April is almost a upon us and poets know what that means. The National Poetry Month 30 for 30 challenge is coming up! This is a challenge for poets of all types and experience levels to write 30 poems in the 30 days of April. Started in 1966 and organized by the National Academy of American Poets, the challenge is a fun way to get yourself thinking about poetry on a daily basis and write out whatever comes to mind.
But sometimes that’s the problem. Inspiration doesn’t happen when you want it to strike and sometimes you can be left with little idea of what to write, let alone how to write it. Here are some poetry prompts to get you through the month. And remember, inspiration can come in any form. Embrace it!
written by Star LaBranche
The short answer to this question is that it’s different for every person. Some people process their emotions through writing quite well and others don’t. How you do so and to what extent is completely up to you. But the long answer is that, for me, writing poetry has been one way to deal with trauma and mental illness in a way that I never have before. But one thing is certain, if you don’t pick up a pen and start writing, you might never know for yourself.
I started writing for fun when I was about 11 or 12. I was years away from the erratic behavior that would cause me to eventually be diagnosed with bipolar disorder, but had already experienced some of what would amount to post-traumatic stress disorder. When I started writing, I was feeling uneasy in the world I was growing up in. I didn’t fit in and everyone was very quick to make sure I was aware of that. I found my escape in prose, where I could be anyone I wanted and I opted for someone who accepted, understood, and safe.
I didn’t start writing poetry until I was 16. At the point I first started it felt more like a dare than anything else. I had taken on many other forms of writing but had always skirted around poetry because I was largely afraid of it. I thought it all had to rhyme. I thought it all had to be Ode to a Grecian Urn. But I decided I would give it a try and I wrote my first poem in physics class. It’s a terrible poem, make no mistake, but I was on my way.
When I started, mainly due to my lack of experience, I wrote about a lot of things I had never been through and borrowed feelings from other people and situations. But as I grew, both as a person and a poet, I started using poetry to channel my feelings. I did it so much that soon it became automatic. As soon as I realized I was wrestling with a feeling or emotion, I started writing.
I’m not a psychologist, and am certainly in no position to analyse myself, but I feel that poetry gives me an outlet to explore my feelings, emotions, and experiences on a page, which is a very safe place. Sometimes writing has given me clarity on issues I’ve been through. Occasionally, not until years later do I really understand what was happening when I wrote it. But being able to visualize what is going on in my head and put it down on paper is tremendously helpful when it comes to sorting through feelings and gaining a deeper understanding or a situation.
My advice is simple. First of all, when you start out, your writing is going to be terrible. That’s fine. If your goal is working on your emotions, all you need is to write. You’ll get better as you continue to do so. Also, don’t hold back. Sometimes it’s scary to put all of your emotions out there. Somehow putting them down on paper gives them a kind of life we might be hesitant to give. Sometimes the emotion we’re having is an ugly one that we don’t want to face. During this process, be gentle with yourself. Especially, if you’re writing about trauma. Don’t try to force your emotions out either, let them happen naturally as you write. Above all, accept your emotions for what they are and don’t try to change them. Be authentic, even when it hurts.
So you want to write poetry. It might seem simple. Just throw some rhymes together and hope for the best. But poetry can be an incredibly complicated exercise in not only saying what you want to say but ensuring your audience understands your message. Here are some quick and simple poetry tips for making your writing stronger and improving your poetry.
Many beginning poets think that throwing flowery language around with some obscure symbols that they understand but no one else does is a great way to write a poem. When you see pieces like this:
you never cared about my placard,
you always formed opinions on roast beef without asking me first
The reader has no idea what’s going on in these lines. The narrator seems upset about someone not eliciting their opinions and caring about things that are important to them, but roast beef and placards? What do those objects mean within this poem? How is the audience to know?
Sometimes saying what you need to say in as few words as possible is the most difficult form of poetry at all. Other poems need to be longer to accommodate a story or more complex ideas. But being able to edit your poem and prune back the phrases and lines that are already established can strengthen your work and keep your audience enraptured. When it comes to open mics and readings, no audience members wants to sit through a 30 minute poem that simply says the same thing over and over again.
Simply put: you don’t. No one does. Never stop attending lectures, workshops, readings, and hitting your local library for new poetry books by a variety of authors. Nothing is more disheartening to see than someone who has great potential decide they don’t need to hone their craft.
Little River Poetry Festival co-founder, Judith Stevens, works with a lot of poetry forms, including short poem forms. In her workshops at the festival she always shares some new forms for everyone to try out. Here are just a few of these short forms and how you yourself can try them out!
A French form of poetry, this form is not for the faint of heart. The rhyme scheme is AbAabbA and the seven-line structure goes like this:
Line 1: A—four syllables
Line 2: b—eight syllables
Line 3: A—repeat of line one
Line 4: a—eight syllables
Line 5: b—eight syllables
Line 6: b—eight syllables
Line 7: A—repeat of line one
Topics for these poems can be anything you want.
This short form comes from Afghanistan. Afghani women created and perfected it as an art form. The landay is a simple form with one couplet. The first line is 9 syllables long the second line is 13 syllables long. Although you can write about whatever you choose, many landay poems are written about seperation, home, and love.
Everyone knows what a limerick is, but not everyone knows how to write one. Rhyme and rhythm are key in this short form. The poem should roll off the tongue with an jaunt. Limericks are five lines long with an aabba rhyme scheme. But as previously mentioned, pay careful attention to your rhyme and rhythm. The topics for these poems can be anything you choose. Some traditional Irish limericks are considered quite bawdy, but this enjoyable form is often used to teach children about poetry.
If you’ve heard of a haiku, consider the tanka it’s older sibling. The tanka is a Japanese form with 31 syllables total. The syllable count is as follows:
Line 1: 5 syllables
Line 2: 7 syllables
Line 3: 5 syllables
Line 4: 7 syllables
Line 5: 7 syllables
This poem is unrhymed and traditional themes use personification, nature, and metaphor.
There’s always a little rush of uncertainty when choosing to attend a poetry festival for the first time. Big events often leave potential attendees wondering exactly what they need to know to attend. Here’s a few ideas for dipping your toes in before attending a poetry festival.
This is one of the first and easiest parts of attending any poetry festival. If you have a passion, a curiosity, or even just basic interest in poetry, you should absolutely take a chance on a festival. They are a great starting point, filled with attendees who will share their love of poetry and their experience with you! At the Little River Poetry Festival, we have distinguished and published guest poets, as well as fresh-faced guests looking to learn more at our workshops.
If you’re feeling intimidated when thinking about attending a poetry festival, consider doing a little research first. Google makes it possible to see feedback from previous years’ guests, clips of featured events or poets, and a list of activities! Knowing exactly what you’re signing up for will help work out your first-fest jitters. Visit our website at http://littleriverpoetryfest.com to learn more about our group activities.
At the end of the day, your talents and interests make you unique. Sometimes, pairing an interest that is seemingly unrelated with poetry can produce dynamic new results. After all, the bounty of nature and good company is not reserved only for serious poets. There is always something new to learn with a change of environment. We have musicians, painters, and families all planning to join us for the festival this year, each looking to pull inspiration from a tranquil weekend in the gorgeous Floyd countryside.
The long and short of all this is you don’t need to know anything in particular to attend a poetry festival – you just have to attend with a sincere heart and an open mind. If this sounds like you, please join us June 15 – 17 for the Little River Poetry Festival.KEEP READING
Whether you’re new to poetry open mics or a seasoned pro, it can still give you butterflies at the idea of standing up in front of a crowd and sharing your poetry. It can be a very vulnerable experience to share your work with someone in such a public format. You’re not only putting forth your poetry, but your performance as well.
Here are some quick tips for mastering your poetry open mic performance!
Nothing is worse than when a poet is on a roll, giving an awesome performance, and then they get lost in their words and have to stop to correct themselves. It breaks up the performance and brings the audience out of the flow the poet created.
So read over your poem several times, practice parts that you have trouble with. But draw the line at practicing so much your performance is robotic. If you’re rushing to get through your performance and looking like you just want to be done with the entire experience, the audience might lose interest. Find a way to keep your poetry fresh while ensuring that you don’t stumble over your words.
It happens to us all. We’re completely prepared, the performance is going well, then all of a sudden, we screw up a word or a phrase. The good news is that it’s most likely the audience won’t realize you made a mistake. Beyond that, stopping and correcting yourself will only draw more attention to the mistake. If you misspeak, ignore it and keep reading your poem. It’s the best way to deal with this flub.
You might have an amazing poem about a sexual awakening. But if there are young children in the audience, you can rest assured their parents won’t appreciate it. Additionally, if your poetry has swearing, this can also be an issue at family-friendly venues. Make sure you know the rules of the venue before you perform. If there is a theme for the open mic, it’s always great to read a poem that relates to the theme. Of course, this is never mandatory.