Mary Biddinger recently posted some of her personal rules for writing poetry and challenged others to post their rules. Greg Rappleye accepted the challenge. Now here’s my list of do’s and don’ts.
1. No poem may be called a “poem” in the title. Likewise, no references in the poem to the act of writing a poem.
2. No using the f-word in a poem. Not because it’s obscene, but because it’s too easy, too overused, and too boring.
3. Try new forms. Learn from them, but don’t be a slave to them.
4. Scatter rhymes throughout the lines rather than positioning them at line ends.
5. Draft quickly; revise slowly; submit more slowly. Let several weeks pass before sending out. No poem before its time.
6. Find the format / shape of the poem only after multiple drafts, when thinking is just about over, when I’ve unearthed my material. Latching onto the format too early inhibits creative thinking.
7. Research my subject for useful facts and cool words. Import some of that into the poem.
8. Don’t be a cornball. Get rid of the bluebird and substitute a hunk of granite.
9. End with an image rather than a piece of information. Violations permitted.
10. Go over each line, interrogating each word. Improve the diction.
11. Let no one dictate what I may write about. Defy their impositions.
12. Decline to tell the story behind the poem. Withholding the truth shall set me free.
I prefer to think of the above as guidelines rather than rules. But I think it's good to have some; then you can work with them or against them.
So what are your personal rules? Or do you not have any?