Many aspiring web writers make the mistake of thinking writing for the web is the same as writing in the classroom. While the foundations of grammar and punctuation are generally the same, the elements of style in web writing are very different than what you might be used to.
When writing a formal paper, you likely double-spaced and indented each paragraph. These are two of the worst things to do online. Don’t double-space as it can make your reader’s eyes strain – if he sticks around long enough to read it. You should also use blocks of text rather than indented paragraphs. This helps the reader to keep his place reading more effectively.
The standard formal paragraph is five to seven sentences long. This is torture online. When you write for the web, use only one to three sentences in a paragraph, and leaving a single line standing alone is perfectly acceptable. This strategy is highly used in copywriting. Short bursts of text doesn’t mean the writing is choppy, you want the paragraphs to appear choppy as they are easier to handle on a computer screen. Visual breaks make reading easier.
Using subheadings also helps to make reading easier online. Rather than writing an essay, include subheadings in the vast majority of your work. You can also include numbers, bullet points and blocks of data inserted into the primarily article to make your information more compact and easy to digest. Many readers online skim articles looking for the goods. Subheading help them find it.
While it’s not critical, writing for the web includes a fundamental knowledge of SEO practices. This means you should understand keyword saturation and how to use a particular keyword 3-5% of the time in your writing. For best results, the keyword should be used naturally and flow easily in the material. Remember, your written piece is for readers first, and then search engine spiders.
In the vast majority of cases, too many details and tangents will wear out your reader. Online writing should be targeted and precise. Don’t waste words. Wasted words frustrate readers. Keep your article or webpage tight to avoid rambling and always read back through what you’ve written to clear away the verbal clutter.
It seems that almost everyone has, at one time, had a fantasy about starting their own business, most of which involve using the internet and a website. In fact, due to the ever increasing ease of use, internet businesses are growing at a phenomenal rate. Unfortunately, 99% of web sites never make more than a few dollars each month.
So, how do you make sure that your website or home business is one of the 1% that actually makes some money?
- Take the time to do it right. – The internet is full of cheesy, cookie-cutter, web sites that offer no value to the reader. When you are building your website, take the time to make it look nice and ensure that is stands out fro the billions of other website’s on the net. If you do not have the skills to build a nice site yourself, spend the money to hire someone to do it for you.
- Provide the reader with something that is worth reading. – Most people use the internet for research or hobby reading on topics that interest them. Your website or home business MUST give free information that a reader will want to know. You don’t have to give away all your information or trade secrets but, you do have to offer an incentive that will keep a potential customer on your site long enough for you to get some money out of them.
- Use every method possible to make money on each visitor. – Let’s face it, even the most profitable business will not convert 100% of their visitors. However, you can increase your conversions by diversifying your revenue streams. If you sell a product for example, be sure that your product is not the only way you have to get money. Including ads, affiliate programs, and free trials are just a few ways that you can diversify your income streams.
- Build a community – A website is a great way to build an online community interested in your home business. Offering forums for people to correspond in and providing free answers to people’s questions can be a great way to "trap" a reader and keep them coming back to your site.
- Optimize your website for the Search Engines. – SEO or search engine optimization is the process of making your website easy to find and read by search engines. In fact, most web sites fail because nobody knows they exist. Look for a free e-book or hire someone to optimize your site. A SEO consultant can help you determine the best ways to have your site optimized and profitable. Zero traffic will always equal zero sales.
Newly planted trees require a lot of love, patience, but especially water. A young tree needs the equivalent of one inch of rainwater per week. In the lands of almost constant summer droughts, this is very hard to come by. Rain gauges can help track the natural watering of your trees, and by seeing the shortfall every week, you can help to make up the difference.
Determine the Need
Your first step is to see how much water your tree is already receiving. Young trees can die easily without enough water, so it is imperative to get a good reading. Over watering a tree can be harmful as well, so running the hose for an hour or two isn’t much compensation. Only when you’ve got a good idea of how much rainfall your trees have already benefited from can you begin watering the trees yourself.
Apply Water Naturally
When you water a young tree, you should apply the water in the most natural way possible. This means that dumping a bucket over the roots won’t do. Instead use a soaker hose to distribute water slowly over time. Another way to better gauge how much water your tree is getting is to punch a nail sized hole in a bucket and place that bucket by the tree. Then fill up the bucket and leave it until all of the water has dripped down through the hole. Move the bucket to the other side of the tree and repeat as necessary.
Keep Moisture In
You’re putting a great deal of effort into getting the water into the tree, but you need to help protect that water from evaporation. Putting a layer of mulch around the base of the trees can help keep the soil moist. Also, do your watering early in the morning or in the evening when the sun is not at its peak to ensure none of your watering efforts are wasted.
In a world of high cholesterol and rising obesity, checking your blood pressure is one way to ensure that your health is remaining steady or improving as you exercise and maintain a healthy diet. You can check your blood pressure at home with blood pressure monitors or you can check it periodically at the doctor’s office or a pharmacy.
Checking Blood Pressure at Home
If you have an inexpensive blood pressure monitor at home, you can check your blood pressure as often as you’d like. Wrap the fabric cuff around your upper arm while your arm is supported at heart level. Squeeze the bulb to inflate the cuff until the pressure gauge peaks. Stop pumping and the cuff will slowly deflate.
Read Your Results
The digital readout on the monitor will be your blood pressure. The top number is the systolic pressure or the pressure when the heat actually beats, and the bottom number is the diastolic pressure or the lowest pressure while the heart rests between beats. After taking your blood pressure the first time, wait two to five minutes and take it again. Then average the two results together for the most accurate reading.
Analyze Your Blood Pressure Results
If your blood pressure came back higher than 140 over 90, you may be suffering from high blood pressure or hypertension. Contact your doctor’s office for a follow up reading and advice on lowering your blood pressure to ensure your health and safety.
A pregnancy is an exciting time. But many fail to realize that preparing for pregnancy is as important as actual conception. If you’re ready to become a parent, here’s how to plan your pregnancy.
Prepare the Body For Pregnancy
The woman’s body should be as prepared as possible for pregnancy. She should stop taking birth control pills or remove any other chemical or hormonal birth control devices well before starting work on conception to give her hormones a chance to stabilize. This also gives the body time to clear away any lingering chemicals.
The mother should be at a healthy weight for her size for an easier conception and to ensure fewer complications during pregnancy and delivery. Regular exercise is good during pregnancy, so it is wise to be in the habit prior to conception.
The prospective mother should also begin taking prenatal vitamins before conception. The first few weeks of a pregnancy are when these extra vitamins and minerals are most important, but often a woman doesn’t experience pregnancy symptoms until five or six weeks into the pregnancy.
Prepare the Home For Pregnancy
Is there space for a baby and all the large items that come with it? It is far easier to move before pregnancy than during it to avoid stain and stress on the pregnant mother.
Prepare the Finances For Pregnancy
Babies are expensive. While there is no perfect time to become pregnant, if you are facing financial difficulties, can’t pay your existing bills or foresee financial difficulties you might be better waiting until you are in a comfortable or stable position before conceiving.
Prepare the Mind For Pregnancy
You should be in a steady place in your mind. A baby should not be a solution to any problems or a method to save a relationship. Both partners should agree to try for the baby before stopping birth control.
Timing of Conception
Once you are prepared, the trying can begin. This should be a joyful time, not stressful. While it is hard to wait, most couples take more than one or two months to become pregnant. If you are looking for a specific time of delivery, for example the spring, get started a bit early to give yourself some time for false starts.
While every woman is different and every lifestyle is different, fertility begins to wane earlier than most women realize. In your twenties you have an 80% or higher chance of getting pregnant easily. By your early thirties your odds have dropped to 60%, and by thirty-five you have only a 50% chance of easily becoming pregnant.
Boosting Your Chances To Get Pregnant
To boost your chances of becoming pregnant each cycle, you can monitor for ovulation using basal readings or an ovulation predictor kit. You also are more likely to conceive if you are at a healthy weight, are active, are not overly stressed and eat a healthy and balanced diet.
You should ideally have sex the exact moment your body releases an egg. Since most women have no idea when this is occurring, you can chart your ovulation using a kit or your temperature to get an idea of when you should be having sex. At the very least, you should be having sex every two or three days to ensure there are sperm ready and waiting for the egg whenever it releases. (Sperm can live up to five or more days.)
If you can write a letter or an email, then you can probably write an ebook. The most important thing to remember about the ebook market is that it is based upon information. An ebook which informs its reader is a successful ebook – you don’t have to be a literary genius, you merely need to either have knowledge or experience you can communicate, or else you need to be able to find some knowledge or information on a subject and communicate that. The best tip is: don’t think of yourself as writing a ‘book’, since that idea seems to intimidate people, think of yourself as writing an informative email; or a series of informative emails.
Think of someone you know who you write easily to then just think of yourself as writing to them. Maybe even write to them – you could always ask a friend if it’s ok to write and tell them about your subject, then do so and use those emails as the body of your ebook. The main point here is: if you can write atall, and you can communicate information, then you can write an informative ebook. It is that simple.
The length of an ebook depends upon the information you are putting in it. There’s no strict length – although if it’s only a few pages then it may be better to call it a ‘report’. The important point I shall stress again is that it is informative to the reader. The reader is the one who pays for this information, if they finish the ebook and feel as if it has informed them, then they are a happy reader, if not, then not. An ebook could be as short as one page if the information on that page were worth the price of the ebook. So decide hat the information is that needs to go into the ebook, and write it for as long as that information is adequately communicated. Sure you can fill i8t out a bit with ‘chat’ but not too much. When ‘chat’ becomes ‘fluff’ readers become impatient – even if the ebook is informing them. If the ebook isn’t informing a reader and they think it’s full of fluff you will have a refund request on your hands and a complaint.
The main principle I am going to stress is ‘delivery’: that is, the delivery of information. This means everything from sitting down to write, to producing your ebook in a finished readable and downloadable format. What is the best, simplest, clearest, most accessible way of delivering this information to the reader?
First, decide what information you are going to deliver to the reader, then write that ebook. Don’t worry, initially, about how many pages it takes up – do your research and decide what to tell your reader and how to tell it. If you think the clearest explanation will include graphs or pictures, then include them, if you think the clearest description requires a step by step tutorial then write it. Deliver the information that the reader wants and expects and they will be happy.
When I wrote earlier about ‘fluff’ I was talking about additional ‘chatty’ or superfluous text which didn’t add to the reader’s enjoyment or experience in any way. I will now say it also includes unnecessary decoration or ‘over-design’. This is a rule for information ebooks as much as it is for any other book – don’t add unnecessary decoration in the form of decorative type faces, multiple colours, coloured backgrounds, borders, unrelated or vaguely related images or anything else which isn’t directly contributing to the communication – the delivery – of the information. If the information is well researched and informative then that is the product and any thing extra just gets in the way of the delivery of that product, and that includes distracting backgrounds and borders and coloured decorative typefaces. All an ebook needs is readable text and informative headings.
Remember also, that just because an ebook can be increased or decreased in size, it doesn’t mean that the size of your text doesn’t matter; it does. Do not be tempted to use big text with wide spaces between the lines to make your ebook appear to have more pages. This gets in the way of the delivery of information. Do not, either, make the text small to give the impression of good value by filling pages upon pages with fine text, this also gets in the way of the delivery of information. When deciding upon the text size and spacing there are two simple things to consider: one is that the reader may print out the ebook and will, therefore, require each page to be formatted to print, without any additional formatting, on an average A4 letter sized page. And the second thing to be aware of is that the ‘optimal’ reading text is about twelve words per line.
‘Optimal’, in terms of reading, means that the reader’s eye is most comfortable when there are about twelve words on each line. If lines are too short then the eye is constantly jumping down to the next line and concentration is lost. If the lines are too long then the eye will often ‘lose’ it’s place in the middle of all the text, and find it difficult identifying the next line down due to the distance between the end of one line and the beginning of the next. If you have taken your time writing an ebook and filling it with good and relevant information, if you have delivered the information in the text then you need to back that up by putting it in the optimal format. For an ebook that tends to mean about 14pt text with about a 1.2 to 1.3 line spacing. One and a half line spacing is far too wide and makes reading uncomfortable. Single line spacing is acceptable but if you want to hit the optimum then go for a little extra.
Finally, don’t put in any blank pages or massive white spaces – this looks bad on the screen, and uses up paper when an ebook is printed out. It won’t, by itself, lose you a sale, but it doesn’t deliver a good experience. With these simple points in mind all you need to do is convert your document to a PDF and you have your finished ebook ready to satisfy your customers.
The haiku, because of its simplicity, is one of the few form poetry styles with which most poets experiment. However, simplicity can be deceptive and it is the very implication that a haiku is "easy" to write that invites so many poets to write technically poor haiku.
Haiku has a long history and although most people are not familiar with the tradition behind haiku poetry nor make the correlation between spiritual practice and haiku, even less people are unable to define it. A haiku is a seventeen syllable poem made up of three lines. The first and third lines are five syllables each making a 5-7-5 syllable three line poem. If a haiku were only this, a three line poem composed of seventeen syllables, then any seventeen syllable sentence would suffice and qualify as a poem. In my article, How Not to Write a Poem, I give an example of a haiku composed of a simple sentence.
I hate you mostly
when I talk to your wife on
the phone as she cries.
This meets the definition most people use to define a haiku but falls so far short of a true haiku that to label this a haiku is an insult. It fails to meet the other criteria which are often overlooked.
A haiku is not only a three line poem but it also includes an allusion to nature. This can be seen in the haiku of the masters, such as Bassho and Issa, as well as others. From a particular species of plant or animal (a cherry blossom, a hawk, a cicada, a chrysanthemum) to a clear season (harvest moon, snow, summer’s sun), there is supposed to be some allusion to the natural.
However, sometimes this is a subtle allusion. Your seasons will differ from those of other nations and traditions. In my home, growing up, we had a fake Christmas tree that stayed up year round so referencing a decorated tree had no seasonal meaning. But had I referred to a particular block party in the streets of Manhattan, anyone who grew up in my home would recognize the time of my haiku. Be aware of your own seasons, think beyond those obvious four seasons that dominate the thinking of society. Adopt and adapt your seasons to infuse your poetry with a subtlety that may elude most readers while infusing your writing with something intrinsic, personal, and potentially profound.
Haiku is intimate, a highly personal form of poetry, that is easily recognized for its immediacy in the predominance of the present moment. Some haiku may be written in the past tense, very few are written in the future tense, but most haiku is undeniably set in the present. Because of this, haiku have an emotional integrity that is often overlooked by the poet who is assuming that the haiku is an easy poem.
I learned this lesson when not writing a haiku a long time ago. I had been experimenting with sumi-e brushwork and was trying to copy the drawing of a hawk standing on a rock looking over its shoulder. Each drawing I made seemed devoid of something I could not define. The brush strokes were carefully performed, allowing for control within the freedom of the ink’s flow. My frustration grew as I tried again and again to recreate the image I had before me.
Then I stepped away, looked at the original from which I was trying to draw inspiration and wondered to myself what the hawk was thinking and feeling. In my mind it seemed to be saying it wanted to be left alone, not documented in ink. I returned to the paper, meditating on this feeling of isolation, of wanting to be alone and undisturbed. Nothing else changed. My strokes were the same, the ink I used not watered down in any way, but this time the image that I created had an energy that the previous attempts had lacked.
This should be true of your haiku; you must first feel the moment before you can write about it. You may write about something only moments passed or decades old. By drawing on the past moment, placing it into the present tense, you draw yourself and your reader into the haiku’s moment, bridging a distance between yourself and the moment and your reader so that the three become one. Honor the emotional moment and trust your reader by being subtle in how you expose yourself in the delicate lines. The very brevity of a haiku, the seventeen syllables, will force you, as a poet, to synthesize a moment into a concentrated form, condensing the emotion so that it has the same weight as it did when experienced.
For instance, I wrote a poem, Poetic Bugaboo, about a moment I experienced while frustrated with myself as a poet. The same theme could have found its way into a haiku because the insect meets the criteria for having something of nature in the poem.
Squashed gnat between the
lines of a poem written
with no real passion.
It is possible, maybe even likely, that most readers would not understand the frustration I was feeling with myself as a poet but a haiku trusts the reader to sit with the poem, meditate upon its meaning, discover the emotion of the words, and in this way writing a haiku and reading one can become a form of spiritual practice.
Most writers have learned the five W’s and an H rule: Who? What? Where? When? Why? and How? In writing a haiku there is a similar, often overlooked rule. Each line of the strictly traditional haiku will ideally fall into the following pattern:
Line 1: Where?
Line 2: What?
Line 3: When?
Before you balk at the strictness of this, arguing that poetry is about breaking with tradition, I offer this challenge. Try to conform to the strictest definition of the haiku, rise to the occasion and allow yourself to write a haiku that conforms to these rules, dare yourself to find freedom within the strict rules. Write seventeen syllables, broken into three lines, include a natural element, and then answer the three questions (Where? What? When?) In precisely those three lines of five-seven-five syllables. Find the freedom in the form and conformity. Trust yourself to be in the moment, write from the moment, and dare yourself to write a true haiku. And if you fall short of the purest form when writing your haiku, welcome to the club. Trust me; you are in very good company.
alone in my bed
no wishes left or dreams, dark
clouds hiding the stars
555 Fern Street
Anywhere, Texas 77777
To write a friendly letter, you must first place your contact information at the top right of the page as shown. This is called the header. It can also be centered if you prefer. Then you place the date on the left of the page immediately followed by the greeting, as shown. The greeting should be friendly, such as the “Dear John” above. Be sure to place a comma after the greeting.
Then you are able to work on the body of your letter. You can skip lines between block paragraphs as this example shows or indent each new paragraph. Block spacing helps separate ideas, but indentions are traditional and maintain a better flow of writing.
Each paragraph of a friendly letter should have a separate point and be kept no longer than five sentences to ease reading. The exception to this rule is a very short letter. In that case, the entire letter might consist of a single paragraph.
A friendly letter usually starts with the same sort of greeting you would find in a phone or spoken conversation. For example, the body of a short friendly letter might look something like this:
“How are you? We’re doing well down here in Texas. The move was dramatic, but thankfully we all survived and so did our things. I was writing to see how things are up in New York. I hope the weather up there is cooler than it is down here. I hope all is well!”
A longer version of the same letter would use paragraphs and contain more information about the move and the weather. It might tell a more detailed story about the trip, especially the parts that made it dramatic. A friendly letter is written to keep in touch and to entertain. It should be kept light and amusing.
It is considered polite to ask about the recipient and share news that would interest them. If your grandmother has no idea what the internet is, a long letter detailing your new responsibilities coding PHP and Java will confuse her. Avoid topics that will drag down the letter or confuse and bore your recipient.
A friendly letter can be as long as you’d like and contain many stories, thoughts and descriptions. Be sure to break them apart into shorter paragraphs to make it easier to follow. Long paragraphs make it hard to keep your place reading. The longer a letter, the shorter the paragraphs should be.
Finally, when you have told everything you’d like in a letter, it is time to wrap it up. Most friendly letters tie thoughts together with a sentence such as, “I just wanted to let you know that we’re all doing well and miss you.” The letter is then finalized with a closing such as the one to follow.
Loss is as much a part of life as birth and death. As painful as loss is to experience, there is a solace to which the poet has access. In writing, the poet can process their loss in a meaningful way to help facilitate personal healing. Whether the loss is the end of a relationship or the more final loss of someone’s death, a poet has an outlet in words and verse. (For the sake of this guide, I am going to focus on death. However, please understand that any loss is experienced as a kind of death and the process of healing through poetry cannot be underestimated nor is there an intentional implication that death is the only real loss.)
When writing a bereavement poem, it is best to first write something in prose and not attempt to write a poem. I suggest this because it is easy, given the natural use of metaphor and abstractions in poetry, to write a poem that is so vague as to have nothing concrete for the reader to fully appreciate or understand your piece. The problem is that sometimes we are so close to the pain that it is hard to actually write about it. Caught between a rock and a hard place, we need to write about how we feel but what we feel is so overwhelming that what we write is likely going to be more safe than honest.
One of the best ways to begin writing about your pain is not in poetry but in prose. If you keep a journal, this is a natural outlet in which you can write what you are feeling. However, you may find that even this outlet is too emotionally difficult for you. Another useful means of writing through your grief is to write an unsent letter This is actually a journaling exercise that many psychiatrists have used and one that is accessible to anyone, even the non-poet. You write the letter as though you were going to give it to the person to whom the letter is addressed.
When a friend of mine was raped and murdered, my emotions were extremely raw and it was difficult for me to write about what had happened or how I felt about it let alone form all of this into a meaningful poem. I was shattered with grief and fueled by anger, going from one extreme to the next. As I rode through the waves of these emotions, I wanted to write a poem for my friend but knew that my writing would not be worthy of my friend’s memory. While the emotional energy behind the words would be raw and immediate, I anticipated that what I wrote would be redundant, the same words others had written when someone they knew died, or they would be so abstract as to have any real meaning.
Instead of trying to write a poem, I wrote my friend a letter. More than one, in fact. I just returned to the page time and again, writing in conversational prose all of the things I was feeling about her death, about her, about our friendship. I wanted to get into words the things I never said to her personally and ended up exploring a lot of things I had never fully faced about myself. I can’t remember how many of these letters I ended up writing but eventually I stopped, knowing intuitively that I had said all I wanted and needed to say.
Only then did I feel ready to sit down and write a poem. In the past, I have referred back to these prose writings from my journal or within these unsent letters to find elements which I could weave into my poem. This time I did not refer back to my letters. I wrote the poem, For Jenny, without rereading what I had already written. I have no doubt that if I were to compare my unsent letters with the final poem I would find parallel thoughts and ideas. It may be that sometime in the future I will refer to these prose writings and create another poem, a different poem, written from a different emotional place because more time will have passed and my ability to process the grief will be different.
You may find that you are asked to write a bereavement poem as part of a eulogy or a funeral service. Because of the expectations and time restraints, it would be easy to make the assumption that you do not have the luxury to spend time on writing a prose piece first. I would encourage you to please think again. The time you spend writing a passionate prose piece which you can set aside for at least a day will benefit you tremendously. You will find, as you write the prose piece, that you will remember details about the person from your shared past that you might not have given thought to in trying to write a poem. Whether you use every detail in your poem will be your choice but to not take the time to remember as much as you can before writing the poem is to cheat yourself and the poem itself of the richness of your emotional integrity.
How you choose to write your poem is ultimately up to you. Whether you decide to write a form poem (an ode or sonnet, using meter and rhyme) or free verse, your experience in writing this poem will be both painful and healing. You may also find yourself surprised by what you ultimately write. When I finished my poem for my friend, I was genuinely surprised by the anger that rippled through the lines. Recently, when a friend of mine asked me to write a poem for her boyfriend’s grandmother who had died a year ago, I was surprised to find that I wrote the poem from the viewpoint of her boyfriend.
Allow yourself to write the poem as it comes. Do not try to make it something different or conform it to the expectations of others. Frankly, it would be better for you to come empty handed, without the poem someone asked you to write, than to write a poem unworthy of your pain and memories. Above all else, honor the experience of writing your bereavement poem, aware that to do this will stir up a great deal of pain but promises an equal measure of healing.
The first step in learning how to read a poem is to find a poem you like. An obvious observation, I suppose, but many people leave their high school English classes afraid to even approach a poem for appreciation having had the details of poetry so thoroughly beaten into them by some well meaning teacher that the beauty of the verse is lost. If you do not already have a favorite poet whose work excites you to learn more about poetry then an excellent place to start is with simply reading poetry.
Go out and purchase an anthology or two. You can spend as much or as little as you like on a collection of poetry. The anthology itself can be as broad as a complete history of poetry including texts from every era and nation to being as narrow as a collection of poems a slam team performed in a national competition. It might be a good idea to find an anthology that includes at least one or two poets with whom you are already familiar as well. I would also suggest that some publishers have begun including cd’s of the poets reading their own works.
Read through the anthology and do not be afraid to skip a poem you do not appreciate. If you want or need capitalization and you find a poem where there in none, don’t read it. Or if you do not like free verse and prefer a poem that has end rhymes by all means read only the poems that have end rhymes. You can always return to the poems you have skipped at a later time.
Once you have a few poems you like and want to fully appreciate you can begin the real fun of fully reading a poem. Poetry is deeply rooted in oral tradition. Therefore, most poetry is written to be "heard." I say "most poetry" because there are some poets (cummings, for example) who played with the poetry form to such a degree that certain poems are virtually impossible to read aloud. However, when seen on the page, these poems are lovely to look at and this was the poet’s purpose in manipulating the form of the poem so that the reader would have a visual stimulation beyond the words.
Nonetheless, most poetry was written to be read aloud and to fully appreciate a poem the reader should take a moment to read the poem out loud. Feel the words on your tongue. Notice how the sounds are either soft full of s’s, f’s, and h’s or hard with sharp k’s, b’s and p’s. Listen to where you naturally pause for breath and how this influences the movement of the poem. Pay attention to where you find yourself slowing down or speeding up. Your appreciation for the skill of a poet will grow by leaps and bounds by simply reading the poem through a few times. If you can hear the poet read the poem on a recording, try to do so after you have done this for yourself. See where your reading of the poem is different from how the poet reads the poem.
If you suffered through those high school English classes, you are aware that there are certain poetic devices a poet uses. Such words as metaphor and iambic probably still haunt you to this day. Let me reassure you that I will not try to exhaust the lexicon of poetry terms. However, there are a few things you will find in most well written poems and looking for these elements will bring you a greater appreciation for what you are reading.
Of the poems you have chosen from the anthology, choose one of the longer pieces. It is easiest to find one or more of the following in a longer piece. Once you have a poem chosen, read it through slowly, looking for some or all of the following:
- Sensory Words and Imagery: As you are reading, notice what senses the poet tries to stimulate. Does the poet describe a scene, mention a fruit, or even a season? An orange will draw up a visual image as well as a taste and aroma. A season will have a certain feel to it that goes beyond merely physical. (For instance, winter is usually associated with endings.)
- Metaphors and Similes: Here are two of those dreaded poetry terms you probably hoped you would never see again. Don’t run away just yet. Read through the poem you chose and see if you can’t surprise yourself by recognizing a metaphor. For instance, I alluded to the idea that winter is associated with ending on an emotional level. Winter can often be a metaphor for death but it can also be a metaphor for new renewal, hibernation. Or it can be a metaphor for the emotional coldness someone feels towards another person. Footprints in the snow may be a metaphor for the past. Look for the metaphors and similes and if you find none, don’t worry about it.
- Rhythm and Rhymes: If you have already read the poem aloud a few times you will have already discovered these things in the poem. Even in free verse, the lines will have a certain rhythm. There may even be some rhyming words although you won’t always find them at the end of the line. Also look for repetition in sounds, which creates a rhythm in the poem as well. Vowels can be long or short and certain consonants, like c and g, can be hard or soft. In the hands of a masterful poet, these details will not be coincidental.
By no means is this list exhaustive but these few details are recommended as a starting point. Nor am I suggesting that you do this for each and every poem you read. It is not necessary to do these things to enjoy the poems you are reading.
If you have the time to do so then by all means make the effort. But I am guessing that you do not have the time. Making a commitment to read poetry regularly and to pick out the poems you like most is an excellent beginning. Once you have a few favorite poems, purchase collections of poems by the poets you like best. Perhaps read a biography about the poet and find out who inspired him or her and read that poet’s works as well. Or find a contemporary poet whose works are influenced by your favorites. And, as you become more comfortable with reading poetry and appreciating the craft of the poem, I hope you will make the effort to learn more of those poetry techniques you probably hated in high school. Even if you don’t, doing the above will take you a long way in learning to love poetry.
* Footnote: I have learned that not all poets know how to read their own poetry, surprisingly enough, and their voices do not do justice to their own writing. There are, however, recordings of actors reading poetry and, because of the dramatic training these men and women have gone through, the recordings often elevate the poem to wonderful heights.