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Writing Poetry July 16, 2011

Posted by Ronica Stromberg in Uncategorized.
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I write in many styles and genres, but writing poetry is tough for me. It’s probably my weakest area of writing. I’ve never understood meter and can’t tell whether a syllable is stressed or unstressed. But, being a grammar lover, I can follow rules, and I’ve discovered saleable poetry for children generally follows some rules (or editor preferences):

  • It makes use of multiple-syllable rhymes. Anyone can rhyme words like “tree” and “bee”; it takes more effort to rhyme multiple-syllable words like “withered greens” and “tangerines” or “baloney” and “macaroni” (as Shel Silverstein does in “Sarah Cynthia Sylvia Stout Would not Take the Garbage Out”).
  • Some editors dislike “nonsense” poetry, in which a poet makes up words; for example, the poet might make up the word “porange” to rhyme with “orange.” Again, this method of rhyming words is sometimes seen as a cop-out.
  • Saleable poetry uses perfect rhyme, not near-misses like “lean” and “greens.”
  • It uses current, natural language structure. It’s better to say something like “he goes” rather than “he goeth” or “go does he.” Using archaic language or unnatural sentence structure just because it rhymes or improves meter doesn’t make for good poetry.

Recently, in a flash of inspiration, I wrote a poem and submitted it to a children’s magazine. The editor rejected it but said she liked the rhythm and rhyme in the piece and said she’d like to see more from me. She will. Her comments inspired me to write three more!