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Thursday, May 20, 2010

On Becoming a Better Poet…

I don’t know too many poets including myself, who as they discover a proclivity for the written word don’t let their mind take to flights of fancy because they feel as though their writing is the best that has ever graced the planet. Like no one else since the beginning of human civilization has ever crafted together words to describe the indescribable…wrong, wrong, WRONG.

Whether we choose to realize it or not, folks have been writing about the same subject matter for several millennia and because we sometimes fail to acknowledge this, some of the best poetry one could ever read never gets read. Which brings me to an important detail all poets should heed…read read READ!!!

Not just your own work but the works of others as well…maybe in exploring the inked thoughts of those who precede US, one can uncover the mystery that makes writers like Pablo Neruda or Nikki Giovanni papyrus immortals. I know reading other writers might be hard to do especially when you’ve just written a masterpiece that puts Langston Hughes’ catalog to shame, but trust me it works.

See my LOVE affair with poetry began not with the lines of Sappho but with the lyrics of Rakim and the songwriting of Gamble & Huff; for it was rhythmic poetry that first seduced my mind. Once the love affair with palabras intensified I was able to move on to the Gwendolyn Bennett’s and Kahlil Gibran’s of the world, but when I first started writing poetry, I could see a lot of the mistakes I was making in my own work because of reading others.

You know the usual suspects…repeating the same word 50 different times in one piece, using the hell out of conjunctions (particularly as, but, for, of, or, that, etc.), switching from an active voice to a passive voice, misspelling, and my favorite…mixing up homonyms and homophones.

While grammatical errors can be fixed with proofreading and practice, one element that’s difficult to rectify is style. Writing styles that tend to leave an impact with me are those that show a reader instead of telling them. What does this mean? Simply paint a picture with your words that the mind’s eye has never seen. We all know what trees are and what grass is and what the air does, but if you can wrap metaphoric euphoria around these every day occurrences and make them seem new, then you’re one step closer to becoming the poet you dream you can be.

As Audre Lorde once said, There are no new ideas there are only new ways of making them felt.

I don’t know about you, but what I enjoy is when people FEEL what I write. Not FEEL it because they know me but because it touched a place that is familiar yet fallible. For their genuine responses have come to symbolize connectivity to something that is larger than myself.

I realize not every poet seeks to become a household name…for some their breathings upon the page represent a healing of the spirit and they share in an attempt to inspire others to heal themselves as well. I like to think one day I can nestle myself firmly into this category…but until that time the learning continues…


  1. homophones, homonyms, homogenized milk... maaan... ion't know the difference :/ what IS all that stuff?? oy! :D

    you're so smart, Sun... i'm sharing this.
    i'll be back to check out some of those links, too. thanks <3

  2. u had me laughing halfway down this....but in all honestly, u r soooo right.....thank u for the reminder......blessings

  3. Hi, mi hermano del alma!!! I like this so much! When I get home and I am more relaxed, I'll check your blog so I can see all the beautiful things you are sharing... can I share sth, too? I fell in love with the poems of Dylan Thomas, when I read "Oh make me a mask..." and I loved what he said... one little thing he said about poets and poetry ... he said that poets write words and sounds but without knowing it they also leave tiny spaces where little creatures will creep... which is what poetry is about... the creatures that live between words... (something like that!! :) )
    Here is goes for you. Te quiero mucho mi hermano querido!!!

    O Make Me a Mask

    O make me a mask and a wall to shun from your spies
    Of the sharp, enameled eyes and the spectacled claws
    Rape and rebellion in the nurseries of my face,
    Gag of a dumbstruck tree to block from bare enemies
    The bayonet tongue in this undefended prayerpiece,
    The present mouth, and the sweetly blown trumpet of lies,
    Shaped in old armour and oak the countenance of a dunce
    To shield the glistening brain and blunt the examiners,
    And a tear-stained widower grief drooped from the lashes
    To veil belladonna and let the dry eyes perceive
    Others betray the lamenting lies of their losses
    By the curve of the nude mouth or the laugh up the sleeves.

    - Dylan Thomas -

  4. Mixing up homonyms Wow lol...I know people that do this and it use to drive me nuts but, I make mistakes far as my writing goes, I write what I feel...what ever energy is over me...I use to try to "keep up" with others and think "oh I can top that" like in competition (which is strange since I don't believe in competition),but that just messes me up...always haveta come from the heart,where it's real. And...we never stop learning, never...


  5. I'm a rookie poet and not perfect by all standards, however I appreciate your post!