I love when an idea explodes in the back of my mind and the chill runs down my spine. That's a sign I've had a really great idea. Okay, great ideas a relatively, so I'll qualify that, a great idea for me, a thought I never had before. Sometimes that means it's time to write a poem.
It depends on the idea. Poems best express an image of something. A man sitting on a couch. Yellow dandelions in the lawn. That sort of thing. That's why imagery in poetry is so important.
Poems also express emotions through tone of voice and word choice. Think, My Last Duchess by Robert Browning. I have a poem like this. I use the image of a smile to represent the hatred the speaker of the poem has for an old girlfriend.
And, of course, poetry can express ideas through metaphor -- a personal favorite; a love a good metaphor, preferably grilled and seasoned with garlic -- and simile.
When you mix all of these elements together -- stirring vigorously -- you can yield good poetry.
If this sounds hard to do, it is. I've only got about twenty poems I really like or that I think are really good. And I've got a lot more -- experiments in poetry I call them -- where the ideas don't mesh, the images to support what I've trying to say and the tone of voice is flat and non-expressive.
Of course, not all ideas and poems lend themselves to imagery. But the tone of voice and the cadence of the line must be there or the poem doesn't work for me. That's because poems are meant to be read aloud. It makes a big difference. I'm going back centuries with this when bards speaking Old English would entertain a large gatherings of people but reciting poems. This is why a rhyme scheme was essential once upon a time.
Not so much any more. Most of my better poems ignore rhyme. It is less important for me, as the following sample illustrates.
The lone mountain peak
Resplendent with its snowcap
like a cotton knitted headpiece
stands majestic and firm across the eons of time.
A nearby brook
sparkling with the afternoon sunlight
like thousands stars at night
runs over the smooth round stones of the riverbed
its flow never-ending and unceasing.
I sit lonely and alone
in my empty house
listening to the clock
that lies upon the wall
ticking in the other room.
Nothing moves except the shadows on the wall.
Nothing stirs as dust descent upon it.
I cannot think of anything but you.
You fill the emptiness with noise and demands
You give me a reason to do and to be
Without you I cease to be
Paralyzed by the void you have left.
I scream to myself that this should not be so
Does the lone mountain or the brook
need anything to keep it company?
No, and neither should I.
But I do
For I am not a river or mountain.
I am a man.
A lonely man.
Keep writing, everyone.