Writing and Editing a Poem

The process of writing and editing a poem:

  1. Write some words down that seem to fit together
  2. Choose a theme or meaning for the poem (this is step 1 when working from a prompt)
  3. Write some more words that fit
  4. Choose a form that seems appropriate
  5. Fit the words to the form, add more as needed. If a syllable count form, then continue to shape the poem using syllable count. For other forms, continue to step 6.
  6. Work on the meter, using a meter that fits the mood of the poem (I rarely use forms with a required meter, such as a sonnet or ballad). See Mary Oliver’s The Poetry Handbook for more information on how meter affects the mood of a poem.

    I use work on the meter as a way to get myself thinking about word choices in each line — I have a tendency to regard each line as having the best words possible before I have even done any editing — meter is an excuse to get in there and really look at each line.

  7. Read the poem all the way through, making changes as necessary to convey the desired mood.
  8. Continue with steps 5-7 as needed, writing the poem out again after each set of edits.
  9. Post on this blog when ready.
  10. If really good, go back later and recheck syllable count/meter. Make changes as needed to better help the poem flow, fit the form, or convey meaning.
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