How to Write Better Poetry, Page 5

Robert Harris
Version Date: March 25, 2013

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The dialog continues.

Old Professor
Here’s another analogy. Car one is a brand new base model, a bottom of the line vehicle. Car two is the same make and model, but with air conditioning, tinted glass, electric windows, remote door locks, am/am stereo radio, CD player, navig—

Eager Young Poet
Yeah, yeah, I get it. The stripped model versus the loaded model. Which would I prefer? The loaded model, of course.

Old Professor
That’s right. But the loaded model is still the same basic car, only now with accessories, or, as you call them, fake tinsel. Why settle for the base model when you can have the deluxe model that will allow you and your audience to enjoy your poems for years to come?

Eager Young Poet
I think you’re starting to mix metaphors. And besides, Nobody writes poetry that way today. People would call it quaint.

Old Professor
I write poetry that way.

Eager Young Poet
Give them an opening and they’ll take it. Okay, let’s hear a poem you’ve written.

Old Professor
Thank you for indulging me. This one even has a title: “Better than a Glove on a Hand.”

O that I were a necklace on that skin,
A string of pearls surrounding loveliness,
And every pearl, O would it were a kiss:
I'd kiss by bead and then kiss round again.

I'd kiss by Zeno's paradox all day,
With each new kiss but half as far away.
With each new kiss the distance would diminish:
The more I kissed the more I'd never finish.

Eager Young Poet
There you go. Add all that stuff you’re talking about and the poem becomes inscrutable. What’s a Zeno’s paradox, for instance, and what does a glove have to do with kissing?

Old Professor
Well, Zeno was a--.

Eager Young Poet
Um, thanks anyway, but I’ve really got to be going now.

Old Professor
Well, all right. I hope something that I said will encourage you to keep writing poetry and that you’ll work on your craft. Did anything I say make sense?

Eager Young Poet
Yeah, sure. Thanks. And nice talking to you.

Old Professor
Well, then, good bye, young poet. May every new poem be better than the one you wrote before. Oh, and a final word of advice. If you really want to be a poet, read a lot of poetry, especially the really good ones: George Herbert, John Donne, Shakespeare, John Milton, Alexander Pope, Emund Spenser, Philip Sidney. And there are many more, even modern ones like T.S. Eliot, and--.

Eager Young Poet
Yeah, well, thanks again. See ya.

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Robert Harris is a writer and educator with more than 25 years of teaching experience at the college and university level. RHarris at virtualsalt.com