For the Student Poets

I’ve been obsessed with poetry since I was 12. I fell in love with the way it was possible to make words flow together in stanzas to communicate a topic that would touch the hearts of readers. It began with the love poems. What did a 12 year old know of love? Probably not much. But there was enough emotion present to convert into a 42- line poem which became my favorite piece.

I didn’t like those poems as I got older. They weren’t deep enough, it seemed. I didn’t use enough figurative language. It wasn’t beautiful. How could anything of this sort get published someday?

In high school, I dedicated myself to finding a form of poetry that I could mimic. I told myself that I needed more imagery, more symbols. More metaphors and alliteration and anything else except rhyme. Rhyme is so overused. This is the definition of good poetry, I thought at the time.

I learned the hard way that it is easy to get lost in your symbols, and when it happens, the message becomes unclear. No, it shouldn’t always be coming- off- the- page obvious, but a reader should be able to find enough evidence to prove his or her theory of what it means.

When I got lost in the idea of this beautiful poem, I forgot to add a message sometimes.

Sometimes I would write about the same topic over again, and nobody could even tell what the topic was. Was it a love poem? Was it about the environment? I didn’t even know.

Sometimes I would use the same symbols over again in different poems to mean different things.

When you use the same symbols 10 times over, it’s basically the same poem.

I was still obsessed with the idea until recently. I thought others didn’t like my poems because I didn’t use enough figurative language. I never considered that I might be using too much.

I listened to my friends’ poems. Are they even poems? I wondered. They really didn’t go as deep as mine tried to be. Yet everyone loved them. Perhaps it was because there was no confusion as to the poem’s message.

The other day, I went to Mount Mary’s bookstore. I picked up the book “Milk and Honey” by Rupi Kaur. I’d wanted to read it for awhile but never got my hands on it. It’s so popular. I wondered why.

I bought the book. I bought her recent one as well, “The Sun and Her Flowers.” I ate up every word. It touched my soul. These poems had fewer symbols than my own, but I craved more as I turned the last page. Why? Why did I like this book? This kind of poetry with its easy to understand language that I had formerly not even considered legit poetry had left me starving.

It’s more than inspirational, it’s relatable, I realized.

In poetry, there are two main things to think about.

  1. What are you trying to say?
  2. How are you saying it?

I always thought that the second question was most important. I had spent 8 years believing that. I spent 8 years believing that my poetry needed fixing. And maybe it does, but not necessarily in the way I was trying to do it.

To my fellow student poets:

Get your message out. Let that be your main goal. How you say it is as important, but don’t get lost in the details.

Other tips:

  1. If you’re just starting out, don’t be afraid to share. Your voice and your thoughts are valuable. Poems can only be edited if they exist somewhere.
  2. It’s not a competition. Others may have been writing longer. But you have your own things to say. They cannot steal your words.
  3. If you’re not feeling creative but want to write, six words can be a poem. Look it up.
  4. Don’t give up because you think your writing style is wrong. I stopped writing for a short while. I often think of all the blank notebook pages that could have been brought to life with  words.
  5. School is busy, I know. Write a short poem today.

And lastly,

  1. Consider your audience. Writing for yourself is comfortable, but you need to connect with people too. Poetry is meant to be shared and loved, and shared again. It’s an experience.



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