Updated: Mar 29, 2021
Poetry not only serves a personal purpose but can also help share unsung stories and enfranchise underrepresented voices. As part of a new series dedicated to unveiling what goes on behind the artistic process, I've decided to, at long last, elucidate Why It Meters. With each new composition, I will be sharing tips and tricks that have helped me craft my poetic works as well as try and dispel the poetry's misinformed, inaccessible reputation. So sit back, grab a pen and paper if you're feeling studious, and enjoy this journey down the rabbit hole...
As you have probably guessed already, the inspiration for this poem came from an idea encapsulated by Cabo San Lucas, Mexico - a frequent destination for my family whenever time frees itself for travel. Here lies the first, and arguably most important step in the poetry process: the muse needs to be intrinsic. Too many burgeoning poets, myself included, seek to imitate external themes and voices for the mere fact that these templates are derived from the greats. To put it simply, the greats didn't become the greats by following a verse formula, they owe their success to self-possessed concepts, channeling their inimitable voice.
With inspiration in mind, the next logical step is: what form is the best medium to express my muse? I like to think of these forms and their respective stanzas as containers - nets that sieve the amorphous stream of ideas and fishes out the key nuggets, categorizing them based on shared ideas. For this poem, I decided to choose a sonnet, due to its storytelling nature, sizeable length, and consistent rhyme scheme and meter. Admittedly, I also wanted to challenge myself in writing a legitimate sonnet - when done properly, the poem should simply flow from one line to the next - with a jaunty cadence (unless there is an interruption to that rhythm for effect, hint hint).
Now for the actual writing - first begin by asking yourself: what do I want to talk about? The answer doesn't have to be extremely niche, but you should have a loose idea about what you want to fill each container (stanza) with. For this section, I'd recommend outlining (very tersely) the structure of your poem. Don't worry if when you begin writing your poem you begin to drift away from the outline; just make sure that there is some semblance of structure and progression throughout your poem, or else your content could run the risk of banality. By the end of the poem, the reader should arrive at a destination inherently dissimilar from the one he/she embarked; by the end, the reader's perspective, similarly, should be dissimilar from the one he/she once held. This progression is what makes the poem interesting and interactive with the audience.
When attempting to remain consistent with a form's expectations in terms of meter and rhyme scheme, I strongly recommend reading your poem out loud as you craft each line. And be sure not to fall into what I call "Poet's confirmation bias" - purposefully reading the poem in such a way that the lines awkwardly conform to the given meter/rhyme. Simply read the poem in your normal voice (you can even add a bit of that poetic Morgan Freeman solemnity when reciting, if you're feeling fancy) and if you stumble through reciting the line (unless you're doing for an artistic effect) keep experimenting. Sometimes it takes me hours just crafting a single line - make sure every single word is deliberate and meaningful. If you're stuck, there's no penalty to hopping onto rhymezone for suggestions regarding meter and rhyme (you can even filter by meter patterns, parts of speech, near rhymes, etc.). The key is to refine refine refine each line- there are no short cuts here. Luckily, the amount of time that you put into meticulously crafting each line will show in the end result - a poem composed with care is unmistakably priceless. Even though there are restrictions, make sure to have fun with this section! Overcoming these barriers in fresh and creative ways is where your poetic voice and ingenuity can really shine: throw in some internal rhymes to quicken the cadence; slow it down the pace with a couple of commas to introduce tension, disconnect, or reflection; play with imagery and try to find that central picture that the poem centers around; as rebelliousness and a maverick spirit is a prerequisite to becoming a poet, don't be afraid to take some artistic liberties in spelling, pronunciation, form, etc. (e.g. 'longside). All this and more, make the most of this section; it's the most tedious and frustrating of all sections, but it's also the most rewarding - without it, your poem would be an blank slate.
Hopefully this introduction to the poetic, artistic process helps you along your future bardic peregrinations. As always, feel free to contact me on any of Why It Meters' social media accounts, Gmail, or simply by commenting on this post for all questions regarding verse. I would be more than willing to explain the method behind all this madness. Be sure to check out our new Why It Meters' Podcast for a more in-depth yet accessible analysis of my latest poem: Cabo Canto. I look forward to your January "Auld Lang Rhyme" submissions and as always: pick up those pens, and lets get writing!