10 preparatory steps for crafting your masterpiece poem
It’s every poet’s dream to write better poetry and craft that masterpiece poem every time they sit to pen one. But what’s stopping them from doing so? Is it the pressure that comes with it or is there a need to find and fix the basics right?
In this article, we shall see how can a poet get better at creating a masterpiece poem without coming under pressure and what are the basic essentials for it.
- Poets and their impostor syndrome
- My experience with NaPoWriMo that gave the conviction of calling myself a poet
- NaPoWriMo led Poetpreneurship
- NaPoWriMo-2021- An Experiment
- 10 preparatory steps for crafting your masterpiece poem
- A printable on key takeaways
Poets and their impostor syndrome
Poets, especially the ones whose works are unpublished and who are just beginning to get a grip of the art form, don’t easily call themselves a poet.
There is always a feeling of being less or being incompetent to call themselves a poet, call it impostor syndrome or whatever you may fancy, but it is true.
They might be calling themselves a writer or even a freelancer, but never a poet. They will be creating masterpieces but may call poetry writing side hustle. Mainly because poetry is not that rewarding monetarily in spite of poetry making to the mainstreams these days.
But does that make one any less of a poet?
If you are one who is still not convinced to call yourself a poet or if you do call yourself one and make sure you get better at being a poet, then this is for you.
Let me get you through some background before sharing some experiential knowledge through this year’s poetry month experiment.
My experience with NaPoWriMo that gave the conviction of calling myself a poet
The first time that I came to know about National Poetry Writing Month (NaPoWriMo) was in the year 2017 when I came across two of Pune’s best poetry circles, Pune Poetry Slam and the Bullockcart Poetry. I had been following their pages on Facebook for over months, used to try their prompts regularly even though I had not posted it much, thanks to the impostor syndrome.
Then came the national poetry month and out of some adrenaline rush, I just took up the challenge to try and write 30 poems in 30 days.
The first few days were a poetic high. I had my friends and relatives cheering up. My mind was fresh and I had enough words to play around with. It felt as though I was back to my college days with that competitive spirit.
It was certainly my first big step towards taking poetry on a serious note. I was experimenting and enjoying it all along. And then after 13 days into writing or so, it started getting difficult. The prompts got tougher and I was also going out of ideas.
But if there was something that kept me through then it was the accountability factor of taking an open challenge on an online space.
After over a week’s time, my Facebook audience had actually started developing an interest in reading my posts and more than myself, they were looking forward to the poems. That, in fact, kept me going, helped me push through the dry days.
But least did I know then that there wasn’t actually any necessity to create a masterpiece every day. The point was to be consistent, explore, experiment, learn and get your idea out. Something that I didn’t know as a first-time entrant into the challenge. But that year, that challenge laid a strong foundation for what was to come in the years after.
Surprisingly, I also got to win the month’s challenge writing 30 poems in 30 days for the prompts shared by Bullock Cart Poetry with a few of my poems making to the “poem of the day”.
I couldn’t continue to write for PPS simultaneously and I just attempted for the first 6 days and one of my very short poems (written just in 2 mins right before getting off to sleep) got selected for the “poem of the day”.
With the high and experience that the challenge gave, I continued taking NaPoWriMo challenges since then, only that I kept the poems to myself and was not pushing to do 30 poems in a month’s time. Rather, I took the prompts, created over days.
At times, I went for creating multiple pieces for a single prompt. I started playing with the prompts and enjoyed and learned a lot over years. More than writing, I enjoyed reading and exploring new poetry pages and finding amazing talents.
NaPoWriMo led Poetpreneurship
Fast forward to 2020, the foundation that was laid years back had now helped me dive into the space of what I call, Poetpreneurship. As a poetpreneur, I now help others find solace in reading, writing and gifting poetry. Isn’t that cool?
While poetry and making money has always been thought to be poles apart, I could jump into my solopreneur journey with poetry as the only capital because of the experience of years of writing and NaPoWriMo has had a prominent place in it.
More on my entrepreneurial journey, Promising Poetry, in the future but here is something that I did this year that I wanted to share with you.
NaPoWriMo-2021- An Experiment
April 2021, as with every year, was a month of poetic high with writings for NaPoWriMo (National Poetry Writing Month) prompts doing their rounds online. This year, I thought why not do NaPoWriMo with a difference.
So I went ahead to experimenting and sharing the process of writing one poem from scratch on my Instagram handle. As part of it, the first 10 days were about the preparatory steps for crafting a better poem.
10 preparatory steps for crafting your masterpiece poem
Idea and intention
So what comes first is the idea and intent. Why you want to write a poem and what you want to write about matters the most to have a great poem by the end. It’s not the starting line of the poem that I’m talking about, it’s about the central theme.
Personally, I write poems for multiple purposes, like for learning, experimenting with a particular technique or style, writing for my customised products or for prompts. But my favourite pieces of poetry are those that flow freely out of overwhelming emotion or an experience.
To help you get started, here are few questions to ponder and reflect on:
- What does poetry mean to you?
- Why you want to write a poem?
- What are some lived experiences that you can talk about in depth?
🤩Ask yourself these questions and if you don’t get an answer still, sit in silence. Try focusing on the emotions you go through at the moment. Be a witness, don’t judge. Let the silence in you do the talking and reflecting.
😊Remember, poetry has to flow. For that to happen, allow yourself to be vulnerable and just BE!
Read The classic and contemporary
To be a poet/writer, reading matters. To be a writer, you need to be a reader too.
For me, in poetry, reading the classics has helped to understand the richness of the language, the life crisis & evolution over that period while contemporary poetries have opened the door to experimentation in structure (at times no structure) and novelty of ideas.
For me, reading in between the process of writing helps me come out of the boundaries of my own voice/perspective and helps me look at the piece that I’m working on with newer perspectives & possibilities.
💫 Here are few reasons as in why you should read for better writing:
- It helps widen/break your boundaries giving wings to your imagination.
- Helps improving your vocabulary.
- Helps identify multiple approaches to a same idea.
- Gives exposure to various genres and styles of writing.
- It’s fun, relaxing and enriching.
😊 And yes, reading is also counted as progress in terms of crafting a poem.
Art of Observation
Poetry is essentially an art that helps us view the world from a different angle.
It helps broaden our views and to make the views clearer and specific with observation playing an important role.
😊A poet/writer essentially needs to have or essentially develop a keen eye for observation. It’s the minute details & vivid imageries that makes for a great poem.
🖋One of the classic examples for observation is William Wordsworth’s poem “I wandered lonely as a Cloud” where he just didn’t pass by a stretch of daffodils, rather he took time to observe and capture it in his words.
💫By observation, it’s not just about the visual cues, it also matters about the tactile, auditory, gustatory or olfactory cues.
🌟Here are few questions that can help you in getting better at the art of observation:
- Where/what was the first moment did you eye on the subject/object your poem? Do you remember the context? What picture does it paint in your mind?
- How do you make your subject/object in your poem come alive through visual/emotional/auditory/tactile cues?
- Does the subject/object of your poem symbolize anything beyond the obvious?
😊 Remember, there is always more to the subject than the obvious.
Play with perspectives
Perspective in a poem is a tool wherein you get to decide how you want your readers to look at a particular object/subject that you are talking about in your poem.
Perspective is the lens that you are going to give your reader through which they can see and observe your characters, happenings, feelings in the poem, in detail, in the way you see them.
Say, for example, if you decide to capture the love between a couple as your theme, you can play with multiple perspectives like being the either of the person in love or take an observer’s stance and pen poem as a witness to their love or maybe you can talk from the perspective of the couch that watches the couple love, fight, unite & spend time together.
🤩Perspectives can be aplenty, at times irrational too but what’s poetry without a bit of craziness.
So try to find a unique perspective to get your poem started. Dare to be different😊
🌟Here are few questions that can help you get started:
- Who/what is the subject/object in your poem that’s going to talk to the reader?
- What is the emotion that the subject/object want to instil in the reader?
- Does the subject/object want to talk in first person/second person/third person?
Write without worrying
There is a tendency to have the impostor syndrome and be critical of our idea to an extent that we kill the idea even before letting it breathe.
We judge ourselves quickly and see progress from the lens of criticism.
🤩Let us keep progress to be very simple here. Let it be just one idea, one line, one learning or even one word in addition to what you had yesterday. Simple.
Now why I say that is poetry happens when we let it happen. And worrying about the structure, elements or finish since the start doesn’t help in any way. For the first few days let the idea sit.
Let an idea come in waves of wonders.
😌What matters is that you start, where & how doesn’t matter much. This can apply to that one piece of poem that you are thinking to pen or the journey itself as a poet.
💫Interestingly, if I remember properly, I started writing poetry (for me then, poetry meant ending with rhyming lines!) around the age of 13 or so and I remember writing this: Nature, nature, nature/You are God’s creature (now don’t ask me if that even makes sense!)
I laugh and criticize myself whenever I get reminded of my first poem but then I realize, that day, knowingly or unknowingly, I made a start and I’ve progressed to where I’m now today and I’m happy about it.
And I’m sure your poem is going to be far better than the one I started with. So, pen & progress.
🌟Here are few questions that can help you add another word/verse/idea to your poem:
- What are the words that come to your mind when you think about the theme of your poem? Jot it down.
- Make a mind map of the theme or the flow of the poem with only words that come to your mind at once you think of the poem.
- What inspired you to come up with this theme/idea of the poem? Reflect & make a note.
For any art form to survive through ages, experimentation is a constant criterion.
When it comes to poetry, the very first impression that comes to us is that of rhyme, rhythm and a sense of aesthetics that it gives us. But poetry has evolved from being a lyrical ballad or classic sonnet to being a more fluid version—be it in structure or aesthetics— with experimentation.
The best thing about poetry is it is not bound by grammar or any other rules, which makes it more interesting and a great canvas for experimentation.
Well, you can experiment with ideas, structure or your own voice through the poems. You can structure it to fit in a box or make it flow and occupy the whole page with disoriented spaces. You can make the verses rhyme or just let it sound like a chaotic crime. All it needs to be is honest and just be.
🌟Here are few questions to help you get started with experimenting with your poetry.
- What does the structure of your poem convey? Can you break few lines, add few spaces and restructure to have added symbolic meaning?
- Does your poem necessarily need to read from left to right or flow from top to bottom?
- Is it necessary for the whole poem to convey one single idea? Can it have multiple/contradicting ideas?
If you are an aspiring Poet sitting out there and finding it difficult to string words and blame it on writer’s block, then I’m sorry. Let me tell you that writer’s block is nothing but a myth.
😊Just like one needs to work out every day to achieve fitness/health goals, the creative muscles too need to be exercised every day.
To do so, you need to understand that you need to just write every day and not necessarily create a masterpiece every day.
When you make it a habit, you are consciously or unconsciously getting better at the art of writing, learning vocabulary, getting creative one word at a time.
🌟Here are few things that can help you get into the habit of writing every day:
- Accept that writer’s block is a myth.
- Do not fall into the pressure of creating a masterpiece every day. Just write.
- Have a fixed time to put words into paper. Make it part of your routine, make it religious.
- If you feel you are stuck, just write about it—how you feel being stuck. As simple as that.
- It doesn’t necessarily have to be a poetry. It can be prose too.
- Journaling or writing for prompts helps too.
- If nothing works, just try this. Take a favorite piece of writing from a book and put pen to paper, just copying the content. And trust me, the mere act of putting pen to paper itself helps relaxing the creative muscles and gives a fresh flow of thoughts.
Hope you don’t forget to exercise your writing muscle every day.
Let us understand that crafting a masterpiece is not a single day thing. It takes time and it is OK to feel lost mid-way into the process.
Let me tell you, in spite of no thinking, reading or writing poetry, the act of doing nothing is also an essential part of crafting and processing poetry.
Stepping away from the poem in the process, calming the chaos in your mind and getting in touch with the silence inside you helps get a fresh perspective towards your poem.
In fact, it helps in a much better way during the process of editing. A day/week/month away from the poem and then getting back to it helps us have an objective look at the poem and helps ease the editing process.
Editing is better and easy when you are detached from your poem (essential learning for me, from the recent poetry workshop by @boundindia facilitated by the amazing poet @bhagatpragya ).
So remember, in this case, no progress is also progress.
🌟Here are few tips for a declutter drill during the process of crafting poetry:
- Don’t write just because you are feeling pressured to write one. Just stop wherever you are.
- Do not look into your poem. Forget it for a day/week.
- Sing, dance, doodle, play guitar or pull out some weeds. But just don’t look at your poetry.
- Try something different. Like, if you were writing in English, take a break, write anything in your mother tongue instead. Or if you were penning a poem on heartbreak, why not read or write a humor poetry/fiction.
- Take a stroll or play badminton. Get some fresh air. Just don’t worry about the poetry. Not yet. Not until you may find the kind of rush (not pressure), the day you started with the idea of your poem and felt that poetic high.
The first draft of poetry happens in a moment of time, it springs & starts to flow and we feel that it’s the best thing to happen at that moment. Yes, it is the best thing to happen but remember that the spring or the flow can actually be an ocean, vast and profound. Research helps to make it happen.
By research, I don’t mean going about researching and looking out for poetic techniques or literary elements. I’m asking you to research on the subject/object or idea of the poem.
For example, when I started with the idea of the experimental poetry in this series, “Words of Wisdom From the Wandering Jew”, I was in the mindset of writing something unique and from an observer’s stance of a gardener. It was instinctive that I use or talk about this plant wandering jew as I see it grow like a weed in all the pots in my garden and I just love it.
Then out of curiosity, I googled to learn more about the wandering jew and ended up reading an article on why the plant is called so. In fact, there were writings that say many stand against calling the plant so and prefer to call it a wandering dude. It’s after that that the poem took a specific direction and “calling names” became a part of the poem’s theme.
So research helps you think beyond the confines of your acquired/ experienced knowledge. It helps you picture better and craft with depth.
🌟Here are few tips on how you can utilize research for crafting better poetry:
- Zero down on the subject/object of your poem and research on it to get more specifications on the character/behavior.
- If your poetry is set to evoke a particular emotion research/look out if there are object/colours that symbolize it and try incorporating in your poem.
- If your poetry is set in a particular place, research about the place to get fine imageries about the place. It helps bring the place alive even if you have never been to the place.
- If you are writing an English poem about a Tamilian as a subject of your poem, research about the language (more specifically, the regional dialects) and try incorporating in the poem to give the magical touch of vernacular element.
These are just a few tips but you can just go about researching anything and get your work better. Just remember not to get into the rabbit hole of simply reading one article after another. Have your intention set before getting into researching, take notes and get back at your poetry.
The vulnerability weapon
Do you remember that one piece of poetry that made you feel intense and made you feel as if it was talking to/about you? I’m sure that one poem would have made you fall in love with poetry. Maybe if you revisit that poetry today, you may notice the magic element in the poem would be the poet’s vulnerability.
Poetries that make a difference, that touch a chord with us, that are bound to stay are the ones that are intense and honest and it’s a poet’s vulnerability that makes the poem intimate and promising poetry.
Vulnerability is a powerful weapon that when used properly can leave the mark it’s meant to. It has the power to cut into the reader’s heart/mind/soul and heal it surgically, stitching through the choice of words.
🌟Here are few tips on how you can utilize vulnerability in your poem:
- If you are going through a particular emotion, observe it and try putting down the emotion in words. Keep it raw.
- Go with your gut feeling to know what exactly you want to write.
- Putting a piece of vulnerable self out in a poem can be scary, especially when you think it’s going to be read by a wider audience. Rather, think this way while you pen. Think that it’s an intimate letter or piece of writing to be shared with just only one person. The perspective of writing/reading to one person helps lower the fear of being vulnerable.
- To feel more empowered even while being vulnerable, think this way that you have the power to give voice to someone else (a voiceless soul) who may also be experiencing the same thing as you are and for them, your vulnerability might mean a support, a journey of togetherness. Think that way and I’m sure you will be more ready and authentic in exposing a part of yourself in your writing.
Remember that being vulnerable can be more of learning for yourself and for others too. It can be healing and helpful.
A printable on key takeaways
To make it easy for you to remember and try it out, here is a printable on the 10 points discussed above. Feel free to download and save it. Even better, take a print and put it on a wall to make it easier to access every time you sit to pen poetry. It helps.
So there you go with 10 tips that you can implement right away. Hope you find this useful. Let me know what are the basics swear by while coming to penning poetry.
This post is a part of Blogchatter Half Marathon.