Want to get better at writing poetry?

Poet Caroline Reid's keyboard is next to a poetry book by Stephen Guppy
I recently delivered a writing workshop at The Adelaide City Library aimed at generating new material and drafting a piece of writing using an object or piece of clothing as a prompt. I really love presenting this workshop, and am always amazed at the diversity of work produced.

Afterwards, someone asked me how they might develop their work and get better at writing poetry. They were new to poetry, didn't plan on going to university to study but wanted to work at writing and editing poetry. I realised that I didn't have a clear answer, so went away, thought about it and emailed them my suggestions few days later:

  1. READ POETRY - there are many websites where you can read free online. Here are a few examples, but there are plenty more: Red Room Poetry (AUS), Cordite Poetry (AUS), Overland (AUS), Poetry Foundation (USA) & Quartet (US). Buying anthologies (or borrowing from the library) is also a good way of getting an overview. Try The Anthology of Australian Prose Poetry, Contemporary Asian Australian Poets, and Fire Front: First Nations poetry.
  2.  DIG - When you find a poem you dig, really dig into it! Ask yourself what you like about it and why you think that is. Analyse its structure and imagery. Then borrow from it using your own words/imagery/story. 
  3. JOIN A WRITERS GROUP - Getting and giving feedback is important. It will get you thinking more about poetry, what you like and why (the why & how of writing poetry is important if you really want to develop and grow as a poet and person). There is a list of writing groups over at Writers SA website HERE. If  none of the groups suit you, try starting your own!
  4. Join WRITERS SA - I was a member for a few years but didn't get involved very much. Then I left Adelaide, came back three years later after having joined my first writers group in Darwin, and vowed to get more involved in what WRITERS SA were doing. The old adage is true, you get out what you put in.
  5. GET YOURSELF A 'HOW TO WRITE POETRY' BOOK - You don't have to spend a fortune. Ask around, see what others poets recommend. Personally, I'm a fan of Stephen Guppy's book Writing and Workshopping Poetry. It's suitable for people fairly new to writing and reading poetry, and covers finding your material, form, structure, imagery, plus loads more. It's a good mix of information plus writing exercises to try out.
  6. WRITE POETRY - Set aside time to write. When speaking to artist and poet Indigo Eli about this, she suggested having strong boundaries around your writing time because it's precious, which means leaving emails, phone calls, your partner, you kids, for later. If there's resistance, my fave trick is to set a timer. You don't need hours. Just 10, 20 or 30 minutes out of your day will do. Start timer. Commit. Write.

After I wrote this list I was clearing out some papers when I came across an old printout from Writers SA titled Six Top Tips for Writers. The tips were almost identical to the list I'd come up with: Read, Join (a group), Learn, Practise, Enter (writing comps), Connect (with the writing community).

That's it! If you'd like to stay up to date with where I'm teaching/performing/exhibiting, you can SIGN UP HERE for my monthly newsletter.

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