Today's guest blog is by my writing partner Carolyn Howard-Johnson. Although we've never physically met (we live on different continents!), that hasn't stopped us from collaborating on a series of poetry chapbooks designed to replace trite greeting cards with real, deep sentiment. We think it's a new concept for inexpensive holiday gifts. The chapbooks include Cherished Pulse, a book of love poetry, with beautiful artwork from Vicki Thomas, and She Wore Emerald Then, for mothers on your gift list, with photographs by May Lattanzio. A new book titled Imagining the Future will be released shortly, just in time for Father's Day 2010, with further books in the works include a Christmas collection and one with a women's lib slant. But enough from me, here's Carolyn, the poetry maven, to tell you how to perfect your own poetry.
I encourage my writing students to use some elements of poetry in their other writing and some elements of fiction and nonfiction in their poetry. The genres really aren't isolated. But mostly, I encourage them to try their hand at poetry, real poetry, the kind that comes from the heart. The first step is to make it less scary so they'll feel comfortable with it and these are my Twelve Tips for the Beginner.
- Try free verse (no intentional rhyming).
- Write dense, poetic prose, then divide it into lines—or not. If you don't, you'll have a prose poem.
- Break lines after important words. If you scan down the last words in each line of a poem, you should have a good sense of what the poem is about.
- Eliminate as many adjectives and adverbs as you can and strengthen your verbs. You poem will be more powerful.
- Eliminate as many of the clutter words as you can. Articles, conjunctions, even some prepositions.
- Try making different pictures on the page with the words. Your poem can be in triplets, couplets, indented unusually, even be set up in shapes. Try to make the design fit with the subject of your poem.
- Avoid long, Latinate words.
- Use images rather than explaining.
- Know metaphors, similes, assonance and alliteration. Play with them. Don't strain.
- If you want to rhyme, try to use uncommon ones. No moons and Junes.
- Read and write poetry even if you don't think you want to. You may be surprised at how much you like it. It’s changed a lot since your high school English Lit days.
- Buy a poetry book or chapbook at least once a year. That gesture supports your learning curve and the arts and you may get inspired.
Carolyn took up poetry late in life. After she wrote her award-winning novel This Is the Place, she realized she enjoyed metaphor, simile and symbol more than other aspects of fiction. She also found it easier to squeeze short periods of time for poetry into her writing schedule than large chunks of novel-writing time.
Howard-Johnson is the recipient of the California Legislature’s Woman of the Year in Arts and Entertainment Award, the Book Publicists of Southern California's Irwin Award and her community's Character and Ethics award for her work promoting tolerance with her writing. She was also named to Pasadena Weekly's list of 14 women of "San Gabriel Valley women who make life happen."
The author loves to travel and has studied at Cambridge University in the United Kingdom; Herzen University in St. Petersburg,
; and Russia , Charles University . She admits to carrying a pen and journal with her wherever she goes. Her website is: http://carolynhoward-johnson.com and www.howtodoitfrugally.com. Prague