Newspapers are no longer posting poetry reviews, and if they do, they are slim to none. The general press provides very little coverage of poetry or poets. While there are existing today literary journals that print verse, they have exonerated the printing of literary reviews. They publish page upon page of jam-packed poems, one right after the other. Reading these journals is an absolute travesty and completely defames the spiritual culture of verse. And yet, the poor and unsuspecting, first-time poet still believes that this is a creditworthy accomplishment. 

   There is, however, an exceptional escalation for the need of the art. There are a record number of literary magazines being established and thousands of poetry books being published both in the self-published industry as well as in the traditional sector every year. There are a vast amount of teaching careers in creative writing, book awards, poetry contests, conventions and retreats. In fact, there are a number of programs federally, state and/or privately funded to help further and enhance the writing careers of poets. Colleges are filled with students studying poetry from undergraduates to graduates.

   Poetry is a specialized art that proffers to unique spectators. Over the years, however, the viewers have progressively become the creators thereby vastly decreasing the readership base. Unwittingly, the same organizations that promote writing poetry have sponsored the fall of spectators. The focus needs to redirect toward the fundamental value of reading verse. Ask an avid reader who their favorite contemporary poet is and you are likely to obtain a blank stare for an answer. Query aspiring poets who the U.S. Poet Laureate is and you are likely to get a resounding bewilderment. Now, ask a few fiction writers who their favorite authors are and you’d better be prepared to take those names down in shorthand. A complete paradox, wouldn’t you say?  Names such as John Grisham, Dan Brown and Dean Koontz may spark some great conversation whereas names like Billy Collins, Charles Simic and Rita Dove would be completely foreign.

   Poets continually promote themselves by posting their poetry on the internet, reading their poetry, submitting their work to small literary presses, attending workshops and the occasional retreat. In fact, the number of venues hosting readings has dramatically increased over the years. When the authors at these events read verse, however, it is usually their own. This neither promotes the poet nor the art, but rather, further laminates poetry from the thriving literary world. Readers should prepare a large selection of poems from all different poets, alongside of their own to read. This will establish the author’s true admiration of the art, and at the same time, will help revive its essentialness.

   There is another, more destructive problem looming over contemporary poetry.  With all of the thousands of run-of-the-mill verse being published annually, it is well presumed among our erudite readers and literary society that momentous poetry is a thing of the past. It is up to poets to take pause, reevaluate prior to publishing and work together to bring back, out of the catacombs of isolation the vital essentialness of verse.

   In closing, I would like to give you some helpful suggestions for improving your craft.

The Expressive Rut.  Often times, you will find that you are in an “expressive rut,” which is a term that I use for poets who are experiencing “writer’s block.”  Either you are drawing a complete blank, or you may find that you are writing about the same feelings or thoughts. Or, you may be using the same words over and over again in your verse. When this happens, take a break from writing altogether and find a new muse. For instance, you may try taking a walk in the park, going to the beach, watching a movie, or reading a book of poetry.  Write when you are “uninspired.”  Write when you are “unemotional.” Most of all, write to be read, not to work through some personal difficulty.

The Vocabulary Debate.  You find yourself stuck on a verse. You know what you are trying to say and you cannot quite find the exact word you are looking for, so you “make a word up.” This is completely unacceptable and is a literary expulsion. Do not, under any circumstances, make up a word. Read the dictionary or study the thesaurus. There is always a word for what you want to say. Poetry is an art, however, it is a literary art and you must use real vocabulary.

Even Free Verse is not Free.  Do not write a letter, break it off where you feel like it and call it verse. This is not a poem and does not qualify as free verse.  Watch your meter and your flow.

Meter Example One (Wrong)                       Meter Example Two (Right)

She walked through the desert                    Through the desert

With her cane                                                 She walked with cane

And hurried back                                           And hurried back

To me                                                             To me –

Letter Example (Do Not Do)

I wanted to let you know that I

landed safely. The plane ride was

delayed and although it was supposed

to be a three hour ride, it took six hours,

but at least we made it. I have jet

lag and I am really hungry so I am

going to get some food to eat now

but I wanted to tell you that I made it safely.

By: Deborah Simpson

About the Author:

• Motivational / Inspirational Speaker
• Ghostwriter
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• Poetry Editor
• Former Director of Poetry Development of TRIAD Publishing Group
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• 20+ years legal writing experience