If you’re a writer looking for poetry tips, welcome to this Little River Poetry Fest blog post! Use the following to help begin your adventure into poetry:
One of the best ways to get started as an absolute beginner is to immerse yourself in the genre. If you think you’d like the classics, try works by Edgar Allan Poe, Emily Dickinson, or John Keats. If something a little more recent sounds interesting, try masterworks from Rupi Kaur, Maya Angelou, or Pablo Neruda. Sometimes just reading a wide swath of celebrated works can light the fire in your heart you need to write your own pieces.
If you read the pieces above, you probably noticed that many seem completely different from each other! There’s a lot of different types of poetry, and while many seasoned poets will tell you the rules of poetry are more like guidelines, it’s still a good idea to test out the bounds of the poetry you want to write. Check out this post from the Academy of American Poets with articles on 19 different forms of poetry!
While it can be a good idea to work within the bounds of poetry’s many forms, there’s no reason you need to feel constrained when it comes to your subject. Poetry doesn’t have to be about nature, feelings, or epic loves. Anything you can imagine that can be captured in writing can be poetry. For examples of poetry with unconventional subjects, read a few pieces by Shel Silverstein or Chaucer.
When all is said and done, even those celebrated poets with a knack for turning out beloved verses did not become legends overnight. The artistic process is full of scrapes and spills, and is more like a lifetime well lived than a single journey with an ultimate destination. Give yourself time and space to experiment with new forms, write what moves you, and explore this whole new branch of creativity without spending too much time worry about the “right” way to write. Every step forward, no matter how shaky or small, is still progress.
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.
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.
By Star LaBranche
When I arrived at the Little River Poetry Festival in 2017, I was so mentally blocked, I thought I would never write again. I had just finished my chapbook, Wake Me When It’s Over, which I read at the festival. I thought, this is it. I’ve written everything I can possibly ever write. I was ready to pack up my pens and my Scrivener files and call it a day.
But poetry inspiration doesn’t work like that. If there’s one thing that inspires me a great deal it’s other poets. I love to read poetry in my spare time and see how others have manipulated words and phrases. See how they put together their stanzas and format their couplets. As the festival moved into James’ workshop called, The Sudden Left Turn, I realized I had thrown myself a sudden left turn. I had written a chapbook about my life and where I was emotionally and mentally, but I left out any hint of where I was with romantic relationships. Something I have always struggled with.
Immediately, I started writing. When we got to the Floyd Friend’s Meetinghouse I wrote about 8 poems in one sitting. These 8 poems formed the basis of what became my next chapbook, Racing Toward Red Lights. I digitally published the chapbook later that year.
It just goes to show that you never know when poetry inspiration will strike you. But one thing is for sure; being around creative people can definitely help kickstart your ideas and help you to get them down on paper. I’m looking forward to the Little River Poetry Festival in 2018 for a lot of reasons. But one of them is definitely that I would love to write another chapbook like I did there. When you have a great idea and the writing flows from you, it’s an incredibly powerful experience. Almost like the poems write themselves.
Poetry was all around at the festival and it inspired poetry in turn. Here are some of their writings, inspired by the festival surroundings and the workshops they went to.
The muse walks the meadow
bare feet scraping through the dew
sky blue as a loved one’s eyes
in the wren’s song
the voice lost
into the light.
Sun sparkles on river’s rushing beck
swallows circle the dark cliffs
and a cardinal sings.
Suddenly the day
falls into a present
of a sky blue as wonder.
The river rushes away
as Jack wades back to us.
I left my blood on Buffalo Mountain –
washed the wound in the spring
as swallows chased yellow butterflies
across the road.
It’s all good.
Wandering down the dim aisles
of the antique store,
I find a collection of cobalt stemware
he would have loved,
and a book of photos –
Margaret would have opened
the minute it was put in her hands.
I leave the items on their shelves –
their new houses need no possessions.
Summer is here,
the grass is green,
(and this field is equipped
with a high-tech latrine!)
Birding with Sarah
Bidental voiceless fricative
labiodental voiced fricative
bilabial voiceless stop
Thank you, Sarah!
(from the Rondelet Workshop)
That’s who you are!
A relaxing wave from the heart.
That’s who you are!
An endless poem written down,
a world that needs to speak it.
A full universe opens up.
That’s who you are.
We come together
in the blue-striped tent where
kindness, poetry rule.
Float down the river,
mind your p’s and q’s, but write
a good kayak poem.
There is magic here!
See how love and poetry
knits us together.
The skunk on Route Eight
for the stink rebate!
cook the books,
armed to the teeth
with anger issues.
My wife and I
are on either ends
of the house,
When tent is empty,
field is dark.
Jack takes over the electric thoughts
who, he himself, has had a few –
like remembrances of black vulture wings
(knowing they are a couple,
though might not kiss as much as we),
and though the peepers have given
false signals in the constricted Spring,
it bodes well for a romantic walk.
in the cacophony of slimy things,
ourselves not included,
but hey, it’s only just begun,
and since the woods will always remember us,
we will return, united, excited, and all the rest…