. If a word doesn't fit, don't use it. If a line doesn't work out the way you want, change it. Never force anything in a poem, especially rhymes. Many poets went their whole career without a single poem that rhymes, so why should you feel forced to use them? There are many other poetic devices you can use.

  • Use rhythm.

    This is something all poems must have, if it doesn't have this, it isn't a poem. Some poem types have this built in, ie: haiku, limerick. But for freehand, etc. it is important to create your own rhythm and keep it throughout the entire writing. It may sound difficult, and it is, but it's what makes a poem a poem.

  • Have meaning.

    There's nothing worse than a poem without an expressed idea. If you must, create a layout which includes the four elements of a writing: rising, climax, decline, conclusion. Once the writing is finished, have a friend or family member look over your work. Be sure not to tell them what it is about!

If you aren't using these four basic poetry principals, you should re-evaluate your poems and try to include them into your writings. These are four elements which poems need to be successful and convey the meaning they are intended to.