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Monday, December 27, 2010

Start your New Year with new tools for writing and revising your poems

Poets can write quite well without knowing a single poetic technique, and the reason rests on that key word, “knowing.” Well-written poems often occur, not by accident or by design, but by instinct. In other words, poets frequently feel their way into a poem, writing intuitively and artistically without even knowing the name of the technique they used and without the training needed to use that technique again on purpose.

This topic will surely come up again too, but for now, remember:

Studying poetry gives you the names of techniques you use instinctively.

Once you know the name, you can call on that technique as you revise.

Some poets are just “naturals.” Even if they have never studied poetry or have rarely read a poem, they have an innate ability to write creatively or express themselves well. This can stem from prior training in a related area such as art or music, but more often a “natural” poet has one or more natural, God-given talents. For example, you might have:

• Artistic vision – a “poetic eye” for noticing beauty, horror, pathos, hope, unique details, or subtle connections that other people miss.

• Musicality – a “poetic ear” for rhythm or the lingering echo of similar sounds wafting within a line or two.

• Curiosity – a nose for the newsworthy, a knack for knowing what might appeal to your readers or an interest in investigating, researching, and checking out the extraordinary but also the ordinary, taking nothing for granted but staying open, finding out.

• Insight – a “poetic feel” for finding deeper meaning, discerning what matters, or being aware of the long-lasting value lying, unnoticed, beneath the surface.

• Wit or humor – an ability to connect this with that or to make a connection when no apparent relationship or similarity seems to exist.

• Emotional awareness – a sensory faculty for knowing where you’re coming from and what touches or moves you but also other people as well.

If you want to use poetic techniques on purpose as you write or, more likely, as you revise your work, give yourself and your poems an after-Christmas gift of learning more about poetry forms and techniques. Check the ads on this page to find poet-friendly help!

(c) 2010, Mary Harwell Sayler, all rights reserved.


  1. A fine article. I know some poets who don't really know how or what they do, they just make magic with their words. I know other poets who never explore beyond the ballad,and so never reach pure poetry.
    Knowing more leads to learning and doing more. As long as the poet remains true to the poem though, the poem is the most important thing, always.

  2. Thank you, Carolyn. Yes, poets need to be true to the poem and to themselves. Technique merely enhances that.