Saturday, May 28, 2016

Prompt # 257 – Chiasmus


I thought this week that it would be interesting to explore something we don't hear about often: chiasmus. Chiasmus is a verbal pattern in which the second half of an expression is balanced against the first with the parts reversed (it is similar to a literary device called antimetabole).

Adjective: chiastic.
Plural: chiasmus or chiasmi.

Chiasmus is a Greek term that means “diagonal arrangement.” It is used to describe two successive clauses or sentences where the key words or phrases are repeated in both clauses, but in reverse order. For this reason, chiasmus is sometimes known as a criss-cross figure of speech.

As a figure of speech, chiasmus is characterized by words, grammatical constructions, or concepts that are repeated in reverse order (in either the same or in modified form). In other words, the clauses display what may be called inverted parallelism.

A well-known example is:

    When the going gets tough, the tough get going!

Typically when the first clause contains two words or two groups of words, (A and B), then the second clause contains the same words or groups, but in reverse order:

    1.  … A… B…
    2.  … B… A…

Chiasmus is also used in music. The first movement of Mozart’s “40th Symphony” is a great example in which the musical phrase is inverted and then flipped back.

Another musical example appears in the lyrics of Crosby, Stills, and Nash’s “Love the One You’re With.”
 “And if you can’t be with the one you love, honey, love the one you’re with.”

The Bible also offers examples of chiasmus. For example, in Isaiah, one chiasmus appears within another larger chiasmus, thus creating a kind of double chiasmus.
“For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways,” declares the Lord. “As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.” (NIV) 

In poetry, chiasmus may serve a purpose similar to caesura (a pause in the poem); chiasmus can add to the rhythmical quality of a poem and is typically used to add emphasis.


1. Start by reading the examples below.

2. If you’ve never tried to craft chiasmus before, a good place to start is taking a known chiasmus and using it as a template into which you can substitute one or both key repeated words.

3. Next, try writing some chiasmus examples of your own.

4. Choose one of your own examples and think about how it might fit into a poem. You might even use it as the title for your poem (and repeat the chiasmus in the title somewhere within the poem).

5. As you write, work around the one chiasmus you’ve chosen. Don’t try to include more than one in your poem. With that in mind, make the example you create a really good one.

6. A kind of chiasmus is sometimes achieved by a sudden change from the active voice to the passive or vice versa, for example:

“The register of his burial was signed by the clergyman, the clerk, the taker and the chief mourner, Scrooge signed it.” (Dickens)


1. As you work on this chiasmus challenge remember:
Quitters never win and winners never quit!


1. “It is not the oath that makes us believe the man, but the man the oath.” (Aeschylus)

2. “Bad men live that they may eat and drink, whereas good men eat and drink that they may live.” (Socrates)

3.  “I wasted time, and now time doth waste me.” (William Shakespeare, “Richard II”)

4. “Foul is fair and fair is foul.” (Shakespeare, “MacBeth”)

5. “The instinct of a man is to pursue everything that flies from him, and to fly from all that pursues him.”  (Voltaire)

6. “His jokes were sermons, and his sermons jokes.” (Lord Byron)

7. “All for one, and one for all.” (The motto of Alexandre Dumas’ Three Musketeers)

8. “I meant what I said and I said what I meant.” (Horton the Elephant’s, Dr. Seuss’ Horton Hatches the Egg)

9. “Ask not what your country can do for you—ask what you can do for your country.”(President John F. Kennedy)

10. “Let us never negotiate out of fear, but let us never fear to negotiate.” (President John F. Kennedy)

NOTE: My thanks to Michael T. Young for inspiring this prompt with his Facebook post on the same subject. You've met Michael here on the blog, and I hope you'll visit him online.

Prompt #256 – Bringing a Poem to Closure

According to W. H. Auden, a poem cannot be finished: it is simply abandoned by a poet who can add no more to it. This well-known statement is, on many levels, quite true. It doesn’t, however, offer much help when it comes to a poem that, up to a point, does pretty much what you want it to but, then, defies the perfect ending. There’s a lot to be said for “finishing” a poem.

This “prompt” is about some of the things you might try when you’re working on a poem and can’t quite pull it all together. I thought that you might find it interesting to read what some of my favorite poets and good friends have to say about their own “dismount” processes.

Following are suggestions that we hope you’ll find helpful. I send my sincerest thanks to all the poets who contributed and have included a link to one of each of the poet’s books, all of which are in my personal library and which I recommend highly! Most of these poets have more than one book to their credit, some are writing professors, some are journal editors and publishers, and at least one is a book publisher, so you may want to Google them individually for more info on their work and for examples of their poems.  I've also included links to places where you can visit them online.

1. Charlie Bondhus

Author of All the Heat We Could Carry
Click Here to Order Charlie's Book

Ending an unruly poem can often be a challenge. The first question you might want to ask is “did the poem end a stanza or two ago?” Chop off some lines and see what happens. Another option is to try shuffling your stanzas. Swapping the first and last stanzas might be a good starting place. If cutting and shuffling don’t work, try simply putting the poem aside for a bit—days, weeks, months. When you return to it, the ending might smack you right in the face. All of the above strategies have worked for me at some point or another.


2. Dean Kostos

Author of Rivering

The first thing I look for in the ending, whether it evaporates quietly or sounds off with a tad ah, is: Does the ending feel earned? Has the poem arrived there organically? A powerful approach to ending a poem can be the non-sequitur ending. An example of this is Thomas James’s haunting poem, “Mummy of a Lady Named Jemutessonekh.” (Note: to read “Mummy of a Lady Named Jemutessonekh,” click on the link below.)


3. Gail Fishman Gerwin  

Author of Crowns

“If at first you don’t succeed . . .” Sometimes this old adage simply does not work. If I have created a draft to which I return again and again, tweaking to my internal standards with satisfactory content and a dismount that pleases me (and hopefully a journal), I’ll see the poem through to the end. If I cannot rework, rearrange, redraft, or release a poem, if I don’t wake up with the desire to return to my ideas with the appropriate words, I feel free to reject it and toss it on the “tried/failed” pile. Permission given not to “try, try, again.” 


4. Penny Harter

Author of The Resonance Around Us
Note: Scroll Down to The Resonance Around Us

How I end a poem is not usually a conscious decision. However, I do know that I want my poems to take a turn toward (or at) the end, similar to the turn in a good haiku. At the heart of haiku is the juxtaposition of two images or ideas across a kind of “spark gap”. And these images connect in a way that both startles and seems inevitable. When I look back at poems I wrote some years ago—or even at occasional recent work—I find myself saying, “Well, I like the imagery, or the sound, rhythm, theme, etc., but if I reach the poem’s end and it hasn’t gone anywhere, hasn’t taken me from here to there (wherever here and there are), it doesn’t satisfy me.” For me, writing a nice representational poem doesn’t feel like enough.


5. Gina Larkin

Author of When the Gods Play Hide and Seek

Honestly I have found that what works best for me is to put the poem away and just not look at it for at least 7 to 10 days - then read it and see what happens. I also sometimes read it backward (bottom to top) - this can make what you are trying to say clearer. Share it with a trusted friend and listen to what he/she says.


6. Diane Lockward

Author of The Uneaten Carrots of Atonement

There’s help for the poem that ends with a whimper instead of a bang. Please don’t ever let your poem go until that ending is fixed. The poem might be able to tolerate a weak line or two earlier but not at the end. Sometimes, however, the problem isn’t that you haven’t yet written the ending. You have written it, but it’s in the wrong place.

Here’s a strategy that I’ve found helpful. I go through the draft (it’s still a draft until the end is just right), and I mark my strongest line. I move that line to the very end of the draft. On a computer this is easy to do. You will most likely have to do some revising to the nearby lines so that the new ending works. You may need to add additional lines. I love this part of the process. All kinds of new possibilities open up. And in all likelihood, your poem now ends with an image instead of a piece of information.


7. Michael T. Young

Author of The Beautiful Moment of Being Lost

I’m going to give the advice about this that I believe is the hardest to hear: be patient.  And by that I mean: put the poem down and forget about it for a while, maybe months.  Over those months, go back to it, read through it and see if the closing lines come.  If they don’t, put it away again.  I had the beginning of a poem that I was very happy with, but I couldn’t get the ending.  I had that beginning sitting around for almost 2 years. Every once in a while, not every time, but every once in a while when I went to my notes for poems, I would return to those lines, read through them a few times and see if I could hear the next lines.  For almost 2 years I didn’t.  But then, one day, bing!—they started coming.  And when they came, I was able to complete the remainder of the poem in a one-hour lunch break.  But all in all, it was about 2 years. 


8. Emily Vogel
Author of First Words

When a poet brings a poem to a close, it does necessarily have to be “conclusive,” or even resolute. Organically, the poem closes when you feel a settling in your “soul,” whether or not as editor of your own poem you believe that this is how a poem is “supposed” to close. You may even feel that there is “supposed to be” more to say in order to make it seem like a “wrapped box,” so to speak. Sometimes the box needs to remain somewhat unwrapped, and that leaves your reader in suspense, and that is from where Keats’ idea of “negative capability” derived.


9. Joe Weil
Author of The Great Grandmother Light: New and Selected Poems

If the ending seems too neat, it probably is. A too tidy ending is like a bad comic smirking before the punch line, or a boxer telegraphing his punch. Or better still, is like one of those grief counselors who nods his or her head in “active listening” and “professional empathy” and tells you you’ve achieved “closure.” The best way to know when to end is to listen and look at your own poem several times. If the last few lines are somehow longer or shorter, or differently structured than the rest of the poem then you’re either coming to the end or your going off on a tangent and beginning a new poem (some poets often have two poems going and don’t know it). Beware of forcing the shoe to fit by cutting off the toes. Avoid loving your sense of symmetry so much that you impose it on your own creation even when it screams for mercy. Know your intention, your theme, and what your effect might be on the reader, and if all three seem accomplished close it out. If not, wait and be patient and don’t be afraid to try several endings. Also know that sometimes a poem ends rhythmically before it ends in any other way. In this case, go back, and edit so that the rhythm doesn’t have such a dying fall.


10. And ...

If you read this blog often, you’ll recall that I often suggest that you:

  • be wary of tying your poem up in a neat little package at the end,
  •  avoid the pitfall of simply summarizing what is already contained in your poem,
  • take care not to undercut your poem’s authority by ending with trivia or a “so what” line that doesn’t make your readers gasp,
  • make a point of concluding your poem in a way that points toward something broader than the body of the poem; in other words, give your readers a “dismount” that leads them to discover something subtle and rich, something that resonates for them even if it isn’t exactly what you had in mind when you started writing. (I think of Seamus Heaney’s lines here, “Since when,” he asked, / “are the first line and last line of any poem / where the poem begins and ends?”)
Practical Application:

1. Now … and here’s the challenge for this week … take a look at three of your own poems (completed or in process).

2. Read the poems carefully and think about your closing lines. Are they really the dynamite dismounts they should be?

3. If your answer is “no,” think about the suggestions above and see what you can do to bring your poems to better closure.

4. Marianne Moore wrote, “I tend to like a poem which instead of culminating in a crescendo, merely comes to a close.” Think about that and what it might mean to some of your poems.

Additional Resources:



Saturday, May 21, 2016

Prompt #255 – Overheard Words

Through a typical day, wherever you are, you hear bits of conversation, news items, advertisements, and song lyrics. This week’s prompt asks you to jot down some “overheard” items and to create a poem from them by stringing them together to invent new meaning. Nothing you’ve seen written is allowed—only things heard or overheard.


1. As you go through your day, jot down any interesting snippets of conversation you hear, tidbits from phone calls you make or receive, or items heard on the radio, on TV, or on the Internet. Make a list of these. Remember: only heard things, nothing you've read.

2. Sift through your list. See if any of the lines relate to one another and what connections you can make among them. Circle or underline these on your list.

3. Using the items you selected (circled or underlined), create a poem composed entirely of those selected bits of conversation and ideas you add to them. Shuffle them around (easy when you’re composing on a computer).  Decide which will serve your poem as opening and closing lines.

4. Add or subtract words, phrases, and details as needed.


1. Organization is key in this prompt. Once you’ve decided which bits of conversation you’d like to use, work on them, adapt them to fit your content, and work toward creating a sense of imagery around them.

2. This is a very open-ended prompt. When you first spend time with the heard items selected, decide what your content will be. What do you want to say? How can you use your heard items to create a specific content?

3. Leave your readers with something to reflect upon.

4. Be wary of over-writing.


Yesterday …

You've qualified to win a free cruise to the Bahamas...
We'll  have a truck in your neighborhood 
       to collect clothing next week...

Life in the 21st century is nothing our 
grandparents would have imagined.
       I really can't stand it.

I have to make some necessary changes...
Turn right at the next corner,
       and just keep walking ...

Saturday, May 14, 2016

Prompt #254 – Chapbooks: When Less Is More

I recently decided that my many bookcases needed to be “reorganized” and that at least a few of my hundreds of books might be given away or donated to the local library. The latter didn’t happen, of course I kept everything, but in the process of organizing books by subject and author, I discovered that I have a substantial collection of chapbooks. Coincidentally, a few days later, I read a great chapbooks article in THEthe Poetry Blog by my good friend and colleague Michael T. Young.

A chapbook is a mini collection of poetry, typically no more than 20-40 pages in length. Many chapbooks center on specific themes and are generally saddle-stitched (stapled like a pamphlet or magazine). They are suited to small print runs and can serve as effective introductions to your work.  

I know many poets who have chapbooks among their credits. Many of these are beautifully designed and produced and contain superb poems. If you have a small collection of poems that work well together and form a cohesive “collection,” you may want to consider looking for a chapbook publisher. Sometimes less really is more!

One of the chapbooks in my collection is a chapbook on chapbooks that I wrote for Muse-Pie Press in 2009. To get an idea of the chapbook's historical relevance in literature, I thought you might be interested in reading excerpts from that little book (after reading Michael's article, of course).

The following is excerpted from Chapbooks: A Historical Perspective
Muse-Pie Press. Copyright © 2009. All rights reserved.

A chapbook is, by definition, a small book or pamphlet that contains compact literary works. Originally called “small books” or “merriments,” the term chapbook, coined by nineteenth century bibliophiles, came into familiar usage long after this type of book became popular. The root word chap derives from the Old English word cēap that referred to trade. Interestingly, chap was first applied not to the books but, rather, to the men who sold them.

Beginning during the 1500s, small books were sold by itinerant peddlers called chapmen (also colloquialized as cheapmen) who traveled through England’s rural villages typically hawking their wares door-to-door, on street corners, and at markets and fairs. Most carried these small-sized, easily portable, and inexpensive books in boxes and sold them for a groat or less each (a groat was a British silver fourpence piece used in trade during the fourteenth through seventeenth centuries). Chapmen were characteristically nomadic, wayward figures who lived on the margins of society. The typical chapman was described in an 1890 Harper’s Magazine article as one who “stood in the social plane upon neutral ground between respectability and roguery…living the irresponsible life of a gypsy….”

Early chapbooks were waistcoat pocket-sized and crudely made. Usually produced from rag paper and printed on both sides, they were folded to resemble small books and simply stitched with the outside pages serving as covers (special cover stocks were not typically used, making the first chapbooks distinctively coverless). For the most part, early chapbooks were produced in printings of eight, twelve, sixteen, or twenty-four pages.

Concurrent with chapbook production were broadsides (texts printed on one side of a single sheet of paper) and slip-poems (printed on long strips of paper cut from larger sheets). All were early print media products intended for the intermediate and poorer classes who were literate enough to possess some measure of reading ability but who were not affluent enough to afford the larger, bound books that were purchased and prized by the wealthy.

Because chapbook readers were typically less learned than their richer and better educated counterparts, early chapbook content was geared to semi-literate tastes and included popular ballads and songs, tales of medieval times, courtly love, poetry, almanacs, guides to fortune telling and magic, political treatises, religious tracts, and sometimes downright bawdy stories. Paper quality was of the poorest (it is reported that early chapbooks were sometimes purchased as a paper source for wrapping and as “bum fodder” or toilet paper), and illustrations were limited to the crudest quality “recycled” woodcuts that were often incongruously reused in several chapbooks regardless of their relevance to the text.

Of little interest to the elite and to the up-market literati, chapbooks became the poorer person’s form of printed literature, historical information (often unreliable), and entertainment. Costly bound books were available only to the wealthy while chapbook versions were accessible to larger numbers of people. Eminently affordable, chapbooks became “everyman’s” literature of choice primarily by economic default. According to Howard Pyle (Harper’s, June 1890), “Once upon a time the chapbook was as common to find in the farm-house and the cottage as is the weekly paper or the almanac nowadays; you came upon it at every fireside; you found it lying upon every corner shelf.”

Chapbooks figured to a significant extent in the transition from sung ballads to printed texts as evidenced in the story of Guy of Warwick. This story originated during the Middle Ages and was originally sung as a heroic ballad that was widely known among all classes of people. At some point between 1200 and 1400, it was written as a manuscript available only to the scholarly and to the rich. During the first decades of the 1500s, it was printed for the gentry, and later in the 1500s it was abridged into broadside format as a ballad meant to be sung. By the late 1600s, the story of Guy of Warwick appeared as a twenty-four-page chapbook with a target audience of lower class readers. While the upper classes and members of established literary circles would have seen this as a vulgarization, chapbook versions brought Guy’s narrative to a wider readership and secured the story’s place in both literary history and popular culture.

Chapbooks saw an increase in status between the 1500s and the 1700s as literacy rates rose. By the 1600s there were more schoolteachers than ever before; however, full literacy was tempered by the need for child labor, and often young children received just enough education to enable them to read without being able to write before they were pressed into labor to augment family incomes. For such children, chapbooks provided a singular source of education and entertainment.

Early chapbook popularity may be measured by a few surviving records. It has been noted that Oxford bookseller John Dorne documented in his 1520s day books that he had sold up to 190 ballads a day at a halfpenny each, and as many as 400,000 almanacs were printed annually by the 1600s. In 1664, the probate inventory of printer Charles Tias (owner of The Sign of the Three Bibles on London Bridge) included printed sheets to make about 90,000 chapbooks and 37,500 ballad sheets. In 1707, printer Josiah Blare (of London Bridge’s The Sign of the Looking Glass) listed 31,000 books and 257 reams of printed sheets. Such printers either sold chapbooks to chapmen cheaply or supplied them on credit that was paid off when the books were sold.

While chapmen facilitated extensive distribution of the first chapbooks, they also provided printers with information on which subjects were “best sellers.” Accordingly, the trendiest chapbooks were reprinted, edited, pirated, and reproduced in numerous editions. Printers and publishers often issued catalogues, and some are recorded in the libraries of provincial gentry and yeomen. Extant records suggest that chapbooks were important to the people who owned them: in one example, Quaker Yeoman John Whiting, while imprisoned in Somerset during the 1680s, had his chapbooks sent from London by carrier and held in keeping for him at a nearby inn. 

The chief center of chapbook production was London (at least until the time of the Great Fire in 1666), and most of the chapbook printers were based in the area around London Bridge. However, numerous smaller-city chapbook printers joined ranks with city publishers and catered to the more rural public.

By the nineteenth century and the reign of Queen Victoria, chapbooks entered a more modern incarnation. At that point in its history, the chapbook was included among various ephemera or disposable printed materials, including pamphlets, political treatises, religious tracts, nursery rhymes, folk tales, children’s literature, almanacs, and poetry. Most (improved in quality and appearance and with covers) were illustrated with popular prints of the Victorian era and are an example of the commercial nature of chapbook trade at the time.
Chapbooks also saw a transition from adult to children’s literature during the nineteenth century. Neuburg suggests that literate adult Victorians had outgrown their fondness for the medieval romances and other reading material printed in earlier chapbooks and looked for literature that would explain the rapidly changing and often perplexing Victorian world. As adult reading preferences changed, chapbook publishers, aware of a less interested market, began to accommodate young readers, and chapbooks were printed to delight, entertain, and instruct children.

During the mid-nineteenth century, industrialization brought about a dramatic change in labor economics and with it the development of a “white collar” non-manual working class.  The emergence of this new moneyed, middle class generated a relaxation in class structure that admitted well-paid, working “gentry” to refined society. Conditional with admission to polite but not refined society came aspirations and social affectations borrowed from their social “betters.” For a time, Queen Victoria’s ever-increasing number of children became prominent in Victorian hearts and headlines. Consequently, an important Victorian refinement to be cultivated was “childhood,” and the entire “estate” of childhood was sentimentalized and cherished in art, literature, and contemporary culture.

“Childhood” required a new philosophy and mind-set, special arrangements, special equipment, and special rules, all of which presented an especially potent response to children’s literature – for the less than elite and wealthy in the form of chapbooks. The middle class was a new social phenomenon, and middle class parents paid more attention to the diet, education, moral and social development, and entertainment of their progeny than had hitherto been awarded. Like wealthy children, middle class youth were better educated and child-specific reading materials were widely welcomed. For parents who could not afford expensively bound books, chapbooks were an acceptable substitute.
Unlike the offspring of the wealthy and middle classes, economically underprivileged children were not permitted the extravagances of play, immaturity, and irresponsibility. Most poor children faced working days that saw them rise before dawn six days a week and trudge off to paid employment in conditions worse than those we pillory in the sweat-house factories of Third-World countries today. They were not categorized as children but, rather, as cheap labor, and many worked in factories alongside their parents. For those who could at least read, chapbooks provided respite from farm, household, and employment obligations. This, however, was not true for all working children. Nineteenth-century publishers began to produce colored chapbooks for young readers, often employing children to painstakingly hand-color illustrations. It is ironic and sad (and like so much that was paradoxical in Victorian England) that many poor children worked long, arduous hours, often in the meanest conditions, coloring illustrations in chapbooks that were supposed to amuse and entertain them. For children employed in the book industry, it is unlikely that the chapbooks they worked to color brought them any pleasure at all. 

Although chapbooks were especially popular in England and Scotland, they were also published in the United States and across the globe in such countries as Russia (where they were linked to the rise in literacy after the emancipation of serfs in 1861). As the nineteenth century progressed through the dawning Age of Industry and the irrevocable changes wrought by constant innovations in production techniques, commerce, and economy, the chapbook’s popularity began to fade. Advancements in printing techniques and lithography, inexpensive reproduction of important artworks, amplified production of bound books, and improved transportation systems powered mass distribution of newspapers and periodicals and buttressed cheap production and dissemination of hard bound books. These provided uncompromising competition for the humbler chapbook.

Chapbooks enjoyed a more contemporary renaissance during the latter years of the twentieth century. Promoted in part by low-cost copy centers, chapbooks appear in huge numbers today. The term chapbook currently describes small, inexpensively-produced books, usually about 4½ by 5½ inches in size, and saddle-stitched (stapled) rather than hard or perfect bound.

Of special interest to poets, especially those who have experienced the difficulty of placing poetry manuscripts with major publishing houses, chapbooks provide an accessible and cost-effective alternative to more conventional publishing. In response to the proliferation of chapbooks, a number of established chapbook publishers have initiated chapbook series and contests that focus on producing chapbooks that contain works by both known and novice poets alike.

Today’s chapbooks offer more to entertain the eye and refined taste than prototypes of earlier centuries did. Antique chapbooks, however, have an artistically “organic” nature and, today, scholars and book lovers increasingly recognize the importance of early chapbooks as collectible documents that record cultural history. A kind of folk art, these small books remain a time-honored literary and social tradition worthy of preservation and protection.


Chapbook Publishers:

Saturday, May 7, 2016

Prompt #253 – An Interview with Myself

This week’s prompt was inspired by an interview that Matthew Thorburn did with me for Ploughshares. I’ve always enjoyed the process of interviewing and being interviewed, and the more probing the questions, the better. The challenge this week is to interview yourself, to ask yourself some thought-provoking questions and to turn those into a poem.


1. Make a list of questions about your work, your art, your relationships, and your personal life. Just make a list of questions.

2. After you’ve complied a list of questions (at least 10 because use all of them), answer each question in writing.

3. Take a break for an hour or two, more if you wish and, when you come back to your questions and answers, read them carefully. What insights did you discover? Did you learn anything about yourself? Was there a motif or theme present? What mood or tone did your questions and answers suggest to you.

4. Now, using some of all of the questions, begin to write a poem around them.

5. Get the core of your poem together before you begin to experiment with format. (You might set the poem up as an interview with stanzas comprised of couplets or triplets or some other stanzaic arrangement that fits the content).

6. Edit carefully and be sure to limit yourself to the “heart” of your interview.


1. Try to write in the active, not the passive, voice. To do that, it can be helpful to remove “ing” endings and to write in the present tense (this will also create a greater sense of immediacy).

2. Be on the lookout for prepositional phrases that you might remove (articles & conjunctions too).

3. Avoid clichés (and, while you’re at it, stay away from abstractions and sentimentality).

4. Show, don’t tell—through striking imagery, a strong emotional center, and an integrated whole of language, form and meaning.

5. Understand that overstatement and the obvious are deadly when it comes to writing poetry. Don’t ramble on, and don’t try to explain everything.

6. Weed out anything superfluous that isn’t absolutely essential to the poem.