Monday 4 May 2015

You Want to be a Proficient Poet? Read, Read, Read

"It seems odd to me that anyone who hates reading poetry should want to write it at all.  Are there amateur painters who never go to an art gallery?  Or amateur musicians who never listen to music?" (Wendy Cope)

"The best poets read widely.  How else do you know what makes a superb poem?" says Wendy Cope (  She recommends that you read both recent poetry and poetry from centuries past.  Vague memories from a high school English class are not enough to go on.

Ms. Cope mentions writers who say that they don't want to be influenced by others, but she maintains that it is part of the learning process.  You must first acquire the technical skills, familiarize yourself with the various forms of poetry, and then branch out from there.  When Wendy Cope first started stringing stanzas together to create poems, her writing resembled that of Sylvia Plath or T. S. Eliot.  However, in time, she found her own voice.    As T. S. Eliot explains, one must distinguish between "what one really feels and what one would like to feel."  You need authenticity in your writing.  Ms. Cope reminds you to write for enjoyment, not just for the sake of getting published.

Visit for a recommended reading list of poetry.  Once you have read a wide selection of poems, you can start writing.  Once you have accumulated at least 50 poems of your own, you have acquired a portfolio that you may start submitting to anthologies for publication.

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