The Top 5 Mistakes New Poets Make

1. Rhyming. Everyone thinks they have to rhyme when writing a poem, but the best poets of the last century broke from that form ages ago.

2. Using archaic language. Forget the thee’s and thou’s and couldest’s, etc. Again, another era.

3. Thinking too hard. New poets tend to want to shove the poem into a certain form – usually the sonnet. Poems should not be forced; they should flow from the poet in an unconcious splendor. Time enough later for editing.

4. Forgetting to use your senses. What do you see? What do you hear? What do you smell? What do you taste? What do you feel (both physically and emotionally). I have several wonderful exercises for this one.

5. Writing about lost love. For some reason, everyone who first approaches poetry wants to pour out their hearts about love gone wrong. A HUGE no-no for the new poet.


About Karen Y. Hamilton

Karen leads workshops in Creative Writing, Poetry and Journal Therapy, and Memoir Writing. She has studied genealogy and personal histories since 1987, lecturing and leading workshops on Memoir Writing and Journaling to the community since 1998. Karen holds a BA in English and has studied Literature, Business, and Education at the graduate level. She is a former college instructor of English Composition and Reading. In the past, Karen has worked as a high school & middle school teacher. She currently works as a Curriculum Specialist and is an MFA Creative Writing student at Florida Atlantic University.
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8 Responses to The Top 5 Mistakes New Poets Make

  1. Now I’m confused–The title of your piece is “Top 5 Mistakes New Poets Make.” Got it. So I’m going to see mistakes, I think.
    The first mistake is “No rhyming.” That’s a mistake, so I’m supposed to rhyme, right? But then you say that I don’t need to rhyme. The other four work the same way. Shouldn’t this be called “Five Tips for New Poets?” or am I missing the point entirely? The tips are solid, I just don’t know if it’s tips or mistakes.

    • karenzo says:

      You are absolutely right on the mark with that comment, Quinn! I have gone in and changed the text to match the title. Thanks for pointing out my blunder. 🙂 Kaz

  2. Nathan H. says:

    I remember getting blasted on some of these points by a college professor in a writing class.

    It was so vicious, it was the last poem I ever wrote.

    • karenzo says:

      Ah! I am sorry you had that experience, Nathan! Your professor was wrong to be vicious about it. The mistakes I mention are very common among beginners; people just need training. Don’t give up on writing poetry!

  3. Nathan H. says:

    Don’t give up on writing poetry!

    hahaha…I think that boat has sailed. The prof probably did a service to all of society by his harsh words.

    I do think that with all skills, however, that most people learn by imitation and then move off creatively from there. So if a new writer wants to mimic Shakespearean sonnets its not the end of the world, as they progress they will move away from that.

    I liken it to a newbie guitarist who learns AC/DC songs. They learn how to play chords and might get efficient on the instrument, but if they want people to actually listen to them then they got to get some better tunes.

  4. Chris says:

    These are good tips. However, I wouldn’t suggest that rhymes are to be avoided like the plague; a well-placed assonance or suggested rhyme (even, god forbid, an *actual* rhyme!) can be extremely effective even in ‘free’ verse. You’re right, however, in saying that many new poets overuse such effects or make contrived attempts to stick to a rhyme scheme when none at all would be more effective.

    Another thought: I sometimes find that form can, paradoxically, be liberating. The trick is forcing yourself to say what you really want to say in the most direct way possible. One of Jack Kerouac’s maxims on prose writing is: ‘Dont (sic) think of words when you stop but to see picture better.’ I think poets could learn from this too!

    • karenzo says:

      Very good points, Chris. I do agree that rhyme can be used very effectively. I am constantly driven crazy however by students who think that a poem is only a poem if it rhymes! arrrrggggggggghhhhhhhhhhh……..

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