Condensing Your Poetry

Three Weeks Down, Two To Go!

BPP Intern Griffin Quist here with another tip to hone your poetry writing abilities!

This time, we’re focusing on condensing, or compressing your poetry.

Whenever you write something, be it poetry, a story, or an essay, it’s always a good idea to revise. Aside from grammar and spell checks, another basic editing task is to condense your writing. In your writing, every word should carry some weight and emotion behind it. Here are a few ways to trim down your poem, while still keeping the true meaning of it.

1. Verbs! I’m sure your poem has its fair share of verbs in it, but does your chosen verb offer a chance at compression? Here’s how to tell. If you used an adverb along with your verb you can definitely compress, simply by picking a different verb. Example. Instead of writing “walked loudly”, you could write “stomped”, or instead of “walked quickly” you could write “sprinted”, or “dashed”. Not only are you shortening your poem’s length, but you are conveying more imagery into your words!

2. Adjectives! I’m also sure your poem has its fair share of adjectives in it, but it also might have too many. Often times people may use too many adjectives to describe a singular object. For example, calling the pillow and blankets on your bed “soft and downy” would be a bit redundant, as the two words are synonymous. Soft implies downy, and vice versa. Choose one or the other, perhaps with a rhyme or alliteration in mind.

3. Haiku! Or not exactly… Haiku’s are terse poems originally from Japan, consisting of three lines, with a syllable count of 5-7-5 respectfully, but you probably knew that. What you might’ve not known about is The American Sentence. Created by the American beat poet, Allen Ginsberg, The American Sentence resembles a haiku in its syllable count, but it is only one sentence long. That is one sentence, seventeen syllables. Try writing a poem consisting solely of a few American Sentences. Here is an example from The American Sentence’s creator himself:

Put on my tie in a taxi, short of breath, rushing to meditate. – A.G. 1991

Hope you’ve enjoyed these tips, and hope even more to see you in next week’s workshops!

-Griffin Quist
Fall 2014 Undergraduate Intern


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