I don’t use these words lightly. Your poetry may suck. In the words of David Orr, a poetry critic at the New Yorker, “If you like all poetry, maybe you should be trusted with scissors.”
The post modern era has brainwashed the masses into thinking all art is subjective and thus all art is equal. False. Subjectivity depends on the subjects ability to distinguish good art from bad art. Most Americans cannot taste the difference between stale olive oil versus high quality stuff in Italy. However, a Italian would spit out the crap we buy from Walmart because his taste buds are wiser. Art takes acquiring a taste moreover the skill to distinguish good art from bad art. If the reader isn’t interacting with poetry on a regular occurrence (thus not much of a reader), when the sparing occasion calls for it, he’ll consume whatever fecal matter is fed to him and call it art.
The Internet has blessed us with more content at our fingertips than we can grasp. True. But don’t be fooled to think owning a WordPress or tumblr in addition to having feelings are the singular prerequisites to writing good poetry.
Writing is a tool. Some may grasp the art better than others, but it requires practice. There are no short cuts with the writing process. Don’t despair! Being a fool is part of the process to good writer as long as you exit that stage into better writing
Now to the meat of the subject: why your poetry sucks.
1) No grammar or basic sentence structure:
Be careful with punctuation. If done right, it can add that extra touch that makes it English. I don’t care if you are using enjambment: your poetry should make sense with periods, semicolons, and commas to give shape to poem. Unless you are E.E. Cumming and using the lowercase of I for some literary statement, stick to the grammar rules. Each sentence should have a start and end (not a period at the end of the whole poem alone). All the rules at grammar school you learned applies in poetry. Leave artistic freedom to those who have learned the discipline first to know when to break such rules in the first place.
2) No Structure in the Poem (including Free Verse)
Although free verse sounds free even anarchist have to establish some self control if an overarching system won’t. The writing within a self created structure whether that some rhythm, meter, rhyme, and form gives a medium for the poem to come off the page. It isn’t about the content of the words but how those ideas are expressed in material form. If you poem existed in some Platonic Heaven, a perfect angelic being, it’s your jobs to give him a body to be expressive of his true self. All ideas are expressed through sentences and their associated words around them. Your role of a poet to muse, yes, with that intuitive angelic being. However, second, your role is to communicate that internal idea and manifest it into it best spoken word. Structure helps hold the atomic structure together as a natural way to make something to known as beautiful. Nature uses for instance the golden ratio to create beauty. Though pretty and cute can become measurable terms. So, with poetry, poets have time tested various structures to create beauty. For the artist knows it’s vomit on a page, our words, has to be organized to tell a story or convey an idea. Vomit alone is worse than speech in its common vernacular. Someone once said, “Poetry is the best words in the best order.” And many don’t apply a lot of structure in their poem because they either lack the skill set and onset intention of doing so. Even the raunchiest of poems is an innocent child before you hit the page. The poet parents and raises that child to be moral, beautiful, and true. There is no Child Protective Services on Word Press for bad poetry (so restrain yourself people).
3) The readers hears more of the author than he does the poem. (a.k.a It’s not about you!)
The self confessional done wrong plagues poetry as a pandemic. The parent who screams at the umpire at a baseball game in slam style, his concern is not the welfare of the child, rather himself. The role of poet is to bring the poem to maturity. The poem should be able once completed to stand on it’s own accord self reliant on no one for the quality of it’s content. It’s all about the children. It’s about the poems. Not you! Too often I see poets tell us to how they feel rather than how the poem feels listening and paying attention to it. As it’s parent, you have feelings too, but you shouldn’t lash out at your child. Though therapeutic to hold a newborn in your arms, the child should not become a punching bag to express your anger. If the poem and it’s speaker is angry, help the speaker find the words to come to some emotions in the best way possible way with some transformation of the speaker taking place.
Side note: I took a freshman year Creative Writing course in college. No more than that one class. In a closed door session with the professor, I told him I didn’t have any feelings (that I wrote on ideas). He told me, “Well, if you don’t have any feelings, get out of my class. Go be an accountant. Rather, I went into the Philosophy Department. I was wrong to say I didn’t have feelings. I did and do. Rather, my voice came from an immature perspective of the world. I was young: too young to raise a poem and nurture it in the way it needed to help it grow. I had feared that the poem would express thus reveal something about myself I did not care to share. However, the poet needs to mature enough to realize the poem is not about them unless he intends to express the artistic platonic form of his essence. Poetry does not aim to express the self, rather a higher truth of an idea in it’s perfect formation.
So, let review.
1) Use English, thus grammar rules apply.
2) Provide and intend to give structure to your poem. Discipline the child. Freedom is discipline. Discipline manifest known forms of beauty.
3) Focus on the welfare of the poem, not the welfare of the poet.
Come back tomorrow, and I discuss more reason why your poetry may sucks and what you can do about it.
Author: Rj Wiechecki
I am a writer, both poet and philosopher. I do works of philosophy through the medium of poetry. I also do commissioned work as a poet as a business.