Breaking into Poetry: Suggestions for New Poets

Suggestions for Poets Who Want to be Successful
By Beth Ann Cagle

How does one become a better poet and serious writer? It’s a tough question, and the answers are unlimited. Although you may already be aware of some of the ideas in the article below, the suggestions are multi-fold. Here are some of the things successful poets have tried out to help them become better poets and more serious writers.

• Poets are on fire for poetry! They make it a major component in everyday life by reading and writing more poetry.
• They meet other poets. See what others are doing with their poetry, and make themselves known in the local community by joining poetry readings, classes, and workshops.
• They attend (and can teach) classes and workshops directed specifically at teaching modern poetry as they learn to work with new styles they discover. There are a wide variety of techniques for them to try: imagistic, naturalistic, surrealistic, lyrical, narrative, and concrete patterns–as well as traditional forms like sonnets, villanelles, sestinas, pantoums, ballads, and, of course, a variety of free verse styles.

• They compare what they are learning to their older work, perhaps even to the point of revising poetry they previously thought was complete. Whether or not one can revise old poems, writing new poems is essential to keeping anyone’s skills sharp.
• Revise, revise, revise! Very rarely does a poem come out finished in a first draft. They will often look for similar sounding words, but they don’t repeat the same word close in the poem (there are exceptions, of course).
• They will often set their new poem aside for a few days before coming back to it to experience it with new eyes and ears. They also read the poem aloud to hear how it rolls off the tongue.
• They submit to poetry journals, following their guidelines, after making themselves familiar with the content. Also, they pay attention to whether or not the journals accept simultaneous submissions, and they follow those rules.
• If they want a greater chance for a particular poem or poems to get published, they will choose journals that allow simultaneous submissions. If they want their poems to be published in some of the best known and respected journals, they accept that these usually do not take simultaneous submissions (there are exceptions, however).
• Entering contests is a good way to get their names out there, but some contests do not offer as great of a chance to be published as just sending to journals for publication alone. Many will enter anyway if the contest is a respectable one.
• They have toughened their skin to the fact that we all will receive many rejection letters. Even well-known poets get them in abundance.
• They stay away from poetry scams. These swindlers are only interested in getting your money by having you purchase the book you are published in. A good way to tell is to check if the book publishes numerous poems to a page as opposed to only one or two poems per page. Serious poets do not value these publications, and they avoid these scams. Novice poets should not be afraid to ask more experienced writers about scams.
• They ask other poets about ideas on how to improve their poetry and what works in making these poems publishable.
• They gain as much knowledge as possible about modern poets and their poetry, but they also learn about traditional poets and poetry from centuries ago. Poets create fresh writing, but it can often have roots in the past.
• They develop their own voice and style in poetry.
• They always make time to write!

These are suggestions you can use to help you reach your goals and become the poet you want to be. Although the above ideas are invaluable to the beginning serious poet, this is not a complete list. Poets and teachers of poetry are usually easy to talk with, and they will have more ideas on how successful poets accomplish their goals and on how you can accomplish your goals as well.

Don’t let the number of ideas overwhelm you. Instead, reflect on them and try them out one or two at a time until they become more like habits, enjoyable ones. Whatever you are doing, have fun doing it. Many good wishes on your journey.

About Beth Ann Cagle

Embracing life creatively! Poet-Author-Editor-Photographer-Educator Author of full-length poetry book First Comes Love (2015, The Main Street Rag Publishing Co.), and award-winning poetry chapbook The Fearless Tattoo (Shadow Publishng Co.) Former/Founding Editor of Kakalak, Anthology/Journey of Carolina Poetry & Art, and Senior Editor of moonShine review prose and photography journal; Former Adjunct Faculty at Cleveland Community College, Rowan-Cabarrus Community College, and Cape Fear Community College
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