Two Tips for Writing Better Poetry

The two most important tips for the poet, to my mind, are:

  1. Live your poem.

    When you write, imagine you are a participant in your poem. Look around. See what’s happening. Feel the texture of the sticky pinecone. Feel how difficult it is to pull your fingers apart to type afterwards. Listen to the sounds around you. A robin? A whippoorwill? A Tasmanian devil? Smell your panic. Taste the dryness on your tongue, the thin salt. Activate all your senses. Galway Kinnell once said, “If you’re going to write about a frog, become that frog. Inhabit frogness.”

  2. Don’t think.

    Ray Bradbury once said, “Throw yourself off a cliff and build your wings on the way down.” I don’t like to cogitate ahead of time, much, about what I’m going to write. I let the poem create itself. You discover what you’re doing in the process of doing it. Like a jazz artist who improvises his sounds. I like surprising myself.

Stephen Perry, M.A., is one of three instructors teaching “Fundamentals of Poetry Writing,” for Find out more about the class.

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