In poetry we paint the conceptual using the concrete; an emotion is expressed through the use of strong images, defining details, and the choice of words that convey music or rhythm as well as meaning. Practicing poetry is important for all writers, whether or not you call yourself a ‘poet.’ Learning to pick the strongest word, the most evocative metaphor, and the most telling detail are all critical skills in any genre – but in longer works, we can sometimes hide behind a flabby narrative and let the plot pull the reader forward. Not so in poetry. Sharpen your pencils, and your wit!
1. One of the best ways to feel poetic is to immerse yourself in other’s works. Try the anthologies put together by Garrison Keillor or Billy Collins for a range of poetic voices. Once you find a favourite or two, google search the authors and follow them down the path into more of their work. Become familiar with your favourite pieces and let them inspire the cadence of your own writing.
2. Here’s a fun poetry prompt: Pick a favourite poem. Let the last line become the first line of a new work of poetry or prose that is yours alone.
3. If you are working with kids, send them on a walk in the school yard or around the block and have them take a notebook in which to jot concrete sensory details they observe, whether it’s the buzz of a lawnmower or a worm stranded on the sidewalk after a rainfall. When they return, give them an opening line such as “Outside the door waits…” and have them work with the details they’ve collected to paint a word-picture of the neighbourhood.