I just got another email from a young poet asking for advice. So, this is a repost from an earlier blog post on my Myspace because I wanted to share what I’ve suggested to other poets with you here as well:
Suggestions for Poets:
1. First of all I would say just keep writing. But don’t be afraid to allow yourself breaks as gestation periods, phases of unconscious research, gathering information, experiences, inspiration and spaciousness laying a fertile ground for development and future writing.
2. Also, read as much contemporary poetry and poetry from all periods as you can.
3. Imitation is not only the greatest form of flattery it’s one of the best ways to learn. So try imitating your favorite writers just to see how they do it. Then you’ll have a full palate of possibilities. Eventually, and almost magically, the methods and techniques that work well for you will rise to the surface and remain part of your work. In a sense, these remnants, as well as all adjustments and innovations on the ways of your heroes and heroines, will coalesce into your own idiosyncratic style.
4. Play with forms: from sonnets and sestinas to tankas and pantoums. The Teachers and Writers Handbook of Poetic Forms is a great reference book for this. It includes lots of non-Western forms. Really wonderful poets wrote all of the entries describing the forms and give cool examples. Perfect the forms, then fuck with them.
5. Keep a dream journal and let your dreams spark your imagination and inspire you. Write poems as dream maps and dreamscapes. Take the characters, words, and images from your dreams and make them dance.
6. Carry a small notebook wherever you go and always take notes: write down lines that appeal to you from overheard conversations, things people say to you, street signs, billboards, names of stores. Try writing what you see in front of you at any given moment. See what that brings.
7. Don’t edit anything for a while. Just let things come and compile your notes into one long poem.
8. Use found language and cut-ups to break out of writing ruts.
9. Attack subjects you usually avoid, subjects that scare you the most or leave you profoundly confused.
10. Balance the cultivation of a social life with the cultivation of your inner life.
11. Write a list of titles and then write the poems to go with them.
12. As far as getting your work out into the world is concerned, you should buy literary magazines and journals. Find ones that publish poems you like and are similar to the ones you write and start submitting poems to them. Don’t be discouraged by rejection letters just keep trying. You can also make small photocopied books of your poems and give them to friends and anyone interested in your work.
13. Reading your work to an audience is also a great way to get your work out there. So, find out about local reading series, attend them and approach the coordinators with your work to see if they’d schedule you to read. This will also help you meet other poets and become part of an artistic community.
14. On performance: use performance as a form of editing. Find out what works when read aloud, what doesn’t. Create a poem as a new living organism–a new life–as the breath and energy flies between you and the audience. Explode the limits of language; find the poetic equivalents to the body’s movements, gestures, stance, and intimacy.
15. On collaboration: don’t be afraid to find poetry, search for poetry and create poetry from the unconventional. Music can be your muse–musicians, dancers, visual artists your creative cohorts. Push the limits, surf the edges, throw fragments–details of the phenomenal world–up and see how they fall. Rearrange, re-derange and compose with silences as well as sound. Throw a boomerang into the meaning/mind then catch it.
And once again, if you have any questions fire away.