Roger Stevens carries a notebook everywhere he goes; I have seen his notebook in glimpses over the years, and it is packed full of notes, poem workings, observations, ideas, drawings… it is all you need to write a poem seen through Roger’s eyes and poured out onto pages. It’s like raw diamonds and rocks with seams of gold in dug out of the ground. It’s probably worth MILLIONS. If poetry paid well that is. Roger has run The PoetryZone since 1998, full of really interesting poetry things, such as children’s poetry, reviews of children’s poetry books, and poetry teaching resources. Children can send in poems and if they are good enough get them published there – and Roger runs poetry competitions, the next is due very soon! More details below from Roger – along with how to finish a poem!
Here at Poetry Zone HQ we receive some wonderful poems, written by children and teenagers. But I am often disappointed because a poem which is actually quite good feels incomplete or just needs a few final touches which would change it from a nice piece of writing into something excellent. So, if you have written a poem and you are ready to send it to The Poetry Zone – or you’re going to enter it into a competition, or you are just writing it for school, or for pleasure – here are three simple things you can do to take your poem on to the elevator and up to the next level.
- Ask yourself: Does the poem say what I want it to say? Does it make sense? It’s amazing how many poems are sent to the Poetry Zone that make no sense at all. Why? I don’t know! A poem may arrive with a last line missing. Or the author may have added a couple of lines just because they want to finish with a rhyme. But, unless it’s meant to be a nonsense poem, a poem must really make sense. Making sure your poem says something is more important than making it rhyme. Sometimes I can tell that the author didn’t read the poem through properly. I always ask someone else to read my poems and stories before I send them anywhere. So, first rule – CHECK IT MAKES SENSE.
- Read your poem to make sure it has rhythm. For me, rhythm is the most important element of a poem. It is certainly more important than rhyme. Does your poem flow nicely? Does it have a beat? Are there any awkward words or phrases that interrupt its flow? My rule here is to READ THE POEM OUT LOUD before you send it; read it to someone else. You will hear whether or not it has rhythm and they will tell you if they get a sense of the meaning of the poem.
- Check your spelling and punctuation. Generally speaking, you don’t need commas or full stops at the end of lines. Usually the end of each line of a poem signifies a natural break, or the meaning runs into the next line. So there is no need for a comma or full stop unless you need punctuation to make the meaning of the line clear. You might like to use the convention of beginning every line of the poem with a capital letter – or you might prefer to use capital letters as you would when writing prose. The important thing here is to be consistent. And finally on this topic, two bugbears of mine. Firstly use a capital letter when writing in the first person. For example – ‘I wrote a poem’ NOT ‘i wrote a poem’. Secondly learn how to use there, their and they’re. There refers to a place. It’s over there. It even has the word ‘here’ in it to help you remember. Here and there. Their means something belongs to someone . This is ‘their’ story. One way to remember is to change the sentence – if you can change it to ‘my’ or ‘your’ then it’s ‘their’. This is my story, this is your story . . . And they’re is a shortened form of they are. Hence the apostrophe.
I hope you found that useful. There are lots of other things you can do to make your poetry better, of course. You can find more advice on the Poetry Zone or from other websites or poets on the internet. But follow these three simple rules and you’ll notice a real improvement.
So, do send your poems to The Poetry Zone . Do enter our competitions. And do watch out for our special 20th anniversary celebrations next year, in 2018. Good luck. (www.poetryzone.co.uk)