Poetry, Common Beginners Mistakes from Poetry Scotland

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Poetry, Common Beginners Mistakes from Poetry Scotland

Postby Elibet » Thu Jan 25, 2007 9:06 am

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General of the Army
Posts: 6580
Joined: Wed Apr 05, 2006 9:59 am

Poetry, Common Beginners Mistakes from Poetry Scotland

Postby Elibet » Thu Jan 25, 2007 9:06 am

I found this lighthearted and helpful, and thought you might too.



1. Not pruning a poem.Extraneous comments at the beginning (before the poem really starts) at the end or in the middle.
2. Vague subjects. Poems about 'beauty', 'despair' etc rarely come off.
3. Stumbling rhythms and poor sound . Read your poems aloud, and listen to them.
4.Words or phrases from the wrong register - slang in a straightpoem,complicated words in a simple poem, afterthoughts and additionsnot in the same language flow.
5. Hackneyed subjects; slight subjects.
6.Stating the obvious, especially in the interpretation of yourobservations.Let your descriptions speak for themselves. Many goodsimiles and metaphors speak for themselves, too.
7. Prosiness, including lack of musicality or feeling.
8. Form ­ sonnet, villanelle, triolet, sestina etc ­ should seem to fit the poem like a dress must suit the wearer.
9.Predictable rhyme. Rhyme has many good uses. Don't misuse it. A usefultrick is to put the more common word of a rhyming pair first. Also totreat rhyme as wit, and make sure it is witty.

The Editor Sighs, or Did anyone ever say Haste Ye Back? (for more experienced poets)

The Editor Sighs if:

  • · your poem is unintelligible.
  • · you are trying too hard - lots of substantial puffy poems that would be exhausting to read aloud.
  • · all your poems are on the same subject - eg your last love affair, your house by the sea etc.
  • · your poems are opinionated. A poem may have an opinion but this can be expressed good-humouredly and not in a bullying manner.
  • · your poems were written in 1992 (and we can tell that they were). Old poems may look and feel old-fashioned or deal with outdated topics. A really good poem will survive.
  • ·your poem is published in another magazine. This occasionally happens,quite close in time, too, or we'd see it before we went to press. Itupsets both editors, each of whom thinks it makes their magazine looksilly.
  • · you criticise another magazine or publisher. It will be us you have a go at next.
  • ·your Scots isn't up to scratch. People sometimes think a smatterin ofoor's and aiblinses will do, or they mix dialects. As for any language,the ingredients are respect, upbringing or application, reading and agood ear.
  • · you deluge us with too many poems too often.
  • ·you can't spell or spell-check English, though we will correct strayerrors where neccesssarry. If you mean a mis-spelling, point it out ina note and give the reason.
  • · youmix up your itses - it's and its. I predict that apostrophes willvanish in the near future, which may make you safe with its every time.
  • · you take offence if we can't use a poem. Probably all this means is it didn't fit into our current plans.
  • the letter accompanying your poems looks like you are applying for a Nobel prize.
[Colin adds another sigh:- you think that using very short lines - maybe just one or two words - makes your text a poem.

Sadly it


I'd like to hear that again = I was half asleep with boredom.
That's your best one yet = They're all rubbish.
I'm sure that should be published = You'll never find a publisher.
If you left out the first two and last two lines and reworked stanza four = Scrap it.
Where did you get that idea? = Rubbish.
The language is so unusual in this poem = The language is grammatically
and syntactictically incomprehensible.
How many have you written in this sequence? =It's remarkably boring.
Did that actually happen? = What a sordid life you must lead.
You've captured the whole scene = It's overworded and prosy.
That's a prizewinner = But, no chance.
You're good at that kind of thing = None of us understand it.
That's very sad = You're so depressing.
Do you have any more like this? = Burn them.
You've obviosuly spent some time on that = You've killed the whole idea.
When did you write that one? = obviosuly one of your early efforts.
That's an unusual approach = It's totally unintelligible.
Your "voice" is really in that poem = Same old monotonous verbiage.
James Hall Thomson

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