You may wish to add a few hard, choppy, brisk sounding words at just the right time to get a beat like rhythm going. Or a light lyrical sounding word for transition from one thought to another or to add a sing song feel.
Once you have a string of sentences and phrases about a subject or if you have the start of a story, you can began to transform it into a poem form by utilizing different poetic devices such as by changing word for word descriptions into metaphors and similes. Change, “My neighbor John was big, strong and handsome” to “John was a handsome ox.”
If you are working on a rhyme, now would be a good time to whip out the rhyming dictionary then flip through it looking for words that rhyme with keywords you’ve already written. A lot of times getting that first rhyming phrase down triggers a bunch of similar phrase ideas. “John the handsome ox, plays guitar and rocks. He wrote a new song and asked me to sing along.”
By at first, free associating and jotting down whatever comes to your mind, you can quickly accumulate a page full of random ideas or what I call an inventory of poem accessories on a given subject. Later you can look at them more critically, poetically and artistically. Scrap dull sounding words replacing them with more lively words of similar meaning. A particularly catchy phrase may be used as your, all important, repeating phrase. Reorganize the other phrases based on how they fit with one another, how they sound together or how they could support or foster the repeating phrase. Try to chop the sentences down to the same length so they start to have a rhythm that’s more uniform and paragraphs begin to look more poem like as well as sound more song stanza like.
Now, it’s time to start looking at what you’ve put together so far, with an eye for seeing it all in terms of being one single unit, even though it seems like a very unorganized unit. Re-read, looking for phrases that don’t fit in with the rest of the group. Scrap these, quickly. Now start experimenting by shuffling the remaining phrases around. Don’t be afraid to rearrange whole stanzas in search of a different sound or feel. When we were first free associating, we wrote down every fleeting though that came to our mind until we had a boat load of subject matter. Since then we’ve been chopping away at the pile, discarding what doesn’t fit, molding, sanding and polishing what’s left behind. A central theme should by now start to emerge but it will probably be a large idea, too large to handle in one poem. We need to narrow that theme down and become much more specific. What is our strongest phrase? Can we adapt a few of the other phrases to conform to the same idea? Now that we have the beginnings of a poem it’s time to start thinking about styles.
The more poetry you read the more styles you will become aware of and thus the more options you will have to develop your poetry ideas. Reading , revising, experimenting then rewriting again is how you become a better poet. Don’t be too quick to throw out a poem that doesn’t seem to be going anywhere. Frequently all that is needed is that one magical word to pull it all together. There’s no set time limit that it should take to write a poem. I’ve heard authors say they worked, on and off on a single poem for a decade before they were satisfied with it. And then there are those writers who sit down then scribble out a prolific piece of poetry in a few hours. And, just about every poet you ask has a different way of working. Trial and error then more trial and error, works best for me.
How do you keep on track and stay focused when your well of writing ideas seems to be running dry? What techniques do you use to spur your imagination? How do you stay unique and fresh with your writing ideas? What helps you overcome the dreaded writers’ affliction, writers block? Let us know your thoughts? Comment! Comment! Comment! Did I mention comments were welcomed on this blog?...Even encouraged!