- Use concrete images in your poetry. Don’t just call a dog a dog. Give me description. Is it an Irish setter, does its owner dress it up in funny sweaters?

- Show, don’t tell. This standard rule of fiction writing still applies to poetry. Think about that aforementioned dog. Is that dog old or young? How do you know? Perhaps its color is fading, maybe it limps.

- Steal. Yes, I’m giving you permission to steal. But you can’t steal whole poems. You can’t lift a whole line from another poem. That’s called plagiarism. Perhaps you love the sound of “sinuous rills” from Samuel Taylor Coleridge’s “Kubla Khan.” Take it and make it your own. Just don’t steal the entire “And there were gardens bright with sinuous rills.”

- Cut it up. A fun exercise is making a poem from words you cut from a magazine. Magazines like Harper’s, The New Yorker and even National Geographic can be perfect for something like this. Let me pull a few lines from those magazines now:

(Found? You Found It?)

Interlopers with the gawky wonderment

mix-and-match, like a liquid salad bar.

The sky narrowed, burying us alive.

Weeping dark patches of smut advanced

on the flash mob’s drive toward deindividuation.

“Trouvé? Tu l’as trouvé?”

- Listen. Do you hear what I’m hearing? Your poem has a voice. It might not be completely there yet, but you need to let it come through. Perhaps this voice is even taking your poem in an unintended direction. That’s fine. Let the poem guide itself to the end.

- Keep listening. Poetry is meant to be read out loud. So keep a list of words that sound good to your ear. Germanica. I like the sound of that. I’ll use it in a poem.

- Know the meanings of your words. Knowing how a word evolved into its modern form can be fascinating and will give you a fuller understanding of its connotation. A fuller understanding might lead to a new direction in the poem. An easy site to find this sort of information is www.etymonline.com.

OG Editor Eric Reinagel

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