6 Challenges for Every Poet

I have written poetry for almost 18 years. That has totaled about 500 poems. After so many poems, it becomes too easy. To stay invested in writing, to maintain interest and intrigue, you have to keep challenging yourself. There were days I didn’t want to write. Sometimes the only way to get me out of that mindset was to challenge myself. I tried to write a sonnet or something else I’d never done before. I expanded my knowledge and regained my interest in the craft. Most of these ideas, I don’t find challenging anymore because I’ve done them so many times. They’re still fun to do when everything feels stagnant. Try one or two or all of them.

1. Write a structured poem (sonnets, villanelles, sestinas, etc…)

Some people feel the constraints of a structure poem limit their creativity. I’m the opposite. I think those restrictions bring out more of my creativity. It never hurts to try writing one.

2. Write something with the same number of syllables in each line (blank verse)

Blank verse has ten syllables per line. But who says ten is the only number? Try eight or six. Or alternate and have odd numbered lines with eight syllables and even numbered lines with six syllables. Change up the rhythm of your poems.

3. Find an image, photo, painting and write a poem about it

I always have fun with this one. You immerse yourself in the world of the painting and create something new and different. Imagine writing a poem based on a painting by Salvador Dali.

4. Make the speaker of the poem an inanimate object

Change the POV. One of my poems was about a gladiator battle as told from the perspective of the Arena itself. Explore how a table lamp or a pencil might feel.

5. Take an emotion and replace it with something else. Use that something else to discuss the emotion

One time I decided to write a poem about feeling lonely. I replaced lonely with feeling hungry and wrote a poem about loneliness through hunger. Create and explore some metaphors.

6. Write something focusing more on the sounds of the words instead of the words themselves

Do a bit of research on Dadaism. The words were gibberish, but it was about sounds not meaning. Also consider nonsense poetry which Lewis Carol made popular. Make up new things or create one of those fun poems like Peter Piper picked a peck of pickled peppers.

The first poem featured is “Running Nightmare Wake Up” from the collection Cats, Coffee, Catharsis. The second poem featured is “Hungry” from the collection Pariah Bound: The Lonesome Poetry.

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