Happy National Poetry Day!!

Happy National Poetry Day, my lovely sheep! Some questions I've been asked this week:


Honestly, I don't believe there's such a thing as "better poetry", but I do think there's a thing called "more evocative poetry". So that's what I'm going to try and help you out with! Poetry and the written and spoken word are beautiful, beautiful creations that have the power to unite people all around the world, so I hope this post motivates you to write some or helps you improve.

1. When you're stuck, write about things you know.

This will be a little bit related to point 2. Sometimes I get writer's block by comparing my writing to other people's writing and trying to write about the same things they do, even if I've personally never experienced those topics. For example: someone on the Internet will talk about forests and robots. And I'll be so inspired that I start trying to write about forests and robots too. And then I get really frustrated because I don't know anything about robots and I know marginally little about forests so then I feel bad and I feel like I'm not good enough and I should stop writing forever.

That's a really unhealthy way of thinking because everyone has different experiences and you can't really compare yourself to people who come from different backgrounds, cultures, lives, etc. You may think your story is uninteresting or even lame, but I promise that skill with words can turn even a dull experience into something lively and heartrending.

Anyways, if you look up spoken word poetry on Youtube and watch some videos, you may realize that all of the poets seem to talk or write about topics that mean a lot to them. It's easy to write about things we care about because we have strong feelings about them and can be more creative when we write. Passion can sing so loudly within a poem about subject matter you hold dear to you, whether that's love or forests or robots or pancakes.

2. Don't try too hard to be academic or literary.

I started really writing poetry when I was 12 or 13 years old. At first I would just write about the horrible boys I was crushing on at the time, or I'd lament about my sad life. Then, I started getting critiques on my poetry. It was "edgy" and "angsty". It makes sense that my writing would be angsty, especially since I was a super-emotional teenage girl, but from about 14 to 16 I went through this phase where I would try super hard to sound intelligent. I'd constantly emulate Longfellow or John Donne or some other great poet. I'd use stupid words like "translucent" or "chimerical". It was frustrating, because my voice got clouded in the process and it took months to get that out of my writing. This is beyond cliche, but just be yourself. We like to read language that is natural, and there's no rule saying that we need to sound like a college professor to write.

3. Practice reading your poetry to an audience.

Before I performed at Salihara, I practiced reading "Weeks" in front of Durian a lot. We have an outdoor cafeteria called the MENSA, so that's where I would read to him, standing up and practicing hand motions and slowly memorizing my poem. I was really scared about looking like an idiot in front of all the people coming and going out of the MENSA, which is why it was such good experience. Repetition also helped me to really memorize the poem and instill it with my personal style/dramatism.

I have some form of social anxiety, but I've been trying to face those fears, and spoken word poetry has been a really helpful way to get me out of that paranoid and self-conscious mindset. My advice is to find a good friend you can trust to be supportive and honest and is patient enough to listen to you read/recite your poetry.

Also, I think that spoken poetry is often more powerful when it is memorized. So the more you practice, the more you can memorize. Don't be lazy practicing! I practiced in the shower, at the MENSA, during class, in the car...Basically every free chance that you get, recite a verse or stanza or even all of your poem.

4. Read a lot of poetry.

There's a difference between reading poetry to "learn" and reading poetry to learn. Just like we can read books and absorb different styles, different ways of writing the same scene, different--everything--we can also read different poems by different authors and learn techniques from them. How does a certain poet describe a sunset? How does a different poet describe that sunset? How do certain poets express different emotions, like anger or frustration? How do poets use white space and non-alphabet characters to express a thought?

Poems don't have to be in an analog book. You can find so many wonderful poems on the internet now. Tumblr is an especially ripe garden for poetry.

Along this same thought, watch a lot of poetry! Sarah Kay and Phil Kaye and Lemon Andersen all have different methods of spoken poetry. They use their bodies and hands differently. They have different intonations and inflections when speaking.

I tried to make this post short and simple so you could focus on the most important aspects of writing poetry. I hope you enjoy #NationalPoetryDay and maybe even feel inspired to write some poetry of your own. If you do, feel free to tell me about it in the comments below or tweet to me @HELLORINNIE!