~ Tips for Poets ~
"The poet is a liar who always speaks the truth."
III. Some Good Advice
2. While you write
2.1 Respect Form.
The destination and treasure island of poetry is Beauty. The ship that
carries you there is Form on the waves of Rhythm.
2.2 Be terse.
Donīt use words or details that do not convey meaning or athmosphere, just in order to fill up the meter, or to keep your appointment with an endrhyme. Rephrase and find a different, more meaningful solution. Every word must pull its own weight. Every line must have a function within the poem. No description for its own sake. Be economical - if they fulfill the same function for your purposes, prefer short words over long-syllabled ones ("tired" for "exhausted", "fate" for "destiny"...) ; you can pack more meaning into one line that way.
Terseness is partly a matter of taste, and the language per se. Oriental poetry delighted in flowering, elaborate expressions. Old Norse, during its development as language, lost many weak syllables, so already in itself is comparatively terse. Translate an English text to modern German, and it will automatically gain ca.30% more syllables. Latin-imported words often tend to be longish. Some meters are easier to accomplish in one language than another. Grammar mechanisms, rigidity of syntax and rules for placing the word stress on either word root syllable, or e.g. the last-but-one word syllable, all make a difference.
In addition to "native" words with Germanic and Anglo-Saxon roots, English offers a fair variety of words from Latin, Greek, French etc., often giving you a chance to find an alternative word with different syllable count or differently stressed: "rosary" for "rose garden", "enter" for "come in", "destination" for "goal"...
2.3 Keep your reader in mind.
Poetry, as all language, is about communication. Remember you usually donīt only write for yourself or the Gods, but for other humans as well. You want to be understood, to share your vision and be appreciated, no ;-)?
Reward your reader.
Donīt be mystical - express yourself clearly.
It is not enough to have good intentions and a great idea - you must get them
across as well. Especially if you express some new thought, or something
familiar in a new way. Is your imagery consistent, or do you whizz through a
metaphorical Wal-Mart ? Does the story develop in a logical way ? Can your
intended audience be expected to recognize yor allusions to lore or history, or
are you too esoteric for them?