Experimenting With Poetry Makes Me a Better Writer
A couple of months ago I decided to start a poetry Instagram account. Many others have successfully followed in Rupi Kaur’s footsteps, and, while I wasn’t expecting to launch into Instagram fame, I thought I could give it a shot.
Detailing the Thoughtfulness of Rupi Kaur’s Poetry
Where are the colors in Rupi Kaur’s book?
In 2013, I toyed with poetry on Tumblr shortly after separating from my husband. I needed an outlet to express my desperation for liberation in short and sweet ways that only people I didn’t know would validate. I started and then stopped and now I have started again — this time on Instagram.
I have no formal education or training in writing poetry. But, for the purposes of Instagram, I didn’t feel like I needed it because…
Poetry Isn’t All That Complicated
It isn’t fancy. It’s sometimes funny. And it’s definitely something you can enjoy, No MFA required.
I also started this process with the intention of it being just that — a process.
In the few months I have written poems, my writing has improved in three interconnected ways. I will describe them through a poem I wrote which yielded higher social media engagement.
1. I am more concise.
Some poems are short and others are long. Instagram poetry tends to be on the shorter side, and I have noticed that my shorter poems tend to get more engagement.
One trend I learned about on Tumblr is the six-word poem. A six-word poem you say? That sounds easy! However, it is difficult to convey a whole story or feeling in six words. I received the most likes thus far for this six-word poem:
The feather has a family too.
This poem took me about thirty minutes to create. I went through several versions. I started with more words and trimmed down:
- A feather can’t stand on its own.
- A feather can’t stand alone.
- Can the feather seek its family?
- Feathers of a bird fall apart.
This exercise and the brevity of Instagram poetry has forced me to tighten up my sentences and get to the point. This practice easily transfers to any other type of writing.
But length is merely one component…which brings me to my second point.
2. I write with more meaning.
One of my writing challenges is cutting content and making sure whatever is left has meaning. In the feather example, how could I convey that this feather was part of something bigger? Something that made it whole? Something like…a family. A feather alone can only go so far. If we add a relationship to this feather’s life, there is more meaning.
One of my favorite new podcasts is called The Slowdown hosted by U.S. Poet Laureate Tracy K. Smith. Every weekday, Smith recites another poet’s poem. But before she does, she provides some context for the poem through a personal story. She tells the listener what that poem means to her. While I listen to her delightful voice speak life to these poems, their meaning is extracted through her story….which brings me to my third point.
3. I am a better storyteller.
So…(1) the feather is not alone and (2) the feather has meaning because it is part of a family. Adding the little word too gives the feather a character, an origin, and a journey. Where did it come from? What color is it? Did someone pick it up?
When I was playing with the words in this poem, I asked myself what part of speech would best craft it into a story. An adjective? A more descriptive noun? A definite article?
The adverb “too” provided the extra layer I wanted to convey. It told me that this feather deserves to be considered as a character as much as anyone or anything else.
While some poems I have written are contemplative, I have found the most joy reading and writing poems with a hidden story. A story that may or may not be obvious. A story that is universal or can be interpreted in more ways than one. A story that shakes your heart unexpectedly.
Whether I write an op-ed, memoir, or fiction, writing poetry offers me new writing possibilities.
Aside from Instagram, I have also enjoyed poets here on Medium. Here are some of my favorites:
I’ll close with another poem I wrote:
They kept their branches to themselves and
Stood next to their cousins
The palm and the ficus and jacaranda in bloom
Fan leaves face up, bounties of roots, purple fell in new constellations while
Following the still sun
The boy toddler on a scooter is
Carrying his stuffed pink bunny with white velvet ears
His eyes squint sideways
Pointing to the hues
“Which one is this?” and then he looks away
Scooting to the next kin while
Swallowing the still sun