"All bad poetry springs from genuine feeling."--Oscar Wilde
People write poetry for a plethora of reasons, but this article has a sharpened arrowhead aimed directly at the fingertips of amateur poets who wish to be published yet refuse to learn the attributes of a well-crafted poem. These poets are the ones who plop their pieces, shining with every beam of ambiguity, vagueness and hackney, into cyberspace for review. I have encountered a few of these poets to whom I have given a courteous critique, only to be backhanded in the face by sore comments such as, "You must be too dense to get it," or "Everyone I know tells me how great I am. You're the only one?"
Of course I am usually left wondering why someone would care to post a poem in a critique forum if any constructive comment given to the poet gets immediately flushed down the cyber-potty. Many new poets seem to think that writing a poem is one hundred percent emotion. They overlook the notion that, as with any craft, poetry entails a good deal of practice and learning as well as desire and talent. So instead of writing about the importance of concrete imagery, figurative language, and the art of minimizing abstractions, I thought it might be fun, (and might even tick a few people off) to write a small compendium of attributes of bad poetry.
Recipe for a Really Bad Poem
- A bad poem should not have any original language. If you aim to write a bad poem, avoid coming up with stark images. The last thing you would want to do is write something fresh, innovative, and evocative. Use as many hackneyed expressions as possible, such as "crystal clear," "dark as ebony," "blue as the sky," "dark as night," "?paints a picture," "climb the highest mountain," Etc.
- An especially bad poem should be heavily weighted with abstract words such as "heart," "love" "sadness," "despair," "hate," and "destiny." The more abstract and generalized your poem, the better suited it will be to mean absolutely nothing to the reader. Aim for zero concrete images if you want a particularly bad poem. For example, "The world is a sorrowful place/ filled with sadness and hate?blah blah blah." Also, be sure to TELL the poet how to describe something by using superfluous abstract adjectives! "The water is pretty;" "The world is ugly;" "His eyes were beautiful?" A bad poem should never use figurative language or descriptive imagery to SHOW the reader a slice of life.
- No matter how odd the sentence becomes, or how unlikely the phrase would be concocted in normal language, make it RHYME. Rhyme anyway!! That's right, a bad poem is going to have very forced rhyme. If you have to rearrange the structure of a sentence just to make the rhyme fit, go for it! For example: "The apple blossoms fell in May/ on the grassy field is where they lay." (Notice how I just couldn't say, "They lay on the grassy field?" That wouldn't rhyme, so I had to make up a funky sentence.
- Don't worry about punctuation, grammar, or spelling. What you really want to do is to make the reader scratch her head and read it a zillion times trying to figure out what it means. Bad spelling and poor grammar will really detract from the meaning, so get reckless with your words. Try this poem out for size:
i watch as the sun/
sets over the horisen/
the ocean pants/
like a wild monster/
breaths with heavy/
breath and then falls/
always gets lost/
in the mouth/
u r reel speciol/
like honi sweet/
from a candy bee.
- A good practice for a cleverly bad poet is to make the objects of the poem plural! Globalize your subject for an incredibly weak impact! "Trees are?" "People cry?" "Flowers bloom?" By pluralizing all the objects of the poem, you are blurring the imagery, thus making it sappy, intangible, and simply boring.
Frequently Asked Questions of bad poets who want to be published but don't want to work:
Q. Who are you to judge what a good poem is? A poem is like beauty; it is in the eye of the beholder!
A. Paul Valery once said, "a poem is never finished, only abandoned." You have to work on your poem. You have to find a certain clarity that will reach the reader. Sometimes we get so fogged up with our own emotions, we don't really see the true poem. Emotional outpours make excellent first drafts, but if you don't go any further then that, you aren't working hard enough to make your poem good-even in your own eyes. Also, as far a judging a poem is concerned, as long as you hope to publish your poetry, it will get judged. Know what these "judgers" are looking for.
Q. If clich?s were so bad, why have they been around for so long?
A. Exactly!! Everyone understands clich?s-almost to the point where they don't even mean anything anymore. Poetry is an art of expression and exposition. If you are too lazy to come up with the images yourself, then you aren't really writing poetry.
Q. I write poetry for personal reasons. It is my way of dealing with the world. Why should I care what you think about poetry?
A. You shouldn't. Unless you are trying to perfect your craft so that you can express yourself through literature in some publication, you can write any way you want. Just know, though, that if you post your poem for critique, you might get some honest criticism based on poetic technique. If that is not what you are looking to get, please let people know what you are looking to get.
Devrie Paradowski is a freelance writer and poet. Her poetry has been published by several literary journals and she has written dozens of articles for various publications including "Poetry Renewal Magazine," and "Poetryscams.com." She is the author of the chapbook, "Something In the Dirt," which can be found at http://www.lulu.com/content/108560 . In 2001, Devrie founded a popular online literary community ( http://www.LiteraryEscape.com ) that has become highly respected for some of the most honest and in-depth poetic critique on the Internet. In keeping with her commitment to inspire amateur writers to hone their skills, she also founded a local writer's group called, "The Fire and Ice Writer's Group."