This is a post I wrote for Castlegreen Publishing and was first published on 

Poetry Pointers

Given that we’re looking for poetry at the moment we thought that folk might find it useful to give you some insight into what we’re expecting and perhaps also some pointers on writing poetry that works for us. This is especially intended to help anyone struggling with their inner editor over whether or not their work is good enough to submit.

Guidelines for the wise

  • Poetry is a process, just like prose poems don’t spring onto the page fully formed
    • expect to polish poetry through several drafts to get it just right
    • first drafts are always unpublishable, don’t be discouraged by this, it gives you material that you can craft
  • Poetry works best when read aloud
    • From the second or third draft record yourself reading aloud and listen back to it
      • where you consistently stumble change words or line breaks
      • your poetry should have a rhythm (but don’t confuse rhythm with rhyme)
    • remember to pause at both line breaks and punctuation, it can often change the meaning, or make things delightfully ambiguous for a moment
  • Rhyming isn’t necessary, nor is a traditional structure or form
    • make your poetry fit the sense you are trying to convey, don’t force it to a form
  • the poet chooses the words, not the rhyme scheme or the form
    • use normal language and word order, this is poetry for all, not English Lit classes
    • rhyme is fine if you can do it, but it is hard and can easily go wrong
  • Delight the reader with misdirection, changes in meaning and clever use of words
    • make sure you still make sense

The Inner Editor

Hopefully this will help any of you considering this but having the inner editor getting in the way of submitting.

The inner editor tells us all that our stuff isn’t good enough, but usually the editor is lying to us. If you tick most of the boxes above (especially polishing multiple drafts and reading aloud) then send it in despite it all. We’d rather read it and give you feedback than not see it at all.