Basic Rules for Great Poetry

While poetry is most often seen as a ‘free-flow’ or emotional exercise, poetry has a long standing history of rigid form. (Shakespeare anyone?)

And while using a free write exercise for poetry has its place, there is something to be said for using a healthy balance of emotion and form to create a spectacular poem.

To find a good balance for your poetry, try some of the following suggestions:

1. Figure out your form: Whether you chose to write a sestina or a free verse poem, sometimes choosing a form can help get your creative juices flowing. And remember–you can always modify the form after you write the poem, or even while the poem is being written.

2. Line Breaks: No matter what form you’re using for your poem, well placed line breaks are key to the way that your poem comes across to readers. Use shorter line breaks to make your poem have a faster pace, and longer ones to make your poem read more slowly. Be sure that you read your poem out loud after you’ve written it to make sure that you change any lines that may appear to break in awkward places.

3. Grammar; it’s not just for essays: A problem that we sometimes see here at Superstition Review is poetry that lacks (or sometimes overuses) grammar. Remember, in a poem, a comma still acts as a small pause, just like a period signifies the end of a sentence. Therefore, a free verse poem that is written without using periods is like one large run on sentence (not to say that this can’t be done, it can: but it’s hard to pull off successfully). So when it comes to grammar, tread carefully.

4. Imagery: Using images that help your readers ‘see’ and really understand what you are trying to say in your poem is important because it makes the poem more real to them.  Images are concrete pieces of an intangible expression that allow poetry to be shared by people everywhere. While imagery can sometimes represent emotions or deeper themes, a poem without any imagery stands to lose the interest of its audience and come off as paltry at best.

5. Remember your audience: While it’s sometimes easy to write poetry for the pleasure of releasing ideas or emotions, if you plan to publish a poem you need to make sure that it will be understood by your audience. That means using very little ‘inside knowledge’ (meaning, something that only you understand) or rambling on without any purpose or in a way that is confusing to your reader.

If you have any questions regarding our submission guidelines at Superstition Review, feel free to visit our Submissions Page or e-mail us with additional questions.

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Superstition Review

Superstition Review is the online literary magazine produced by creative writing and web design students at Arizona State University. The mission of our journal is to promote contemporary art and literature by providing a free, easy-to-navigate, high quality online publication that features work by established and emerging artists and authors from all over the world. We publish two issues a year with art, fiction, interviews, nonfiction and poetry.
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One thought on “Basic Rules for Great Poetry

  • October 19, 2014 at 7:33 pm
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    Wonderful reminders of what makes a good poem.I think often times poets get so caught up in the feelings they are conveying and forget about these easy little things. Everything mentioned here is what can take a poem form good to great. Great article

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