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.

Poetry Monday: Even the Cats Won’t Snuggle with Me

Chills and chest pounding
Pulse feels normal
Negative thoughts stewing
Festering – 
Positive affirmations
Repeated in vain
Negativity pounds through me
Feeling the whole body
Shaking – 
My hand holds steady
What is the shaking?
Negativity surging
Can’t sleep
Tossing and turning
My thoughts won’t stop
Thoughts worse than nightmares
Fighting – 
Wishing to be held
Hugging, some comfort
Something to not feel
Alone in this world
Companions – 
The pounding chest
It never ends

From the poetry collection Cats, Coffee, Catharsis.

Sunday Sharing: Charles Bukowski

This week’s Sunday Share is “death sat on my knee and cracked with laughter” by Charles Bukowski. Bukowski’s poetry has always resonated with me, not because of structure, form, or meter. It was the subject matter. I relate to his work more than other writers. This poem is included in the collection You Get so Alone at Times That It Just Makes Sense. For copyright reasons, I have not included the entire poem in this post. Please follow the “Read More” link to purchase a copy of the book to read for yourself.

death sat on my knee and cracked with laughter

I was writing three short stories a week
and sending them to the Atlantic Monthly
they would all come back.
my money went for stamps and envelopes
and paper and wine
and I got so thin I used to
suck my cheeks
together
and they’d meet over the top of my
tongue (that’s when I thought about
Hamsun’s Hunger – where he ate his own
flesh; I once took a bite of my wrist
but it was very salty).

Anyhow, one night in Miami Beach (I
have no idea what I was doing in that
city) I had not eaten in 60 hours
and I took the last of my starving
pennies
went down to the corner grocery and 
bought a loaf of bread.
I planned to chew each slice slowly – 
as if each were a slice of turkey
or a luscious
steak
and I got back to my room and 
opened the wrapper and the
slices of bread were green
and mouldy.

my party was not to be.

I just dumped the bread upon the
floor
and I sat on that bed wondering about
the green mould, the
decay.

my rent money was used up and
I listened to all the sounds
of all the people in that
roominghouse

Read More

“Death Sat on My Knee and Cracked with Laughter.” You Get so Alone at Times That It Just Makes Sense, by Charles Bukowski, Black Sparrow, 2003, pp. 141–143.