Poem Doctor: 10 things to try

Good advice

Angela Topping

If your poem is struggling and refusing to breathe, here are some things you might try, to revive it and massage its heart:

1) Change the tense. Quite often present tense can make it more immediate.

2) Lose the first stanza: sometimes that’s just gearing up.

3) Look at your ending. Are you trying too hard to point up a moral? Chop it.

4) Look at your order and structure. Sometimes the ending needs to be the start.

5) Check out individual words. Is the one you have used the very, best most accurate word?

6) Consider changing the form. A free verse poem sometimes wants to be a formal poem. I speak from experience. I once had a poorly draft. Then I noticed there were two or three lines of iambic pentameter. The poem was telling me it was a sonnet. And when I listened to it, it wrote…

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