Tag Archives: poetry discussion

HOW TO EDIT YOUR OWN POETRY

I think I’m quite good at spotting what works and doesn’t work in other people’s poems, but I’m hopeless when trying to assess my own. To that end, I put this checklist together. It really helped me when self-editing my poetry collection: ‘Thirty Angry Ghosts’. Hopefully, it will help some of you too.

The main trick was to pretend that I didn’t write the poem I was editing and to imagine myself as an impartial reader in order to gain a critical perspective.

I also used the questions below to analyse some of my favourite poems alongside my own:

  1. Is the first line attention-grabbing? Does it need to be, or is a subtle approach more effective?
  2. How strong is the voice? Does it feel like someone is talking directly to the reader?
  3. Would the poem be stronger if some parts were cut/expanded?
  4. Are there any little words that could usefully be cut: e.g. that, the, a, was, just, really. Some editors call these ‘sticky’ words.
  5. Are any words or images repeated? If so, is it done for a reason?
  6. Does the poem have a beat and/or some form of musicality?
  7. Is there a rhyme scheme? Is it there for a reason or just for convention? Is it satisfying? Is it consistent?
  8. Is there a theme/central question that is explored in an unusual/interesting way?
  9. Does the poem wrestle with a problem? Does it ask questions? Does it try to make sense of the world in some way?
  10. Are there dynamics such as a shift in mood or pace? Are some parts more dramatic than others? Does the poem build to a climax?
  11. Is there an effective structure? Is the text set out well on the page? If there is enjambment (run on lines) do these work well – is the last word on each line strong enough?
  12. How does my use of punctuation and capital letters compare with other contemporary poems? Does using capital letters at the start of each line make my poems feel old-fashioned? (In the end I used standard punctuation although I changed my mind lots of times as I was editing).
  13. Are there strong sensory images to help immerse the reader in the world of my poem?
  14. Does it feel original? What sets it apart from similar poems?
  15. Are interesting sounds created by the letters, e.g. onomatopoeia, alliteration and assonance.
  16. Are there any engaging oxymorons like ‘shouted whispers’ or ‘hot fire’ to interest the reader?
  17. Are there any effective metaphors and/or similes? Are they fresh and precise or awkward/cliched?
  18. Are the nouns specific? For example, is ‘sycamore’ used rather than ‘tree’. Would using more specific nouns improve or detract from the general effectiveness?
  19. Are the verbs strong? E.g. ‘slurped’ rather than ‘ate’. Would stronger/more specific verbs improve the poem?
  20. Would the poem be stronger with fewer adjectives, e.g. beautiful, multi-coloured, huge.
  21. Are there any adverbs that need cutting, e.g. ‘slowly’, ‘carefully’, ‘grumpily?’
  22. Is there a lot going on? Is it confusing? Would a narrower focus improve it?
  23. Does the end provide an effective, satisfactory resolution?
  24. Will readers will remember this poem next week? Or next year?Why/Why not?

Once I’d worked through these, I spent a lot of time reading my work out loud and looking at it in three different formats: on my mobile phone, on a printed page and on my laptop .

I also used software to read out my work on the computer. The latest version of Word has this function, and I also downloaded and used the free version of ‘Natural Reader’.

Lastly, I used ‘Pro Writing Aid’ to check the grammar. Here’s the link.

Once the poems were as good as I could make them, I asked two trusted friends to read through them and suggest other edits. I was really lucky to have two people that were willing to be critical. (Thanks Declan and Ian – I’m so grateful for all your hard work).

So… this is how I approached my edits. Has anyone else got any tips? I’d love to hear them.

Or maybe you don’t edit your poems. Some people seem to get it right the first time. I wish I did.

Maybe it’ll be easier with my next collection. I haven’t started one yet but, if this one does well, I’d like to do a follow up at some point.

If you’d like to buy a copy of ‘Thirty Angry Ghosts’, it’s available on Amazon for £7.99 as a paperback, £3.99 as an ebook and (if you’re on Kindle Unlimited), it’s free!

Here’s the link: https://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B09J3QT5HF

Match the themes to the poems

Major Themes Explored

Revenge, Environmental Issues, Education, Human Potential, Reputation, Beauty, Story-Telling, Wealth, Sexism, Unfairness, Greed, Wisdom, Community, Justice, Love, Human Frailty, War, Mysticism, Archeology, War, Empire

Write the major theme or themes explored next to each poem.

Many of these are open to interpretation and there is always more than one answer.

Name of GhostThemes or Themes
  
Neanderthal Woman 
Tutankhamen 
Agamemnon 
Helen of Troy 
Homer 
Aeschylus 
Julius Caesar 
Cleopatra 
Boudicca 
Genghis Khan 
Abu Bakhr II 
Joan of Arc 
Wu Zetian 
Mansa Musa 
La Malinche 
Anne Boleyn 
Henry VIII 
William Shakespeare 
Pocahontas 
Adolf Frederick of Sweden 
Marie Antionette 
Margaret Catchpole 
Beethoven 
Mary Shelley 
Maria Quiteria 
Abraham Lincoln 
Queen Victoria 
The Unknown Soldier 
Grigori Rasputin 
Marie Curie 

Here are the major themes I had in mind when I was writing. It may be that you interpret them differently.

Name of GhostThemes
  
Neanderthal WomanEnvironmental Issues
TutankhamenArchaeology
AgamemnonUnfairness
Helen of TroyBeauty
HomerStory-Telling
AeschylusReputation
Julius CaesarReputation, Unfairness
CleopatraWisdom, Beauty
BoudiccaRevenge
Genghis KhanCommunity, Environmental Issues
Abu Bakhr IIReputation
Joan of ArcRevenge
Wu ZetianReputation
Mansa MusaWealth
La MalincheReputation
Anne BoleynSexism
Henry VIIISexism
William ShakespeareReputation
PocahontasRevenge
Adolf Frederick of SwedenGreed
Marie AntionetteJustice
Margaret CatchpoleLove
Ludwig van BeethovenUnfairness
Mary ShelleyEnvironmental Issues
Maria QuiteriaSexism
Abraham LincolnHuman Frailty
Queen VictoriaEmpire
The Unknown SoldierWar, Unfairness,
Grigori RasputinMysticism, Wisdom
Marie CurieHuman Potential, Education

reading and writing love poetry

‘The minute I heard my first love story,
I started looking for you’ – Rumi

Would you like to discuss classic and contemporary love poetry in a friendly, supportive group?

Would you like to learn about different forms of poetry and writing techniques?

Do you want to be inspired to write your own poetry and have the opportunity to receive feedback on your work?

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Mai Black – Course Tutor

This course consists of ten one hour workshops delivered via Zoom, spread out over ten weeks. The intention is to help you gain a deeper appreciation and understanding of poetry as well as inspire you to write a variety of new pieces of your own. It is suitable for both experienced poets and absolute beginners.

Starts: Mon 5th April 2021 (7.30pm to 8.30pm)

Ends: Mon 7th June 2021 (7.30pm to 8.30pm)

Each session costs £5 and lasts for one hour (total £50)

I have recently added a Tuesday session too. This will run from Tuesday 6th April to Tuesday 8th June. Again, it will start at 7.30pm and end at 8.30pm. The content will be the same as for Monday’s group.

Email suffolkwritersgroup@gmail.com for enquiries.

Participants on the ‘Nature Poetry’ Couse

Each week, participants will read the poem in advance and try to think of a comment to make or question to ask. All the poems (together with links to the texts) are listed below. After a reading, sharing of ideas and brief input from me, everyone will write a short piece which can either be shared straight-away or worked on before the next session.

On weeks five and ten all participants can choose to read a short published poem as well as one of their own pieces.

The course costs £50 for ten one-hour sessions and is payable by direct debit. If you email me your mobile phone number, I can text you my bank details.

There are only eight places available on each course. I can confirm a place once I receive payment. If the course is cancelled for any reason, I will reimburse you.

Unfortunately I can’t offer automatic refunds if you decide not to join the course at a later date but, if someone else is able to take your place, I will endeavour to do so.

For more information, email suffolkwritersgroup@gmail.com.

Or phone me on 07943 068033 (I’m Mai – pronounced May)

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Suffolk Writers Group at work and play. (I’m in the middle at the top).

Here is some of the lovely feedback I received about the last course.

‘This course has been great fun giving me the experience to return to poetry and fully appreciate it.  When I was at school the teacher hated poetry so I never went back to it. I have learnt so much in a relaxed and informative way.  Thank you Mai for a great experience.  I look forward to the next one.’ – Jacqui Martin

‘All I can say is thank goodness for lockdown. Without it I’d never have found this lovely group. Mai is great – I’ve learnt so much in such a short length of time.’ – Sue Dale

‘Brilliant insightful course, rediscovering the beauty of language.’ – Ian Speed

‘It’s such a supportive group and Mai does such a great job in keeping us motivated.’ – Ian Hartley

Poems for discussion and inspiration

Week 1 – Meeting at Night – Robert Browning

Week 2 – Three short poems – Rumi

Week 3 – The Clod and The Pebble – William Blake

Week 4 – Shall I Compare Thee To a Summer’s Day – William Shakespeare

Week 5 – Member’s Choice (one of yours and/or one by someone else)

Week 6 – I Wanna Be Yours – John Cooper Clarke

Week 7 – My Letters! all Dead Paper – Elizabeth Barrett Browning

Week 8 – A Marriage – R S Thomas

Week 9 – I Do Not Love Thee – Caroline Norton

Week 10 – Member’s Choice (one of yours and/or one by someone else)

To visit my main website and find out about other writing courses and creative writing resources, click here.

reading and writing poems about nature

Starts: Mon 4th January 2021

Ends: Mon 8th March 2021

Mondays 10:30am – 11:30am

Or Mondays 7:30pm to 8:30pm

Cost: £50

Rediscover your love of poetry!

…Or maybe you’re looking to find it.

This ten-week course is aimed at people who want to read, write and discuss popular poetry with a group of friendly, like-minded individuals.

The sessions are delivered via Zoom, which allows everyone to easily share their work on the screen as well as take turns to ask questions and share thoughts about the chosen poems.

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Mai Black – Course Co-ordinator

Beginners and experienced writers are equally welcome. I have deliberately chosen poems which are well-known and accessible to all.

Each week, read the poem in advance and print out a copy. Try to think of a comment to make or question to ask. During the session, everyone will write a short piece which can either be shared straight-away or worked on before the next session.

On weeks five and ten all participants can choose to read a short published poem as well as one of their own pieces.

The course costs £50 for ten one-hour sessions and is payable by direct debit. If you email me your mobile phone number, I can text you my bank details.

For more information, email suffolkwritersgroup@gmail.com.

Or phone me on 07943 068033 (I’m Mai – pronounced May)

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is image.png
Suffolk Writers Group at work and play. (I’m in the middle at the top).

Here is some of the lovely feedback I received about the last course.

‘This course has been great fun giving me the experience to return to poetry and fully appreciate it.  When I was at school the teacher hated poetry so I never went back to it. I have learnt so much in a relaxed and informative way.  Thank you Mai for a great experience.  I look forward to the next one.’ – Jacqui Martin

‘All I can say is thank goodness for lockdown. Without it I’d never have found this lovely group. Mai is great – I’ve learnt so much in such a short length of time.’ – Sue Dale

‘Brilliant insightful course, rediscovering the beauty of language.’ – Ian Speed

‘It’s such a supportive group and Mai does such a great job in keeping us motivated.’ – Ian Hartley

Poems for discussion and inspiration

Week One – I Remember, I Remember by Thomas Hood

Week Two – Pied Beauty – Gerald Manley Hopkins

Week Three – Everybody Sang by Siegfried Sasoon

Week Four – Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening – Robert Frost

Week Five – Members’ Choice

Week Six – Emmonsail’s Heath in Winter by John Clare

Week Seven – The Sunlight on the Garden by Louis McNeice

Week Eight – Home – Thoughts from Abroad by Robert Browning

Week Nine – Blackberry Picking by Seamus Heaney

Week Ten – Members’ Choice

(All these poems can be found in this book. You will also be able to find them easily with an internet search)

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To visit our main website and find out about other writing courses and creative writing resources, click here.