Learning to Read is Learning to Write

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  • Post category:Poetry

One of the best pieces of advice I’ve ever been given is that, “In order to be a good writer, you have to be a good reader.” I don’t remember where I first heard this, but ever since I heard it my priorities as a writer have shifted. I used to focus entirely on writing, but now when I’m trying to improve myself as a writer I read. Earlier this month I started thinking about how I could improve my writing as a poet, and so I began to adopt this principle to poetry, and it’s made a huge difference.

When you read poetry written by someone else, it can often quickly become one of two things; an amazing piece of poetry that you want to read several times, or a poem that you would really rather not finish reading. As I’ve tried to improve my writing as a poet, I’ve found that looking at all poems with four main things in mind, it’s possible to see the good things and the bad things in any poem. The four things I’ve been keeping in mind are:

  1. What is the basic subject of the poem?
  2. Is the poem abstract or concrete?/ Is there obvious symbolism in the poem?
  3. What effect does the layout/form of the poem have on the reader?
  4. What does this poem make the reader feel?

These things might not help you to look at poetry, but based on what I’ve tried, they’re worth at least thinking about while you read poetry. If you want to improve your poetry writing I highly recommend going and reading as much poetry as you can get your hands on. If you already read poetry, what things do you look at to examine a poem, and do they help you with writing poetry?

Happy Holidays!