Though it may not come as a shocker to many, I am an English major. What this means is that my classes often involve me reading hundreds of pages of texts each quarter, arguing in class about whether the color blue in a poem represents sadness or the sky, and writing papers about how the characters in “Miss Ogilvy Finds Herself” and “Albert Nobbs” are not actually butch lesbians, but straight cis-women in drag.
However, I am also pursuing the English department’s concentration in creative writing. Within the concentration, students have to take three classes within the same genre. This can be either fiction or poetry and I’ve chosen to study the latter.
The creative writing courses at UCLA are usually structured to have student write one poem a week to share with the class and receive critical feedback. What I often do is share my works with my friends before class, some of whom write poetry on their own and others who couldn’t tell you the difference between assonance and alliteration.
Recently, one of my friends who I’ve been showing my works grew an interest in writing for himself! Inspired by me and my best friend who writes spoken word, he told me he wanted to really get started with writing poetry, but was too scared to. And so, I thought I would give our WSP readers three pieces of advice on why you shouldn’t be afraid of poetry in case any of you ever wanted to try your hand at it.
1. Anyone can write poetry. Like Pegah tells us in one of her blogs, writing is not some God-given gift or talent. Anyone can write if they just learn how and put the work into it. I definitely was not the best writer and I only get better as I practiced and practiced the craft both in class and at home.
2. There is no one way to write poetry. Don’t get stuck in the mindset that only a specific type of writing can count as poetry. Poems can rhyme, poem’s don’t have to rhyme. They can be long, they can be short, they can be in the first second third person. It’s all up to you. Take a look at this poem by David Miller that doesn’t even have a single word in it. Here, Miller takes a creative approach to writing a sonnet, a 14 line poem.
3. The poetry community will only support you. No one will ever say your writing is horrible and laugh at you. Even if your poetry is horrible, people will only try to encourage you and support you to do better. Take my creative writing courses for example. There, we only provide each other with constructive criticism that comes from a place where we desire to help other students improve their writing. I recently went to an open mic event where I read my own poem aloud only to heard roaring applause and snaps. No single presenter was booed at or shooed off the stage.