Remember Plutarch, the Greek historian? I remember reading about him the first time in high school. Plutarch said:
Painting is silent poetry, and poetry is painting that speaks.
Writing poetry, whether haiku, senryu, or some other form, is creating art, if it’s done well. A poem is a painting–one that evokes images in our minds, if it’s written effectively. Unfortunately, we read many “poems” online that have no literary value. In fact, people simply label them poems, when they are nothing more than conversation or jargon about trite experiences. They elicit a “so what” reaction from us. Poems posted are often off the cuff ramblings that aren’t even revised for clarity. I guess this happens because some teachers erroneously tell their students that anything is poetry. I had one such teacher when I was growing up.
Any type of writing is practice, just like carpentry. I don’t believe people are born writers. However, you need to read a lot in a certain genre to develop your writing skills and work at revising what you write. I am not being critical. In fact, I am also heartened to see so many people post their poetry online each day who are truly making an effort to improve their skills. This is admirable.
Those who want to write poetry well should strive to make their poems “paintings” that evoke images and cause readers to feel some sort of emotion. When I go to a gallery or museum to look at art, I can’t possibly understand the full impact of a piece in the short time that I stand in front of it. I don’t have the luxury of spending hours looking at one piece. I appreciate the painting considering whether I have an emotional reaction to it pretty quickly. If it doesn’t grab me, I move on to the next piece.
Similarly, when you post a poem online or submit it to a print journal, ask yourself what image(s) will readers discover in your poem that they will react to. What emotion(s) will they feel? After all, if you’ve bothered to post a poem online or sent it off for printing, you are not doing this just for yourself. Rather, you want to give readers something to appreciate–images and ideas. And, that’s what editors look for.
If readers don’t have a reaction to your poem on the first reading, they probably won’t read it a second time. They’ll likely move on to another poem, just like someone in a gallery who moves on to the next painting. Therefore, give your readers food for thought, worded in an artful way with literary technique, providing them with incentive to stop, reflect, and reread. If you make them smile, laugh, feel sad or grab their attention with an interesting thought, you’ve written an effective piece.
In my blog, I include instructional pieces on writing poems, too. I hope you will read and enjoy them.
Copyright 2016 by Charlotte Digregorio.