Poets Only (Writing Good
This subject has come up repeatedly in the past ten days, so I thought I would take a
minute to discuss it here. Passions is a little different from many poetry sites, in that
we have two descriptions for every poem: the short, lead-in teaser and the longer
description displayed with the poem.
In recent email exchanges, I've been asked what purpose these serve and what's the best
way to write them. One poet recently sent me a revised long description, changing her
entry from a few generic sentences to about three paragraphs of very moving prose. I was
*more* than happy to make the change. Another poet, after submitting about five works,
wrote and said he would hold off on further submissions until he received some feedback -
especially on the long description. Well, my friend, consider yourself feedbacked...
I write the short teasers for the poem, based on my understanding of it (and if I ever
mess one up, don't be afraid to let me know), though it hasn't always been that way.
Originally, the poetry submission form contained a field for the short description, and
many of the earlier works posted on Passion were written by the author. But because there
are many short descriptions listed together, on a single page, I later decided it was
important to maintain some degree of consistency in voice. So, I reluctantly took over the
On the other hand, I also wrote a few of the longer descriptions in those bygone early
days. The poems were too darn good to reject, but I still felt a description was
necessary, so I took the liberty. Of course, that raises the very real question: why are
the longer descriptions of value?
Many of our visitors, maybe even most, are only just learning to love poetry the way we
do. They're not interested in metaphor or imagery, but in feelings and Truth. If we do our
jobs well, they'll leave Passions with a lump in their collective throats and a feeling
that poetry is a good thing. Something to be loved and cherished. And maybe, just maybe,
they'll even want to learn a little more about why poetry can be such a powerful
instrument for human understanding.
The descriptions that accompany your poetry, in many instances, act as a doorway. They
lead our visitors from the mundane world of prose, to which they are accustomed, into the
much more charged world of poetry. I don't think it's a coincidence that virtually ALL of
our most popular poems have strong, meaningful descriptions. They tell the reader a little
bit about the poem, and maybe even more importantly, they tell the reader about the poet.
People respond to our words, yes, but they also respond when they can *see* us as human
beings. They want to know what makes the poet tick. They want to know what motivates us,
what inspires us. And in understanding us, they can better understand our work.
So, what makes a good description? The same exact things that make a good poem!
Be specific. Be personal. Don't tell us this poem is about your boyfriend - tell us why
your boyfriend has so touched your life and what HE (specifically) means to you. Don't
tell us this poem is about death - tell us how death has touched YOUR life and what
SPECIFIC circumstances prompted you to write your poem. Don't tell us this poem is about
the beauty of a summer night - tell us how a SPECIFIC summer night touched your heart and
gave you glimpse into YOUR heart.
Be specific. Be personal. Don't tell us what the poem should mean to the reader. Tell us
what it means to you.
You should spend nearly as much time and effort on your description as you did on the
poem. Consider it your invitation, to the reader, to share your words and a part of your
soul. And if our visitor accepts your invitation, and better understands you as a person,
he will be in a much better position to understand your words as a poet. And he may just
leave Passions with a better understanding of himself. And, perhaps, with a love of poetry
that rivals our own.
Passions in Poetry
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