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A guide to writing poetry

 
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Vannak
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PostPosted: Mon Nov 14, 2005 4:05 pm    Post subject: A guide to writing poetry Reply with quote

"Of course poetry has rules. Anarchy of an art is the worst fate humanity can offer themselves.Ē

I may warn you now, if you write for fun, if poetry is something you do on occasion, you may not want to listen or be bound by these rules. People who are concerned for the fate of literacry and writing are needed to keep culture alive, and thus is why I plan on writing this guide. Poetry is the art of humanity. Any culture can decode it, any culture can write it. It defines and is limited to humanity, and if no other art, it must be preserved.


A GUIDE TO WRITING POETRY, PART I

Poetry. Take the word and break it down to its most essential parts. Not rhyming. Not stanza, not meter, not even iambs. Poetry is language, but even more than that. Poetry is the soul of language. Here, I hope you will find these basic points of poetry to help you understand the true nature of that soul.
What is poetry? Poetry is comprised of three major points. There is structure, Imagery, and Devices.

Structure
Structure can be viewed as two different things. One, is physical structure. There are haikuís, there are Iambs, and there are different meters. All of those are ways of forcing structure into poetry. Because in these different forms, the nature of words is confined, it forces onto the poet to find the essence of his or her words, and write that, eliminating the rest.
The next type of structure is of thought. Meaning behind the poem needs to have an internal order to it. Take these short few lines for example. ďYou will say no, my heart is broken, I donít want to look at you because youíll reject meĒ First off, despite the fact that these lines would hardly be considered legible, or even poetry for that matter, the train of though jumps around, from rejection, to a broken heart, and back. Keep thoughts in order, more like this: ďYouíre just going to say know, and I donít want to look at you for it...Ē That way is many times better.
The key to structure is to first write out your thoughts, maybe a few key lines you have in mind for your poem, and them to make sure they are in a coherent order, where similar thoughts lead to each next one. Make sure you have a method of transition that is easy to follow, the best way to do such is to ask someone else if they can understand your poem.
Doníts of Structure.
-Donít try too hard to make words fit in physical structure. Donít compromise your intangible structure for a solid one, they should be kept in balance.
-Donít just try to write form structure. That type of writing takes in depth planning and design, and shouldnít be attempted lightly.
-Donít believe that anything can compromise for a lack of structure. Not emotion. Not feeling. Not effort. A poem with structure is like wine in a glass, the wine is pretty nice, take away the glass and itís just a puddle of alcohol. No good.

Imagery
Imagery is the method of which you call on the audienceís physical senses and memories to enhance your poetry. Itís like martial arts, in the sense that you use your ďaudienceísĒ strength to your advantage, expect in this case, it should be their advantage too.
There are two types of imagery. The first I shall call sensual imagery. This type of imagery is simply say that something smells like fresh cinnamon, or that something hurts like birth. Taste, touch, sight, smell, and sound. Those are the senses, and you must use them. What you literally can do is just say something is like something else, to give your reader a memory to base the extent of your words to. That means that you have to say something that you can expect most people to know and experience. Donít write a childrenís book saying that the apples tasted like fresh wine, because they shouldnít have a clue what that tastes like. Be realistic in your sensual imagery.
The second type of imagery is, as I shall call it, Emotional imagery. Everyone understands pretty much all types of emotion. Rage, hurt, pain, love, ecstasy, etc. Using these for imagery is harder, but more effective because you know your audience has experiences almost every emotion that you could describe. There in, however, lies the problem. For poetry to be good, it must not give the impression of being there to relate to an event, but to give insight to it. ďMy heart hurts, itís just too brokenĒ bad. Bad bad. Itís bad because it just slaps in an emotional use of imagery, and doesnít take it anywhere. Just for fun. The key to writing good emotional imagery is to just make sure that you use your own words. Donít just say your heart is broken, that is a generic term that tells us nothing of your person experience and view of something. Say: ďit hurt like skydiving, realizing that eventually, youíd have to stop the wind rushing around you, or die.Ē Thatís much more intresting than saying. ďYou broke my heart you whore.Ē It gives us slight insight to your own chracters, skydiving, and thrill seeking, and also gave us a nice little smile of an unfortunate event.
Donít of imagery.
-Donít over or under use imagery. Make pure imagery linesÖ no more than 5% to 40% of your poem.
-Donít use generic terms. Donít just say something smelled or felt like something else, tell us how it even relates to what youíre saying.
-Donít make imagery a separate part of your poem. Donít tell us two stanzas on how a park looks like, and then skip to how your dog died across the street, tell us how you played with the dog in the park and stuff like that.

Devices
Devices are the real key to poetry. You can get a way with minimum imagery, you can get away with little structure, but devices will be there if youíre writing a haiku or a sonnet, from two lines to twenty. Devices will always be there. The few main devices are:
Metaphors and similes: Relate something you are trying to explain to us, to something we already know about. Relate how it feels to lose a child like how it feels to hit the ground drugged. Give us something imaginable to relate to your ideas.
Symbolism: This is pretty much just metaphors and similes, but repeated. The American flag is not America, but is a symbol of America. Point to a flag and say thatís what America is, and no one will really disagree with you. Symbolism tends to be more inept, and more coded rather than metaphors. The red and white of the flag represents Christian philosophy, the stars are the states, the stripes are colonies, and the blue is freedom and things like that.
Line breaks: Lines are usually divided by clauses, or parts of a sentence. These breaks help not only to organize the words, but to help read it out loud. Enjamblement is just using line breaks despite that they do not separate clauses. Line breaks can also bring attention to a word. If you have lines that are each about fifteen words long, then at the climax of your poem, have a one line or just a short line, it defiantly draws attention to it.
Swearing: Not really a poetic device, but still very effective and worth noting. Read this line. ďBlue god damn clouds.Ē Reading that sentence, with no explanation of the wrongness of clouds really brings an emphasis to and to remember the word clouds. It draws more attention to words after it, and less from the words before it. If you use it a lot or a little, swearing can really bring emphasis to a substantial part of your poem.
Repetition: Basically, repetition is just repeating important key words over again in set parts of your poem. Repetition can embrace your entire poem, or just part that needs to have extra emphasis.
Font altercations: Bold Italics Underlines and even capitals. These are not as effective for when being read to, but when reading it, it does bring immediate and lazy emphasis to a word. Note the headers of this guide are underlined and bold, while sub headings are just underlined. You defiantly notice the headings more than either subheadings or regular text, and sub headings more then regular text. Italics are usually just mean to read the words with a more sarcastic infliction, or an opposite tone than the poem already gives.
And many more devices, donít limit yourself to these. Pretty much any grammatical device can be a poetic one, such as punctuation.
Doníts of Devices.
-Donít over use. Donít make each line of your poem in bold, donít make every line repeat, etc.
-Donít try to write with out devices, they are necessary.
-Donít try to incorporate each device, be selective.

In the end, remember that poetry is an art. Poetry is not only that, but is a culture in and of itís self. A poet in china can write a poem, translate it to English, and poets here will most defiantly be able to decipher it. Language defines culture, and therefore poetry is a substantial part of both, and to make poetry good, you must give a reason why it deserves to be called poetry, why it deserves to have a place in world culture. THAT defines good poetry. THAT defines what a poet does.
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Dark_crystal
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PostPosted: Mon Nov 14, 2005 5:37 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

hmm interesting.. however... in my personal views.. writing doesn't have to have rules.. but that's just me.. I write how I feel. Just like with a painting and it's imperfections, a poem can have them too. Imperfections is what make something great.
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Vannak
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PostPosted: Wed Nov 16, 2005 5:55 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I've heard this many times. Their is something disturbing taking hold in our culture. The decline of literary things have taken hold, and our language is in more danger than it ever has been. If we don't buckle down now, we may risk losing that battle, and being subjected to knowing what "1897" means in actual words.

Anywho. Poetry dosn't have to have rules, but for serious poets etc., it is a good idea to follow these that are established.
"Anarchy of an art is the worst fate a humanity can offer themselves."
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DaveR
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PostPosted: Thu Nov 17, 2005 9:39 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Welcome to the Writers Voice, Vannak. Why not submit some of your work (click on submission guidelines at the bottom of any page), and join in at the feedback forum and other forums. Dave.
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Jolanta
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PostPosted: Thu Nov 17, 2005 11:11 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

I am also waiting for your poems, Vannak...


Jolanta Cool
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Linda
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PostPosted: Thu Nov 17, 2005 4:40 pm    Post subject: Re: A guide to writing poetry Reply with quote

Vannak wrote:
...In the end, remember that poetry is an art...


Well said, Vannak. Like the others, I want to welcome you to the Writer's Voice. I look forward to reading your poetry, and I hope you'll join us in the feedback forum.

Linda
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Vannak
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PostPosted: Mon Dec 05, 2005 2:24 pm    Post subject: A guide to writing poetry, part II Reply with quote

This was originaly my sixth in my guide... however I belive that those who are about to venture into my relm of study, should more early know why I belive poetry deserves rules, an expansion on cliche's, and the short speach here:

A guide to writing Poetry, Part II (Rules and cliche's)
A guide to writing poetry, Part VI

Why poetry has rules

I should probably have put this as a prologue or some such thing to my other parts; however I have only recently come up with my completed thoughts on the topic here. Everything here is important, and I doubt that one will be able to grasp this concept if they skim lightly, thus no bolding.

Poetry has rules. Sorry to say, but it is true. Many of these rules are of common sense, rules that you would follow weather you knew them to be rules or not. Several times I will compare poetry to drawing or painting, so here is my first analogy. You paint a picture with certain means. You never paint a picture with a gold fish. Never. You donít pain landscape pictures with only one monotonous color. You never paint a picture on a weasel (Please donít nitpick. Of course you can write with a gold fish, you just donít). As you can see, of course art has rules. You donít write with cliches. You donít write poetry with bland imagery. Etc. Those are rules of poetry.

The first thing I want people to understand is why there are rules. Rules are there because once upon a time, someone decided that poetry was going to be different from everyday speech. Poetry was going to be something special. Poetry is not like prose. Thus, rules must exist to separate the two. Youíve probably seem my ideas of the three essential parts of poetry. Imagery, Devices, and Structure. Those three things are what separate the two. Rules exist as sort of a training session between novice, intermediate, and master. As you progress further along, you will gain more and more leniency with those rules, and it will be comfortable.

Here is the rational of those rules. Take this poem for example:
Quote:
Left mouse button

Does that display any emotion, what so ever? No. Hell, it doesnít even make sense. It is thus, bad poetry, correct? So, we have also established that one poem can be better than another. Now, take this poem.
Quote:
29djj 39djd93

When I wrote that poem, it is quite possible that I had the most amazing experience and most unique thoughts that ever have existed. In those numbers and letters are my entire soul; however, can you understand it? No, and again, it doesnít make sense. Now we have established that the quality of a poem is not in the amount of emotion that goes into fueling it.

Now, this is the major rule. The one that always seems to get at everyoneís nerve. To this rule, you will hear responses from ignorants such as "Well I just wrote what I felt" or, "Well, it doesnít matter what you think because itís not for you, itís for me." As with the second one, we have already settled that the emotion that goes into something does not determine a poemís quality. But, the rule I am talking about is the rule about cliches.
Many wonder why that rule is there. Maybe people get tired of hearing the same dark poem over and over? Maybe it is possible that one would get less credit for a poem if someone else had written something similar? No. Those are not the real reason. The actual purpose for this one is individuality. Each one lives a life, no two people share a prospective of the exact same events. Each personís life varies, and as Mickey in kingdom hearts said ďYour darkness is yoursĒ. You are not part of a collective of emotion. You have your own individual emotion, and what is the point in sharing it if you look like everyone else? What is the point in writing as though your life varies little, if at all, from the next personís? None. That is why writing a cliche is bad, because when you do, you sell your individuality to the devil of poetry, and he is a bad, nasty person/literary figure. The point of banning cliches is to make and force you to write something no one else can. If you use cliches, you not only deny yourself of that individualism, but of the person whom originally thought those words up. If you write death as Poe did in "The Raven", then you have not written your emotions, but those of a dead man. Itís like poetic identity theft.

There are many other rules of poetry, many others. Those, you should learn on your own. Grammar is always good, because you are working in a literate form of art, you should write in a literate way. Brevity is a good idea, because it makes sure your ideas get across. Many other things are there, and you will learn them if you keep on these tracks.


(Thanks linda for reminding me to pay a visit back here ) Surprised
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Linda
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PostPosted: Tue Dec 06, 2005 8:07 am    Post subject: Re: A guide to writing poetry, part II Reply with quote

Vannak wrote:
...Poetry has rules. Sorry to say, but it is true....You paint a picture with certain means. You never paint a picture with a gold fish. Never. ...


Beautiful! I loved it Vannak. Please continue to teach us. We are eager beavers! ....oooppss....forgive me; there was one of those cliches! Wink
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PostPosted: Tue Dec 06, 2005 1:22 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Keep going, Vannak. With more work and editing you could publish this guide.

Watch how you present "rules." Rules sound like laws that must never be violated. You don't usually paint with a goldfish, because . . . But if you have mastered your craft, perhaps you could dip a dead goldfish in paint and roll it on a canvas to acheive startling results.

Cliches can of course be used with effect in dialogue, character description, and satire, etc.
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Linda
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PostPosted: Tue Dec 06, 2005 3:17 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Good points, Dave, ... everyone knows there are always exceptions to every rule (pardon the cliche)! But, I think Vannak covered herself (the italics and bold face are mine):

Vannak wrote:
...here is my first analogy. You paint a picture with certain means. You never paint a picture with a gold fish. Never. You donít pain landscape pictures with only one monotonous color. You never paint a picture on a weasel (Please donít nitpick. Of course you can write with a gold fish, you just donít). ..Surprised


I agree with Dave, Vannak, regarding future editing and polishing. Keep it up. I think you have the beginning of a good handbook...Have you read, Poetry for Dummies, by John Timpane? While the title sounds funny, (and the book is funny) it is actually a required textbook for some academic poetry workshops. It gives some excellent examples of poetry do's and don'ts (though none quite so funny as your goldfish analogy).
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PostPosted: Tue Dec 06, 2005 4:23 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Surprise, Linda. She's a he. Nice website you've got Vannak.
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Heidi
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PostPosted: Tue Dec 06, 2005 4:28 pm    Post subject: subject? Reply with quote

THanks 4 the info Dave and Vanaak I liked your guide it's interesting. BTW (by the way) Dave who are you referring in your last post? Confused
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DaveR
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PostPosted: Tue Dec 06, 2005 5:04 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Heide, I'm referring to Vannak, who is Michael P. Icaza. His website is at
http://mikeicaza.tripod.com/id1.html Check it out.

Oh, Linda, I don't think Vannak covered himself. He did say you could physically draw with a goldfish, but he implied you should not because the results never could or would be artistic.

I agree it's good to know the rules so you will know when you can break them.
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Vannak
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PostPosted: Tue Dec 06, 2005 6:33 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Thank you dave for the comment on my site. I am still trying to add a literary section on it.

The rules thing was simply meant more for beginers of poetry, of which I see many, many times stray off into the misconception that if you chose free form poetry, that you are not limited by rules. As is the basic motivation behind this guide.
Anyways, I do have more of this, however much of it was influenced by a different site, of which I have more or less much about. I belive it will do good for the sake of brevity to go right a head on to the next one, which I promise not to be breif:

A guide to writing poetry, Part III

When I was a wee lad, I would write and write, I'd take a word or phrase from this amazing author, and another from this one too, and maybe if I felt really good on that day, I'd use a few of my own words. When I was a wee lad, I had failed, and now I wish I had someone to tell me what I'm about to tell you.

Originality is the method of which you create unique thoughts of your own. It is also the main problem I see younger and older poets face when writing. The reason it is most defiantly hard to grasp, because its so much easer to plagiarize, which in essence, being non-original is. Originality is a huge part of poetry, and what many poets try to go for in their poetry is to make people say "Oh my god, I can totally relate"Ě, but that's all wrong. I can say, "My heart is broken"Ě and you can relate, but it does not give us a reason why it should exist in our culture. What many amateur poems come out to is pretty much that exact same sentence, over and over again, and its not original. Here's a better line. "Here's the outline of my heart, scribed with your words, spinning faster and faster until they blend into the one, single, "no"Ě."Ě Its not too good, but at least it's not a mimic of some other poet's words.

What is unoriginality? Being unoriginal means that you write poetry like a quilt. Now, I don't have anything against quilts, they are warm, and nice and fuzzy, but in poetry, a quilt is not best. What I mean by saying "quilt"Ě is that many people take words of other poets, (like "I'm dead inside", "My heart is broken, I hate you"Ě) and sew them all together, and call it a poem. Poetry is pretty much more like taking something pure, like silk. You can only find something that pure is from your own mind. That's the difference.

Cliche's are the hugest obstical in writing originality, the fact that so much as already been said, that so much is already taken. That... can be worked around easily. Each person is a person of their own. They have throughts, and ideas, that they don't have in common with anyone else. We constiantly divide people by their thoughts, such as in politics, we have democratics, whom belive that a common person in office can serve the common people better, and republicans, whom belive that a more qualified official should be in charge. While those ideas share the same root, each member of those parties differ slightly. A republican's cliche poem can be praticaly the same as a democarts. It's just a matter of stretching your mind past preconceived ideas, thoughts and actions. Why should a rocket fly? Why not have it dance? Ideas, questioning as such will usualy deliver your originality.
The second most harmful thing to originality is lazyness. People don't treat writing as an art, because language is everyday. You do not (have to) paint every day. You do not (Have to) draw everyday, but more likely than not, you will have to write every day. It is part of us, and as a result of such, it is easy to see why poetry is an offset of other arts. Just as no grand artist ever painted a landscape in a day, no poem should have to suffer such a short birth either. Just a little... gingle that came to mind. You can expell your feces as quickly as you want, but, children take as long as they want.

What are other ways of being original? There are too many methods to count, so I shall instead say how not to be original, much easer.
-Don't copy lines from music, or other poems, or such. If you've heard it before, don't use it.
-Don't use cliches, such as (long list coming up) Love, love lost, hate, fear, pain, numbness, beauty, heart, soul, body, angles, devils, gods, and those types of contexts, unless you are absolutely sure that someone has never touched on that specific topic. This one I let out iffy, as many people may say that what they are writing is original, but make sure that you don't do any of these other "dont's"Ě
-Don't try to reason something to us, that you are original. That lead to the dark side... try to more show us why something deserves our attention, why something deserves to exist as part of our culture.
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Heidi
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PostPosted: Tue Dec 06, 2005 6:48 pm    Post subject: Thanks Reply with quote

Thanks Dave, and thanks to Vanaak for you continued advice on how to write poetry (don't have a clue as to how I'll manage to remember it all!) But I'll try, since my poetry writing sucks, it always comes out like prose. Oh well there's always room for improvement right? talk to you later. Cool
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PostPosted: Tue Dec 06, 2005 9:23 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Heidi,

Your poetry is fine. Don't put yourself down...at least you try. I was over 40 before I began to study poetry, and over 50 before I tried writing free verse. My first attempt was actually prose broken into short lines. Following an assignment by a wonderful professor, I divided a page into columns and simply wrote, filling the columns and breaking my lines at the end of the column! Of course, after many revisions and many critiques by sharp young minds, I finally came up with a free verse poem that Iím pleased with. And, to be honest, I never tried to "remember" any rule.... I have a few good books, and I consult them regularly...eventually, some things will stick in your mind.

As for Vanaak...forgive me Michael...I also went to your website when you first posted on the voice...I saw your picture, read that you were approximately 15 years old, and assumed (incorrectly) that you were a female poet. I work at a university and we have so many kids with longer hair...I should not have assumed this. I hope you'll forgive me and I hope you will continue to visit our website. Like you, I feel strongly about good poetry. Serious poets will read your post and learn. Please continue, and again, welcome to the Writers Voice!

Linda
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Heidi
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PostPosted: Wed Dec 07, 2005 11:18 am    Post subject: thanks Reply with quote

Thanks Linda, I try not to always put myself down, perhaps I can refer to Vannak's advice as you do your books. I'm sure that would be more helpful than trying to memorize a bunch of 'rules' about poetry. Well talk to you later I have to go eat lucnh and then off to Walgreens (it's a drugstore in town in case no one knows what that is). Cool
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PostPosted: Wed Dec 07, 2005 6:43 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Perhaps with a little thinking, we can replace the word "rule" with another word. The new word would describe the tools and techniques a poet should become familiar with in order to write great poetry. Heide, I think the more you write the more adept you will become with the tools/techniques/rules. You will develop your own style that will reflect the tools/rules that best suit you. You will lean toward one technique over another, the ones you feel most comfortable with will be the ones you speacialize in.


I don't think you have to be proficient with all the techniques/rules. I think this is true of fiction as well as poetry. It is apparant that great writers have their own styles and voices. Look at the differences between Hemingway, Fitzgerald, Joyce, Durrel, and Mark Twain. Even best selling novelists have different styles, are proficient in different areas of the art and craft. Consider also the differences between modern best selling authors Creighton, Brown, and King. Cool
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PostPosted: Wed Dec 07, 2005 10:38 pm    Post subject: Re: thanks Reply with quote

Heidi,

You're doing great. The main thing is to keep the main thing, the main thing. Right now, finishing your education is the main thing...continue to write, but don't worry about rules...when you receive your degree, you'll be able to find a good job, and then, if you want, take creative writing courses. Or, I havenít seen your degree plan, but, there may be room for some English electives...at any rate, we all know, unless you hit it big in the song writing field, you're not going to get rich writing poetry...Poe is a good example...he had to write for money, and he died broke.

Continue with your schoolwork and let writing be a fun way to relax. No one on the voice will judge you on form...unless you ask for pointers...and then, I normally do this by private message...occasionally, people have asked me to do it on an open forum...but, this is not necessary. So, remember to keep the main thing, the main thing. And, by the time you graduate, Vannak may have polished his guide, and we can both adopt it as a reference book.

Linda

PS
I'm still very proud of you, and I shop at Walgreenís too! Wink
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DaveR
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Joined: 14 Jan 2004
Posts: 1338
Location: Los Angeles

PostPosted: Thu Dec 08, 2005 5:15 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Linda is so right, Heidi. Your number one priority should be completing your degree. Writing can be a release, something you do in your spare timel. Why not keep an informal journal where you jot down thoughts and impressions that you can expand upon when you graduate or when you have free time from studies.

Sorry to get off the track Vannak. I think your guide has much potential for teaching and inspiring poets and writers of prose. Where is the next part
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