“The Rules for Writing Poetry”

This is another one of those times when I don’t know the origin of something and so I won’t take credit for this.  However, I have borrowed the following “rules” from anonymous and I thank anonymous for letting me borrow these rules.  I have modified them a little according to my own experience with poetry.

I also apply these rules to writing prose in its initial draft stages.

  1. Write for yourself.
  2. It doesn’t have to make sense.  (It will in later drafts, but don’t concentrate on that at first.)
  3. Let yourself be surprised by what you write.
  4. Don’t plan what you are going to say.
  5. Trust your imagination.
  6. Let yourself be foolish.
  7. Don’t worry about spelling punctuation, grammar or neatness.  (They are important but not in first drafts.)
  8. There is no wrong way to write your poem/prose.
  9. Relax and enjoy the process!

I remember reading somewhere that the gifted poet, Mary Oliver, said that she writes between 40 and 50 revisions of a poem before she is ready to let it fly. That’s a lot of working and reworking and it shows in her finished poem. She doesn’t dash down a perfect poem, a completed product in one sitting .
I love Mary Oliver’s poetry and if you haven’t read anything by her, please visit this youtube of her reading one of my favorites, Wild Geese.

In an earlier post, I said, that in poetry I had been promised total freedom, and now I’m giving you rules.  Re-reading these rules, I see that they are basically telling the poet how to be free.  Many of us have our own built-in rules and restrictions.  We have habits that bind us to a code of writing behavior. English Grammar 101 or some such class; or we hear the echo of  that instructor who threatened to keep us in at recess if we didn’t understand some facet of the week’s lesson on past participles and verb tenses. Whatever.

Do you have anything you want to add to the list of Rules for Writing Poetry?
So, what are you waiting for? Go forth and write your poem. Inspiration is everywhere. (You could even take one of the rules above and write a poem in response to it.)

Enjoy the poetic freedom.

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