The Art and Craft of Poetry by Joanne Olivieri

You wake up in the middle of the night.  It is 3:00 am and you cannot get back to sleep.  Ideas, street scenes and dreams swirl around in your head activating your creative membranes with words that you know you will forget by dawn.   What do you do?  Always keep a pen and paper by your bed and jot down those words and ideas.  No need to form those words.  Those words will become meaningful as you meld them together with your ideas during daylight hours.

The craft of writing poetry does not adhere to the 9 to 5 seven day week venue.  Poetry comes to you when you are least expecting it and when you are open to its visit.  If you treat poetry as a job it will inevitably fill your days with writer’s block.  Poetry is born of the heart and soul and not the brain.   The heart holds the poem and the brain forms the style.

The following quote by poet Lucille Clifton most adequately describes poetry in its most raw form.

“I think that we’re beginning to remember that the first poets didn’t come out of a classroom, that poetry began when somebody walked off of a savanna or out of a cave and looked up at the sky with wonder and said, “Ahhh.” That was the first poem.” – Lucille Clifton.

The following poem, written by me titled Writer at Heart explains my vision of what poetry is and what the writer explores and displays in his or her own mind.

A Writer At Heart


Emotional expressions

inherent deep within spirit.

Passion are these words

undeniably expressed,

shared, proclaimed

in stanzaic precision.

The writer

Sensitive, intuitive

feelings arise, awaken

born from within

depths of the soul.

A soul unknown

if not for their words.

Ego revisited

firmly understood

and happily embraced.

The writer paints words

with a knowing

of authentic self

creatively expressed.

Memories, dreams

Parade the mind

As streaming videos.

These visual scenarios

Breathe life into the heart

And have no choice

But to be reborn.


A glimpse into the heart

where the writer resides

words a mirror to the soul.

A soul which lives

Within the mind

without fear.

The heart

pumps words

through the veins

never missing a beat.

The writer writes

to a different beat

only he hears.

There is no real craft in writing poetry, as it come from the heart and begs to be seen and heard in various forms.

It is imperative however, that poets read more poetry than they write.  In order  to find your own voice and you need to study the poetic voices of different poets from the traditionalists to the contemporary.  This practice will allow you the freedom to find your own style.

The following is a list of a few tips that are essential for getting your poetry published.  As a new writer you need a few publication credits in order to have your poetry accepted.  As a seasoned writer your name and work speaks for itself.  That being said, remember that writing poetry is not about counting all of your publication credits but rather enjoying the poetic journey of sharing your own voice with the world.

My list of do’s and don’ts’s:

  1. Always follow the submission guidelines to the letter whether you are a new or seasoned poet.
  2. NEVER allow an editor to reconstruct or tell you how your poem should read.  An editor is only there to correct spelling and grammatical mistakes.  When an editor begins to change your poem, just remember that once done it is not yours.
  3. Always keep pen and paper with you at all times to jot down ideas that come to mind.
  4. Write in a style that is most comfortable to you.  Never let anyone tell you “Well, no one accepts rhyme and meter anymore” because remember it’s not about your publication credits but the journey.  Take rejections as a challenge to find someone who will love your poem.
  5. Many poets begin by writing very personal poetry and do not want it out in public.  Remember though, poetry is about sharing and your story just might help someone else in a difficult situation.  Get it out to the world by any means you like.  Whether it be a book, blog or online journal, let it be seen.
  6. Last and certainly not least, write from your heart. Quote by me “Poetry is the song your spirit writes.”

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