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Profitable Poetry
by Shaunna Privratsky

You might think the title of this article is an oxymoron. Poetry markets are notoriously low pay and the competition is fierce. Everyone fancies himself a poet but to become a published poet takes panache. Here are some pointers to polish your poetry and make it publishable and profitable.

Some writers feel that poetry is all about inspiration - no rules or revision required. She sends in a first draft, then wonders why it is rejected. Just like any other genre of writing, you must perfect your poem to render it publishable.

Snare your reader's interest with a striking hook at the beginning. The opening line or stanza sets the tone and subject of your piece. Find a rhythmic line length, although it doesn't have to rhyme. In all poetry, the length of each line contributes to the drama and tension. A short line speeds the tempo but may lose feeling or meaning. Longer lines tell more, but can lose momentum. Settle on a comfortable medium.

Whose head are you in? A poem should have a consistent point of view, style and theme. If you have alternating voices or dialogue, make sure you differentiate between them and make changes clear-cut. Support any emotional shifts so the reader isn't left hanging.

Fewer words mean clearer copy. Poetry is a specific literary form. Cut any extraneous words or phrases to reveal the heart of your poem. Use active verbs and eliminate most adverbs and adjectives. Each word should add to the quality, not clutter or cloud the issue.

Offer rich details and the reader will recognize and relate. Show, don't tell the reader how to interpret or respond. Relate the flag whipping merrily, the cold splash of the wake, the rocking motion underneath you and your audience will feel as if they're on a speedboat.

Poets often concentrate on general issues like peace, war, death, love and relationships. To make your poem effective, add telling details from your own experience to give concrete images and reactions.

You've probably heard the phrase "no rhyme or reason." Well, we all know a poem doesn't have to rhyme, but it must have a reason. You may want to relate your painful loss of a beloved pet, or just revel in a perfect autumn day. Every poem should leave an impression with the reader, whether it is profound or a passing thought.

Get into the rhythm. Even if your poem doesn't rhyme it should have a beat. Reading aloud shows where the lines fall and pinpoints awkward spots.

Learn to relish revision. Your rough draft may be perfect in the first flush of inspiration, but after awhile you can look at it with clear eyes. You may need to cut a few words or clarify vague thoughts. You can also move stanzas around or change the format from rhymed to free verse. Play around until your poem is as perfect as it can be.

You're almost done. Give your poem a terrific title. It can add another layer of meaning, hint at the subject or provide a setting. Like your hook, it should draw your reader in and entice them to read further. Nothing kills a good poem faster than a lazy "Untitled" or "A Poem about Horses." Use your creative skills and dress your poem in its finest.

Close with a compelling conclusion. Your last line should be as eye-catching as your first line. It should resolve the poem's plot and satisfy the reader. Echoing the title or repeating the first line is often an effective conclusion.

There are literally thousands of poetry markets. Many of the sites are scams or barely disguised "contests" where the only prize is an anthology that you have to purchase if you want a copy. Check reputable sites like Writer's Market Online, Funds for Writers, Writing for Dollars, Filbert Publishing and Write Success. Byline Magazine is an excellent site for new poets. Keep your eyes open for calls for submission and follow the suggested guidelines.

More so than any other form of writing, poetry begins with a little bit of magic-inspiration. With careful revision and attention to detail you'll be able to craft publishable poetry with panache.

© Copyright 2004, Shaunna Privratsky

Shaunna Privratsky writes fulltime from North Dakota, in between shoveling snow. Please visit The Writer Within at http://shaunna67.tripod.com. We are looking for new writers and we are a paying market.

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