In a lifetime of reading, I have ignored poetry. I think I like it, but don't know what to like. I know I want it to rhyme and to speak to life's lessons of love, forgiveness, triumph, and other heavy stuff that becomes clarion by the poet's pen. Where should I start? - Rich
Ah, poetry! My favorite topic. The major task of the poet, just like any that of an author working in any genre, is to simply read and write.
Read, read, and read some more. Start with anthologies and then follow up with full collections by the authors who move you. Try a variety of voices from different cultures, eras and styles of writing. Read authors’ first and most recent books to see where they began and how they developed as poets. Read contemporary literary journals to see what is being published today. Listen to poetry on DVDs, online or at live readings.
And write. Write, write, and write some more. You don’t need a fancy computer or notebook, you just need to write regularly. Continue the process by editing and revising your work. The more you learn about craft, the easier it will be to notice aspects of your writing that could be improved and pushed further.
Finally, share your work. Take classes, work with a writing coach and/or share your work with friends. Listen to their responses. Writing is a part of a conversation. If you never share it with anyone, it becomes a monologue. Let your poetry come to life. Try reading at open mikes and eventually submit your work for publication.
Before you submit your work for publication, however, be sure to know the literary journals well. Read them regularly and study what appears on their pages. I encourage you to not only buy a copy or two of the magazines that interest you, but also subscribe to them. Literary journals are often run by small groups of people who volunteer their time or are paid small stipends. They depend on sales to keep running. Support poetry by buying the journals.
To study poetry, below are resources to help get you started. Of course, there are many other wonderful books, websites, magazines and journals. These are some resources that I enjoyed when I started and continue to learn from. I’ve used most of the texts in writing classes that I’ve taught.
Books on the Craft of Poetry
Best Words, Best Order: Essays on Poetry by Stephen Dobyns
The New Princeton Encyclopedia of Poetry and Poetics by Alex Preminger, Terry V.F. Brogan, and Frank J. Warnke
Books on Formal Poetry
The Making of a Sonnet: A Norton Anthology edited by Eavan Boland and Edward Hirsch
The Making of a Poem: A Norton Anthology of Poetic Forms edited by Mark Strand and Eavan Boland
Poetry Anthologies To Start
Poetry Speaks: Hear Great Poets Read Their Work from Tennyson to Plath (Book and 3 Audio CDs)
The Best American Poetry Series
The Norton Anthology of Poetry
Daily Poems Culled Selected From Top Literary Magazines
Additional Resources To Search For Literary Magazines
Browse your local bookstore
Poetry Events Near You
Academy of American Poets’ “Poetry Near You”
Poetry Foundation’s “Poetry Tours”
Writing Down the Bones: Freeing the Writer Within by Natalie Goldberg
What else would you, readers, recommend?
Have a question related to writing? Post it below in the Comments section or send me an email (chloemiller(at)gmail(dot)com.) I’ll let you know when the answer is published.