Updated: Dec 12, 2021
If you think of your favorite poet, you could probably be able to choose one of their poems out from a lineup even if you haven’t read it before. Today, I am going to show you how to do just this with your own writing, to take you from being someone who just practices the art of poetry, to someone who has created their own idiosyncratic genre within the art.
Before you begin to find your own voice as a poet, it is of utmost importance to listen to those of others. Make it a habit to seek out and read poetry from various different authors. This will open your eyes to new techniques, themes, language, and ways of writing and when you find something you particularly enjoy, you can use the work as inspiration for your own writing. Personally, I tend to draw a large variety of my inspiration from music which can be argued to be a form of poetry in its own right. When I’m listening to an artist I enjoy, I spend some extra time reading and analyzing the lyrics and if inspiration strikes, I make a note of it in my poetry journal. If I discover a new artist but don’t have time to listen to their albums at the moment, I will usually go to a lyrics site and read the songs as poetry. I have found that lyrics are my greatest inspiration when it comes to writing.
There are hundreds of various forms, techniques, and writing styles to choose from when it comes to writing poetry, but this doesn’t mean your work needs to resemble an all you can eat buffet. Rather than trying to incorporate every trick in the book, study in depth just a few poetry elements that stir you when reading or writing poetry, then practice honing this craft. Being a good poet is not about how many different techniques you can employ, but about how you can use technique to create an emotional experience. For example, I realized that I always gravitated towards rhyme and strong metaphors, so I try to make these things emblematic of my work. Now this does not mean you can never branch out or try anything else, in fact, I highly encourage this! All I’m saying is that you should have a “core” technique that you can always come back to and become a master at.
Equally important as the way you write is what you write about. Of course, individual poets write across a wide span of different subjects, but if you really pay attention, there tends to be overarching themes or moods to an author’s work. Sometimes it’s very apparent - a poet writes about mental health, nature, or feminism. Other times, you can’t quite put your finger on it, but you just have a certain feeling after reading a particular poet’s work. Having a few themes ubiquitous throughout your work will not only help you create a signature style, but it can also help you reel in a loyal fan base, as people tend to be drawn to specific themes that they enjoy in poetry. For me, I’ve always enjoyed poetry that’s dark yet romantic, as well as social commentary, so these are what I’ve decided to make my signature when it comes to writing. If you are feeling stuck creating a mood for your work, I highly recommend that before you write, you surround yourself with poetry, art, music, environments, colors, and aesthetics that all represent the mood of the poem you want to write. For me, I usually write at night with a candle burning, after reading a few poems that inspire me, and if I’m feeling extra, I may even dress up in an outfit or do my makeup in a way that inspires the artistic mood I am going for.
One of the problems I often see with poets just starting out is that the language of their writing is either too forced, too generic, or trying too hard to sound like somebody else. There is a misconception that poetry needs to use a very particular kind of language, and anything that differs from that is “bad” writing. However, the beauty of poetry is that it is the least restrictive writing form, and you can often throw conventional rules of language to the wayside. To develop your own poetic voice, try to think of the way you normally speak in everyday life, and incorporate it into your writing. Is your language casual? To the point? Elevated? Crass? Sweet? Witty? Funny? Long winded? Whatever it may be, don’t be afraid to sound like you in your writing! Once you can translate your voice to your writing, people should be able to read one of your poems and bet good money that you wrote it just based on the language.
Sometimes, it is hard to be introspective and we may not always have an accurate view of ourselves. For this reason, it’s best practice to seek some outside counsel every once in a while. I recommend talking to friends or other poets and asking them what they think your signature style is, or what sorts of things come to mind when they think of you or your writing. You may be surprised at what they say, and knowing how others perceive your work can be interesting and informative. How quickly and easily your friend comes up with an answer can also be a good way to gauge whether you have already established a signature style, or if there is still one waiting to be created by you.
BOOK ME FOR PRIVATE 1-ON-1 TUTORING!
I am very excited to offer 1-on-1 tutoring for poetry technique and would love to play a small part in your journey!