As many of you already know, I’ll be releasing my poetry book, Without An Angel, on Tuesday. I’ve had a lot of pre-publication success with this one, and, in giving it away for free - both before and after the January 26th publication date - I’ve managed to greatly increase the sales of my novel, Tiny Instruments. That said, you should keep in mind why I chose to release it for free: poetry books rarely make money on their own. What’s more, they can be extremely hard to write. It’s for these exact reasons, that I never actually set out to write a poetry book in the first place. Honestly, the thought of publishing my poems didn’t enter my mind until the book was practically finished… and maybe that’s how it should be. Though I’m generally a proponent of planning, when it comes to poetry, your every line needs to reflect what you’re feeling when you write it. This particular book (and I'm allowed to say so because of the nature of the book), was written in the ashes of my blackened heart. Luckily, as it generally goes with writing, the more painful something is to share, the more people enjoy it.
Since I started giving it away, I’ve been receiving more congratulatory emails than emails asking me how to write a good poetry book. The reason, I’m sure, is that the international interest in poetry right now is extremely low. If it IS something you want to do, however, don’t be discouraged. With so few decent modern poets, there is a huge void that needs to be filled.
Here’s how to fill it:
Don’t Just Throw A Random Collection Of Poems Together
You may be a great poet, but it’s always best if your poems tie into a single narrative. If your first poem is about how long it takes for online retailers to ship your packages, and the last poem is about the tragic death of a family member, you are probably covering too wide a spectrum. The more closely related your poems are (dramatic or comedic), the more likely it is that your readers’ emotions will carry over from one poem to another.
Write From Your Life
This is good advice for all writers, but it holds especially true for poets. This doesn’t mean that every poem has to directly reflect what’s going on in your life - but your poetry will be a lot stronger if you’ve at least experienced the emotions you’re writing about, if not the events.
Take Your Time
If you write you write poetry anytime you have a powerful feeling or experience, it might take a long time to build a collection, but it’s far more likely that you’ll have something worthwhile.
Know The Main Types of Poems (Examples Included)
There are a plethora of poem types, but all can be boiled down to the main three:
Free Verse Poem--
A poem that doesn't rhyme, but is still written and spaced in a poetic way.
- Bottled Feelings -
Waiting will kill us.
You and I.
Things kept in bottles shrivel like dead leaves.
too young and too old
--can never wait.
until they are ready for us?
Shall we strike at the glass?
Will it hurt us?
I fear if we don’t, we will blink away.
For there is no equation
for the longevity of thought.
And memories are strong,
but something tells me
the glass is stronger.
A poem that doesn't rhyme, and abandons typical poetic structure entirely.
- On Nights Without You -
The ticking of the clock is thunderous in the quiet night. I can hear the cars outside as they drive over the water in the asphalt, the liquid in the divots of the road. It’s still raining, but I can’t hear the rain.
Other nights, I myself drive through the darkness, droplets streaming off the windshield, thinking of you. At times, when we’re together, you make me forget that I’m alone… but love is like a rainbow. Sometimes it appears when it’s still raining, and it’s just too dark to see.
A traditional rhyming poem. These come in many different forms. The following example is written in the typical ABAB format.
- Pulling at Desire -
A vast expanse of pain ahead.
I see you standing at the end.
I see the things we’ve only said,
through plans we’ve made and words we penned.
Our children play out on the beach,
blurs of love near rocky seas,
in places I may never reach,
where wind may never touch your knees…
But most days I can see you there,
and believe the breeze does really blow.
But even then, it’s words we share.
The journey’s all I really know.
Plan Your Release
Firstly, don't release a poetry book before you have other things on the market in one way or another, whether it be a website, writing-related services, a feature film credit, or a novel. Secondly, think about why you believe your collection will make a difference in your writing career - and go beyond your abilities. It won't take off by itself. Do you have connections in the writing world? Is there someone exceptional you've been wanting to advertise with? You should have something in the works long before you publish.
If you have something special, I could not think of a better time to release it on the world. In the 1800s, everyone wrote poetry - much in the same way people write novels now (See: National Novel Writing Month). It was hard in that age to distinguish yourself from the rest of the riffraf, regardless of the quality of your verse. We have a lot to be thankful for as writers in the modern world.
I have found poetry to be exceedingly rewarding. Writing this collection helped me focus my thoughts during an era of great pain. Even if you never decide to release a poetry book, consider writing one anyway. Who knows? You might surprise yourself.
Send in a poem for critique and discussion.